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Monday, September 29, 2014

What is the "Actual Age" of Old Delhi.?. - Article for Debate

Hi friends,
Here is an interesting topic worth debating.

Deduction and evidence point to existence of human habitation in Delhi before Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan founded Shahjahanabad....


Shahjahanabad was the new city founded by Shah Jahan. There is no doubt about it but the presence of Delhi Sultanate monuments in it raises a question mark: Was the area known as Old Delhi already inhabited, with a sizable population, in which the pre-Mughal rulers decided to build some of their edifices? They couldn’t have done so in a wilderness, with vast spaces in which wild animals roamed, leopards and a wide variety of antelopes, besides hyenas, jackals, porcupines, monkeys and langurs. During the reign of Iltutmish, successor of the first Slave king Qutubuddin Aibak, Hazrat Turkman Bayabani had already set up his khanqah or hospice where Shah Jahan’s Turkman Gate was to come up in the 17th Century. It was near the saint’s shrine that Iltutmish’s daughters Razia Sultana and Sazia Sultana were buried in Bulbulikhana. Moreover, every Basant Panchmi Day a big mela amid kite-flying was held at the shrine. 

In the Tughlak period, Feroz Shah Tughlak’s 14th Century hunting lodge came up where Bhuli Bhatyari’s (or Bu Ali Bhatti’s) palace was built on the Ridge near present-day Karol Bagh. Feroz Shah also built his Kotla opposite the latter-day Khooni Darwaza (actually a Lal Darwaza of Sher Shah).

Paharganj, one of the main bazaars of Shah Jahan’s time, was, it seems, already an inhabited locality during Tughlak and Lodhi times. The Tughlak Baradari and a Lodi mosque on Qutub Road, through which lies one of the approaches to New Delhi station also proves that there were people living there in those times. Otherwise for whose benefit were they built? Surely not for the denizens of the wilderness. 

Similarly, in the Jama Masjid area, Bhojla Pahari, part of which was cut down to build the grand mosque, was not the preserve of dacoits and gypsies only. Some claim there was a Vishnu temple nearabouts. In Chandni Chowk the Apa Gangadhar shivala might have come up during the time of the Marathas but legend associates it with an already existing ancient shivala, a small one, which devotees visited and which was presumably looked after by a pujari.

Not far from it was the Afghan fort on whose ruins the Red Fort was built, like the Agra Fort, which too was constructed on the ruins of a Pathan citadel called Badalgarh, originally a Rajput fort. Sher Shah’s son built Salimgarh before Shah Jahan was born and Jahangir, whenever he passed by Delhi on his way to Lahore and Kashmir, camped there as also on the Yamuna bank. The Jhandewalan temple beyond Paharganj had temples predating the Sultanate era, and one of them was built by Prithviraj Chauhan’s daughter Bela which exists in Jhandewalan Extension. Incidentally, Bela’s husband was killed in a battle with Sultanate forces near the site occupied by Pusa Institute. The battle raged daylong and when word was brought to Bela of her spouse’s death she and her maids committed sati on the Jhandewalan mound below which is the Panchkuian Road cremation ground. This would mean that the Chauhans, after the second Battle of Tarain, where Prithviraj lost to Mohammed Ghori, had retreated from Mehrauli to the Ridge area that made way for Karol Bagh centuries later.

Interestingly enough, Firoz Tughlak’s eldest son Fath Khan was buried in a mausoleum around which Qutub Road came up. Known as Qadam Sharif because of the stone bearing the footprint of the Prophet placed above Fath Khan’s grave, it used to have an annual urs even during Firoz’s time. Why did the Sultan build it so far from the Kotla and his other architectural creations in Mehrauli (where he himself is buried)? Probably because his domain spread that far and beyond to North Delhi, where his observatory was located. And naturally his subjects were living round about. Kali or Kalan Masjid near Turkman Gate was also built in his reign.

It is heartening to note that the Delhi Archaeological Department, in collaboration with Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH), has begun repairs to the Paharganj Baradari and the Lodi era mosque to make amends for years of neglect that saw the two buildings vandalized and encroached upon in a heavily congested neighbourhood. According to a news report, the monuments are graded “A” and “B” and found structurally sound though godowns that had been built in the Baradari are now being demolished. The Baradari has five domes, overgrown with foliage because of which there has been water seepage, resulting in cracks and serious damage to the façade. “The Paharganj Baradari and the Lodi mosque are part of the conservation of 50 unprotected monuments, some in Mehrauli as also the ruins of Bhuli Bhatiyari-ka-Mahal.” So, didn’t Shah Jahan build his new capital on an already existing habitation?

I would like to read your interesting takes on this topic. 
I have already debated this topic at an event. 

This article has been posted under the historical accounts section of history_geek's Blog.

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  1. Very interesting post. The depth of your knowledge about Delhi is staggering.

    Delhi has so many monuments that are in a stage of disrepair. I don't remember the name, but there is one right next to the South Extension market, it was a tomb of some sorts. It was spacious and well designed, but the walls were falling off. There were no repairs and all faces of the walls were pockmarked with lewd writings and names.

