Delhi Monuments – Ambling Through Deer Park & Hauz Khas – 1

It is a daunting task to write about the monuments of Delhi, their historical and architectural importance, about the city itself especially if your knowledge is limited. I have some books marked for reading this year but I love dilli and often wander into its lanes, bylanes, parks and ruins to get narrow the distance between what was and what is.

Hauz Khas ruins have always been a favorite destination but I never really got around to look at them from a blog post point of view. Hardly clicked photographs or wrote about them. The old monuments were more of a refuge when I wanted to escape from madding crowd. Deer park too was a runaway place where I could spend hours with myself without any intrusion.

Since Adi shifted to HK and my visits became more regular to the area I decided to list and visit all the  monument in HK and surrounding Green Park etc. The walks started with Chor Minar. You can read about it HERE.

The places on my list are:

Hauz Khas complex with The tomb of Ferozshah and other structures, Baag – i – Alam Gumbad and the walled mosque (Humayunpur), Kali GumtiBarah Khamba, Biran Ka Gumbad, Dadi Poti ka Maqbara, Choti Gumti, Sankari Gumti, Idgah of Kharehra, Nili masjid, Munda Gumbad, Hauz-i-Alai to start with.

I have covered a few  of these and will write about each in the coming days.

Deer Park Monuments – Baag – I – Alam Ka Gumbad and The Walled Mosque

Deer park was once known as Bagh -e- Alam ( ‘Garden of World’ ) and lay between Sultan Allauddin Khilji’s Siri fort and Hauz – i – Alai now popularly known as Hauz Khas Lake which was the largest man made water body of that time. Even the garden was the largest one built outside Khilji’s city known as commonly referred to as dar-ul-Khilafat later known as the city of Siri. Now the garden is limited to what we know as deer park and the lake is reduced to 1/5th of its original size.

Tucked in the thick vegetation of deer park are a few very important monuments and we started our exploration with he impressive BaghI i – Alam ka Gumbad and the Walled Mosque.

Bagh- e- Alam ka Gumbad is the largest of the three monuments in the deer park. It is an example of typical Lodi era architecture. The date of  its construction (1501)  is mentioned in a Persian inscription on a panel on the western wall. Delhi Gazetteer says the tomb is of a saint Shihab- ud -din Taj Khan. The panel also names the builder of the tomb as Abu Syed.

The monument is usually locked but I have heard it has a beautiful painted ceiling and tear drop patterns.

Surrounded by unruly vegetation and massive trees is this imposing structure with walled quibla or mosque on one side.  The facade of the monument gives a false impression of it being three- storey. Three sides of the monument have trabeated entrances barred with locked grill doors and the forth west one that faces Mecca has a mehrab recess characteristic of all the Lodi era structures. It is decorated with Quranic inscriptions.

Similarly like all Lodi era structures this too is built with locally quarried red and grey stone blocks intricately placed together to create a stunning patchwork. There are arched windows over the entrances. The entrances and the windows are set within a larger arched niche which is further placed in a rectangular frame projecting outwards through the wall face. The Eastern wall has stairs to the roof. I tried to peer through the grills to get a glimpse of the roof but the interior was shrouded in darkness and nothing was visible so I just walked around to see the gumbad from other angles. It is then I spotted a parakeet happily settled in one of the arched niches.

The dome springs from a sixteen-sided drum. The roof and the drum (base) of the hemispherical dome are decorated with a line of battlement-like ornamentation called kanguras.

The walled mosque 

The Lodi era wall mosque next to it has five-mehrab niches pointing towards Mecca. It is flanked by beautiful octagonal domed towers on either side with arched entrances build within them.

The central niche is flanked towards its back by turrets. The central of these niches is the largest both in terms of height and width. The smaller niches were build  probably to keep little lamps at night. The Quibla’s large courtyard has two neat rows of unknown graves and the place resembles more of a cemetery than a mosque. One can see beautiful leaf motifs on the entire length of the wall.

I watched the play of light and shadows on the leaf littered floor of the courtyard. Even though the plaster has peeled off at many places giving a glimpse of the rubble beneath this structure is still in a better condition than other monuments in the vicinity. The whole area is thickly shrouded by foliage from all sides overshadowing most of structure.

A little ahead is a newly constructed modern enclosure that houses hundreds of hamsters and rabbits.  We walked passed that to an open area where a cricket match was in full swing. I could see the Kali Gumti as we walked on a pathway shaded by lush Ashoka trees.

For some reason we did not go to the gumti and Tohfewala Gumbad hidden in thick foliage. I will be writing about these two separately. From there we took the trail to the deer enclosure and then to Munda Gumbad.

Munda Gumbad 

Munda Gumbad or the bald dome is a ruined pleasure pavilion on top of a grassy hillock. It was once in the center of the lake and was connected by a causeway to the city. Now it  lies at the edge of the lake. The headless or domeless structure can be accessed from all four sides by a of stairs. Made of rubble masonry the structure is believed to have two storeys. Now just a ruin it still has a aura around it and once can stand there and look at the green waters of the lake and across it he back of Tughlaq’a tomb and walls of the madarsa.

