Delhi Monuments – Ambling Through Hauz Khas – Nili Masjid And Idgah Of Kharera


I’ve been missing in action here since a long time and that is because my laptop is giving issues and I have not been able to sort it so far. This Delhi monument post is part of my wanderings in Hauz Khas area. There are still a few more I will cover including those in adjacent Green Park.

Nili /Neeli Masjid 

Since so many years I passed the Nili Masjid of the Blue Mosque but never really went in there to explore. Located in A block the the tree bayed mosque is on the side of the road connecting August Kranti Marg and Aurobindo Marg. Sandwiched between posh houses  sometimes misses the eye unless of course it is prayer time or Friday when one can see a lot of devotees heading there for prayers. It is one of the few working mosques of Delhi which are under ASI protection.

An inscription over its central arch says that it  built in A.H. 911 (A.D. 1505-06) during the reign of Sikandar Lodi, by Kasumbhil, nurse of Fath Khan, son of Khan-i-Azam Masnad Ali Khawas Khan, then governor of Delhi. She is one of the few women who commissioned some beautiful structures in Delhi. Others include Hamida Bano Begum, Maham Anga, Roshanara Begum and Qudsia Begum.

Made from rubble stone and plaster Nili Masjid has rather masculine looking massive bastions and conical supporting towers along its western wall. No other major archaeological features are visible to make it different from other mosques or other medieval structures. This low fortification was suppose to protect them from any invasion but here it doesn’t serve the purpose. It is mainly for beautification it seems.

The mosque has slender turrets at the corners of the octagonal drum (base) on which a single dome sits pretty. There are three arched entrances to the masjid.

An intricate line of kanguras (battlement-like ornamentation) inset with vibrant blue tile work run along the roof of the mosque giving the mosque its name – Nili Masjid or Blue Mosque, however the ornamentation is only limited to the portion above the central facade.  A wide “chajja” (overhanging eave) supported on thick carved bracket runs on the rest of the front face.
Under the blue tiled Kanguras one can see elegant calligraphy and art work. The mosque is beautiful in its simplicity. There is no grandeur to it an yet it is striking to the eyes. Some areas inside the chamber have been recently plastered as part of the conservation program I think.
Within the boundary there is also a well that is covered and no longer in use. One can see loudspeakers etc places in the corners of the roof. One can see prayer mats, racks to keep things etc inside the chamber which is fitted with modern amenities like tube lights, fans and coolers. I wonder what are the rules for the monuments protected under ASI and why encroachments and making alteration is not stopped.
The grass covered front yard is nice and clean with some potted flowering plants and a few lush big trees that line the fence.
While I was wandering in the area I thought of going to Idgah too as it is a stone’s throw away from my son’s home.
Idgah of Kharera 
The 600 year old Idgah of kharera in Hauz Khas (near to Chor Minar in Padmini Enclave)  was used only for congregational Eid prayers unlike the other mosques. The structure represents the West wall around which people gathered for Id prayers. There is a mimbar or pulpit next to the central mehrab for the Imam to deliver his message. Usually a town or city will have one idgah but as Delhi was made of many cities there are four medieval Idgahs here.
Built of rubble masonry, this structure has 11 mehrabs and a turret at the end of one side with the inscription written on a red sandstone slab fixed on the south bastion towards east. It tells that this most famous and renowned mosque was built by Iqbal Khan who was popularly known as Mallu Khan, a powerful noble and virtually the ruler during Muhammad Tughluq’s reign who commissioned this structure. The inscription also tells about the volatile period in which it was built.
It is stated to have been built A.H. 807 (A.D. 1404-05) in the typical Tughlak style. I read somewhere that it was here Timur had set up his camp to offer ‘aman’ or ‘peace’ to the people after he invaded Delhi but unfortunately it didn’t go the way he had thought. Some incidents made him unleash unimaginable horrors on the citizens of Delhi.
The big trees in the fenced enclosure are home to many birds like barbets, peacoks, bulbuls etc. Local residents often come here for picnics and children can be seen playing there under the watchful eyes of the guard. Thankfully there are no encroachments and the monument is in good condition.
The stone slab that tells about the monument needs some attention and the writing is faded and hardly visible at many places.
I remember reading about mosque of Darwesh Shah in nearby Gautam Nagar and it is on my ‘to visit’ list. So are some of the lesser known small monuments around this area.
I am reading up about my city and will post again ina few days. Meanwhile I visited Sunder Nursery and was enchanted with it. Will do a post soon. You can still look up my Instagram account for some pictures from there.
Spring in Delhi is always beautiful so leaving you with some gorgeous flowers I saw there.