Hauz – i – Alai or Hauz Khas Lake 

By the time we were through with the Gumbad the sun had completed its journey. The green waters of the serene lake shimmered in the golden sunlight as the sun bid farewell. We walked along the lake admiring the marooned dried trees, sunken boats, fountains and the gorgeous reflections of the sunset.

At some point we sat down to talk about the  hauz i alai in its hay days when Khilji constructed it in 1295. This largest man made reservoir acted as water catchment for southern part of the city. It is believed that originally the reservoir spread over 123.6 acres and was 13.1 ft deep. Now it is just a quarter of its original size.

Once the Khilji empire declined the reservoir got neglected and mostly silted up. It was taken over by encroachments till Firoz Shah Tughlaq came to reign and took charge to de-silt, clean and clear the clogged inlets and repair it to be used again. He named it Hauz Khas and built a madarsa ( Islamic seminary) and some other structures including his tomb at its edge.

The Northern limb of the Madarsa – e – firoz Shahi (1352), a medieval center of learning, starting from the Tomb of Tughlaq on the left as seen from the water reservoir Hai- i – alai or Hauz Khas lake.

The entire complex of structures built by Tughlaq in the 14th century make this area along the lake stunningly beautiful.

Taghlaq”s Tomb

Tughlaq was by far the most prolific and far sighted builder in medieval North India and his love for architecture can be seen here in abundance. He carried out a lot of public work projects especially in the area of irrigation. We will discuss those in the upcoming posts.

The lake or tank, its water channels are still a very impressive sight.

We left the park from the Hauz Khas village end and headed back towards Sakri Gumti. I will do a post on those structures later. The complex is one of my favorites and there was a time I would spend hours wandering in the midst of this ruined glory.



Stay tuned for more on Hauz Khas complex and some other monuments in the vicinity. Stay warm and keep the spirits high. I will update this with better photographs of the monuments as and when.

10 Day You Challenge – Day 5 : Six Places


Six Places. What should I list? Six places I would love to go? Six Places for foodies ? Six most memorable places I visited? Or Six places I would Not want to go again? The options are endless so let me make a cocktail of those which seem just a bit within reach. 😛 This planet has some of most amazing places which anybody would love to explore and I bet it’s impossible to do that in one life time. How can one just pick six? What about those which do not figure in the list?

1. Coastal Maharashtra and Coastal Karnataka–  This entire coastal  belt has been on my list for a long time. I want to travel the entire Karnataka and konkan coast ( from Raigad to Mangalore) by road and train.  I want to see the ancient caves, the temples, waterfalls, beautiful beaches and forts along with the scenic beauty. I want to spend sometime in fishing villages and savor the local cuisine too.  The place where I want to go first is Honavar. It is  maternal grandmother’s place and at the outskirts of Honavar we still have our ancestral home. The first canned mango pulp factory was started in Queen Victoria’s time by my grandmother’s maternal uncle in Vadgeri where he had mango and cashew orchards. I want to visit these orchards although the factory has been closed down.

2. North Eastern States – The entire North East  is on my list. Mountains never fail to lure me. There is something magical about the north-east and since I was a child I wanted to visit gorgeous Sikkim,  be with Nagaland tribes, visit the Kaziranga National Park and watch the splendour of Himalayas especially the Kanchenjunga Peak. Meghalaya and Tripura are another two top places in North East that I want to visit.

3. Great Barrier Reef – Awesome Australia and the Great Barrier Reef  is a dream destination. I want to visit this breathtaking coral reef before it dies out. If ever I have enough money to soak the sun on its enchanting golden beaches and picturesque tropical islands. I want to see all the 3000 individual reef systems and coral cays at least once before I die.

Now two places closest to my heart where I would love to be any time of the year.

4. Kinnaur – Strikingly beautiful Kinnaur is located in northeast corner of Himachal Pradesh. The three magnificent mountain ranges of  Zanskar, Greater Himalayas and Dhauladhar, enclose the  valleys of Sutlej, Spiti, Baspa and their tributaries. The place is awe inspiring with thick forests, raging rivers, apple orchards and colorful hamlet. The high terrain adventure is what lured me there. It was an amazing experience to drive down  The old Hindustan-Tibet road NH-22. We spent 5 days in camps and trekked the surrounding area, drove to the border of Tibet in the drizzle and sunshine. One has to visit this area to experience the thrill. The road is an adventure in itself especially for those who love to drive. We traveled at night and it still sends a chill down my spine when I think about it.

5. Pune – The city of Pune is closest to my heart. Some of the most  memorable memories are associated with this city. The joys of childhood and the sweet longings of teenage hood, the love of my grandparents and all  the wonderful vacations I shared with my cousins are vibrant part of Pune. I love the food, people and the calm. This is where I would want to spend my old age unless of course someone sweeps me off my feet :P.

6. Ranikhet and adjoining places – I was born in Nainital and the place hold special place in my heart. I have traveled to this part of Uttarakhand many times and each journey is a new adventure. The exotic locations tucked away in the Himalayas untouched by the tourist onslaught always draw me . The entire region from Nanital to Pithoragarh including Mukteshwar, ranikhet, almora, jogeshwar and many such destinations is a heaven for those who love nature at its best. I guess it is time for yet another journey another relaxed holiday. Anyone interested ? :p

Picture credit goes to their rightful owners. Google Images.