Delhi Monuments – Ambling Through Hauz Khas – Dadi Poti Tombs


This is in continuation from the previous post. Technically this tomb complex lies behind the Green Park metro station on Sri Aurobindo Road. Turn right just before Aurobindo market towards the road leading to Hauz Khas village to get there. I took a lane from Hauz Khas enclave to reach.

Dadi poti or Bibi Bandi tombs are situated amidst elevated ground surrounded by well maintained manicured lawns. The walkway to the larger Dadi (grandmother) tomb is lined with harsingaar/parijat hedges which were in full bloom when I went a few days ago. It was a sunny day and a lot of menfolk were either sitting or lying on the grass enjoying the warmth of the winter sun.I couldn’t spot any tourists though.

Delhi has a lot of these minor tombs and other structures with intriguing history. Two two tombs are a mystery to us in many ways. No one knows who is buried there though there are many legends that float about it. Both the tombs are made of rubble and plaster.

The larger tomb is typical Lodi era structure (1451-1526AD). It is perhaps the grandest tomb in that particular area. It’s 15.86 metres X 15.86 metres in dimension and its northern and southern walls have arched window like design and 2 levels of 4 arched niches each, giving it a double storey appearance.

A typical feature of many Lodi period tombs. Inside the tomb one can see exquisitely engraved Quaranic inscriptions in the form of medallions on the walls and ceiling.

The spacious interior has six unidentified cenotaphs made of stone which shows that the persons buried there were not royals but perhaps nobility.

The structure is square at the base but as the walls rise they get octagonal then hexagonal before they merge to form the dome. There are some tapering fluted pillars flanking the rectangular embossed facades on each of the sides along the tombs exteriors.  On either side of the eastern opening there is a staircase leading to the roof but it is out of bounds for the public.

The smaller and plainer tomb is about 20 feet to the side of the larger one. It is known as  the Poti Tomb. Most probably the names are given keeping in mind the size of the structure. Though this one is of Tughlaq era ( 1321-1414AD) and has slightly slopping walls and is 11.8 metres X 11.8 metres in dimension. The interesting aspect of this tomb is that unlike all the other tombs that have their entrances to the south and usually get more ornate designs on that side this one has a North facing entrance. The entrance has some ornate designs now blackened and faded with time.

Another unusual thing about this tomb is the lantern shaped structure on its dome. Something like a Rajputana Chatri. The interior is plain unlike its neighbor and has three unidentified graves.

Someone there told us that the place is haunted but looks beautiful when lit up at night but the interesting part was a natural phenomenon that occurs as the daylight fades to darkness. The interior of the larger tomb fills with various hues of light. I have yet to experience this and will try to get it recorded along  with the night photographs of the tombs.

Next on my list are Biran Ka Gumbad, Barah Khamba and Nili Masjid which I have crossed so many times but never entered for some reason.

Till then think about the rise and fall of this beloved city, its secrets and mysteries and of the people who made it what it is.

Wishing you all a very happy 2019. Stay strong. Stay Focused. 

 

The Night Storm And The Summer Rain


It all began in the depth of night when the city was in deep slumber. The ferocious wind began to howl and scream as it rose between the high-rise like a phantom and hissed passed the trees and ground. The smell of thunder hung heavy in the air and soon the night was nothing but a cacophony of rattling window panes,  banging doors and thundering clouds. A nerve-racking  sound of smashed glass got the attention of some dazed people as they scurried to gather their belongings which the wind was threatening to take away. The electricity went off plunging the area in further darkness.

I gasped for breath in bitter air dull of sand while I struggled to pull a shutter that clung to the wall and wont budge as if scared to death. I cursed and let it be.

It sure was a relief from the merciless heat that was driving people nuts and an assurance of a cool nice weekend. I lay quietly in my bed trying to decipher the sounds that reverberated outside.

Slowly the intensity of the storm receded and soon heat gave way to dismal rain. The delicate intoxicating fragrance of the mogra and mixed with the  humousy smell of damp earth began to filter in from the open window. I poured myself a glass of chilled water and looked out at the waves of darkness.

Slowly the sleep took over and it was calm inside and outside.

I stepped out early morning to inspect the damage of the night storm. Broken branches, fallen trees, everything covered in a fine film of dust. Shattered window panes all told the story of past night. Yet, people seemed happy and relived. Many of them were out in their balconies or gardens sipping the first tea of tea laced with milk, sugar and ginger.

The trees looked shaken but not stirred. They stood dozing in the gentle breeze tired after the night’s battle.

I made a big mug of coffee and looked out in silence as the world around me began to wake up.

The fury of the storm had subsided but nature was not done yet.  The sun which had emerged from h

is hideout was soon pushed  behind a veil of haze. The storm was rising again from distant grey blue horizon. Soon everything was filled by the dust kicked up by the wind. The rain filled clouds struggled to hold their place. Once again the ghostly orchestra began to fill the morning made more mysterious by the whooshing sound of the wind. This time I wanted to witness the scene. Braving the wind which wanted to sweep me off my feet from the ninth floor balcony I firmly gripped the railing and watched the pigeons sail along propelled entirely by the wind. Aimless and confused they floated along with various other things like newspapers, plastic bags, leaves etc. A colorful leaflet of Pizza Hut came hurling towards the balcony, slapped against the wall and stayed their shivering like a malaria patient. I released it and it went floating to another destination.

The storm has scattered the crows that were roosting  in the trees and they all sang in a shrill chorus. I found it much melodious than the sound of cooing love-sick pigeons who  made out in the balcony all day long.

At the ground level trees were swaying like they had been hit by a seizer. Dogs ran  in search of safe place. The deserted streets began to fill with daily life.

I wondered if the clouds will bring rain or they the gutsy winds will win over them  leaving us high and dry. It ended as quickly as it started. The wind-swept rain began to fall in sheets like gauze curtains cleaning the side walks , the vehicles, buildings , roads and trees.

After sweltering days and soaring temperatures it really made the weekend special. I can see colorful bundles of joy playing football or cricket in the small open patches in the colony. Here at home another round of coffee has begun and there is a sense of calm all around

I sit quietly listening to the soul-stirring voice of Nina Simon . My body warmed by her velvety voice and the coffee in my hands.

National Capital Turns 100 : A century goes by


This post is written for Blogeshwar and Anubooti

On December 15, 1911 King George v laid the foundation stone for New Delhi. Now 100 years after its inception the national capital of Delhi has overspilled its boundaries and has layers within layers. On one hand it is aggressive competitive energetic and violent and on the other  vibrant colorful seeped in nostalgia and old world charm.

Even with population of 17 million people from within and outside India Delhi has never closed its doors to anyone and as it gently mixes all new elements it grows culturally. Anyone who resides in Dilli becomes a ‘dilliwala’  irrespective of religion, caste or creed.

Delhi is a beautiful kaleidoscope of sounds, colors, people, places, cuisines, festivals all through the year. One gets fantastic exposure to different cultures, ideas and one can experience so many diverse worlds with this big city.

Delhi’s mood varies from locality to locality. The by-lanes of Old Delhi are like a surreal art house movie taking you to a different time zone and then there are sprawling parks, university campuses , the ridge areas thick with wood and grass and all their unsolved  mysteries.

Although the city has residents from all over the country , the Punjabis who thronged the city post partition are the most visible and audible lot. The big fat panjabi weddings, the fashionable aunties ranging from Karol Bag to Defense Colony and all that goes with their kitty party culture . It adds spice to life whatever one may say.

Dillwalas are a special breed. Warm hearted  generous and outgoing and yet ferocious  bad mouthed ready to kill. Deadly combination which makes the outsiders wonder what stuff they are made of.

We all know about the cultural heritage , the history and the geography of the city. We know of its rich cuisine ranging from the sumptuous stuff from the walled city to the swanky restaurants and food joints of pompous South Delhi.

The city holds many secrets. Places waiting to be explored like the Purana Quila park, Jamali Kamali park and all those big and little monuments scattered all over Delhi. Apart from these are the usual dense tangle of tombs, mosques, baolis(wells), old gates and forts there are old temples, gurudwaras, churches and much more.

The city comes alive during festive season.  Eid-ul-Fitr, Diwali, dussera , Holi ,  Christmas and all the other minor ones. The city prays, fasts, gorges on great food and celebrates together. Everyone is drenched in the color of bonhomie and reverence irrespective of their religion.

I grew up with Old Delhi food and it is still unmatched . The sweets – imarti, jalebees, rasmalai, rabri,  khurchan , pedas, nankhatai and all the other mouth-watering delicacies which are specialties of the walled city . The namkeens – power packed samosas, kachoris, matar kulcha, chole bhature, kebabs and the variety of mughlai food.

Then we have the famous butter chicken ( not meant for the weak hearted) 😀 and the lassi malai marke and the delicious kulfi with faluda. There is something sensuous about the street food of Delhi including the bhuna bhutta ( roasted corn cobs) , shakarkandi (roasted sweet potato), sweet corns and momos . You actually can not understand this unless you make a visit to the capital and relish these. There is so much variety of food here that one can go on about it and write a book on it .

I have been to places tucked away in small lanes away from the madding crowd , places which dish out wonders. Places in Paharganj like the German Bakery there . absolute heaven for foodies like me.

The dhabas have become rare now and I miss the little tandoors which used to be a part of almost all localities. We still have some in other parts of Delhi but South Delhi lacks such simple pleasures as far as I know.

Every region of Delhi from Central fast paced Connaught place to the sloping tin roofs of laid back Kashmere gate , the posh South Delhi and the ruins of Mehruli  to the Step-child East Delhi  all the areas have a very distinctive way of life.

There is something else about the power-hungry Delhi , a dark side . Amidst all the beauty the city is divided in hearts. It is my personal feeling. The South Delhi person will look down upon an East Delhi or a North Delhi one . Students from University’s  North Campus hardly mingle with the South Delhi college students. There is always a prestige issue. Somewhere a big ego clash. There is a definite divide between the Hindi speaking and the so-called “modern” english speaking people and then there are people from other states especially Bihar and UP who are normally considered down market .

The rich have become richer and the poor are still there where they were 100 years back. The middle class is swollen with its own importance.

The residents of old Delhi consider all others outsiders. They say we don’t have it in us. Something is amiss maybe that tehzeeb , that feeling of brotherhood and warmth of togetherness is lacking in today’s so-called dilliwalas.

The city tops in crime. molestation, rapes, killings road rage you name it Delhi has it all. Women are unsafe in the capital. Very rarely one finds a stranger ready to help. The trust issue is missing completely especially in New Delhi.

Roads have become wider, hearts smaller. the high-rise buildings, the swanky malls and the development to make it a great modern city has made holes in the very fabric of Delhi that was .

Although communities gather for festivals etc yet there is a void among people.

Delhi is intolerant in some areas, its residents small-minded and untrustworthy. It is strange that so many cultures mingle in the main stream like little rivulets in a mighty river and yet one can not see them as one.

Life here in the capital has changed so dramatically in last few years. It is sad to see that a Muslim or a Kashmiri will not find a place on rent so easily in the capital. People are skeptical , judgmental and prejudiced  at times.

There is an unrest in the hearts of people. . The city is unsafe.

Something dark flows as an undercurrent in the minds of people here . Something that is mysterious and dangerous.

It is all about money and power. It is like a gas chamber ready to burst and yet there is that clam and serenity that makes Delhi what is it. Difficult to comprehend and describe .

Amidst noise of traffic a city wakes from slumber and slowly goes through the mundane routines of life.

Disconnected, and undistinguished the ruins of past and the hundred year old trees watch the city of immigrants and their oblivious nature . Apprehensive about their survival the trees wonder when they will be cut down to give way to a mall or an  expressway. Each group of immigrants  tries to establish their culture and mark their territory rather than embracing  the existing one.

In this daily hustle of living for survival the city is forgotten , its culture and  history kept aside.

I love the city , its natural beauty ( whatever is remaining) , its seasons and riot of colorful blooms, its old world charm and modern facilities , its food and culture but I have

reservations about its people.

Delhi is a chameleon metropolis changing colors at the blink of an eye.

A city with global aspirations — and one that is a veritable melting pot of Indian culture – Delhi is a fascinating adventure of people shaping the city and vice-versa.

There has been a slow  transformation of the old city of tehzeeb to  the ”you-know-who-my-father-is” culture . People come here to build their dreams and in that process an old city is slowly dying an unnatural death. The original Delhi is fighting a losing battle of survival  in the urban jungle.

In the last 100 years the original Delhi has slipped back in time to give way to the so-called “world-class New Delhi” the power capital of India. Urbanization has made rapid strides but the old charm and allure of this beautiful City is lost forever.

I look at Delhi’s landscape under the orange hue of fading winter sun  and try to unravel the mystery and the present surge of my city.

 

I leave you with lines from Wordsworth’s poem The world is too much with us

 

The world is too much with us; late and soon,

Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers;

Little we see in Nature that is ours;

We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!