    Delhi is indeed an ancient city. I would be interested to know the earliest known inhabitants. By the 1300's it was a bustling city, when it suffered the greatest carnage ever at the hands of the conqueror Tamer Lame.

    Tamer Lame, was a brilliant general and a ferocious invader. He would raze entire cities to the ground. His forces met against defending Indian forces on the outskirts of Delhi.

    The Indians had war elephants. The invaders had never faced these before but they had a trick up their sleeve. They put burning stacks of hay on the backs of camels who ran wild in fear. This caused panic in the elephants and they ran amok, destroying the defending forces.

    A carnage of the defenders followed, and it extended to Delhi, where lakhs of people were massacred. The city was totally destroyed.

    But Delhi being what is, was thriving again in a few decades.

    1. Thanks for sharing this interesting nugget. :)


    2. Thanks for sharing. Was an interesting read.

      About the tombs in/near South Extension Market.
      Here is some info :

      We have a grave of Muizud-din Mubarak Shah, son of Khizr Khan оf the Sayeed Empire,15th Century, Delhi Sultanate, near a mosque.

      There are other tombs оf people associated with Lodi Dynasty like: Darya Khan's grave,
      Hima Khan's Gumbad,
      Khan ka Gumbad,
      Chhote Khana Ka Gumbad,
      Bhurey Khanji ka Gumbad, and
      а famous Baoli (step well).

      Indeed Delhi is Majestic when it comes to history...!!!!! :)

  2. history-geek,great post.delhi is made, destroyed, and remade many times in history.thanks for sharing.

  3. Abhay,

    Wonderful article! Thanks for picking up a comment and sharing such an insightful piece based on that. :)

    Delhi's history pre-dates to Indraprastha.

    In the last 1000 years itself, like you have pointed out, many cities have been built within what is now Delhi. Sections of walls and buildings from 11th century can still be seen.

    Even if we start from Qutb ud-din Aibak, we can see that there was a city in place in the late 12th century around Qutb Minar.

    Ghiyas ud-din Balban built a palace Lal Mahal during the life time of Iltutmish himself. The area around this palace became known as Ghiyaspur. When he became sultan of Delhi, he built the Lal Kot fort in Mehrauli. This was around mid 13th century.

  4. During Balban's time only I guess, Bibi Zulekha came to Delhi from Badayun with her 5-year old son, Nizamuddin (1238-1325).

    This boy later became a disciple of the Sufi saint Hazrat Farid-ud-din Ganj-i-Shakkar or Baba Farid, who lived in Ajodhan (now Pakpattan, in Pakistan). After completing his studies, Hazrat Nizamuddin returned to Ghiyaspur and built a chilla, a quiet place for meditation by the Yamuna. He soon became famous as a Sufi saint and came to be known as "Auliya" (Friend of God).

    He had a hospice or khanqah too where his disciples gathered to listen to him.

    When Ghiyasuddin Tughlaq was building his Tughlaqabad, Hazrat Nizamuddin started building a baoli (step well). The craftsmen building the capital city would work on the baoli at night. Tughlaq became angry and ordered that no one could sell oil for the lamps needed to work at night.

    The story goes that Hazrat Nizamuddin asked his disciple Nasiruddin to fill the lamps with water from a ground spring. The auliya's power was so divine that the lamps got lit! The baoli was completed. Nasiruddin came to be known as Chiragh-e-Dilli (Light of Delhi).

    Hazrat Nizamuddin was buried near the baoli. The place was renamed as Nizamuddin in his honor.

  5. Continuing my rambling thoughts ... :)

    At this time ^^^, most of Delhi was fields, orchards and gardens, irrigated by canals. The Kushak Nallah extended from what is Saket today to Nizamuddin till the Yamuna.

    As Delhi's population increased, more mosques were needed. Khan-e-Jahan Tilangani, minister of Ferozeshah Tughlaq, built 7 mosques in Delhi. One of these was in Nizamuddin area, where Tilangani's tomb stands.

  6. The city of Siri was built by Ala-ud-din Khilji. Considered the first city in Delhi built by Muslims.

    In 1303, the Mongols led by Taraghai plundered Delhi and left. Ala-ud-din Khilji decided to build a defensive fortress at Siri with strong fortified ramparts and impregnable bastions. The construction of the Siri Fort and the city within it began in 1304 near the Qutab Minar, where forces attacking or defending Delhi used to camp. It is said 70,000 workers built the city.

    Now only ruins of the Siri Fort and the Tohfewala Gumbad mosque remain.

    How the city got this name is interesting. It is said that Khilji went after the marauding Mongols, as they retreated, and killed about 8000 of them. They were beheaded and their heads (sir) used to lay the foundation for the city. Sounds really gory today!

  7. The Mongols kept returning to the city.

    Timur, also known as Tamerlane, invaded Delhi in 1398. He wrote: "Siri is a round city. Its buildings are lofty. They are surrounded by fortifications built of stone and brick, and they are very strong – from the fort of Siri to that of Old Delhi, which is a considerable distance – there runs a strong wall built of stone and cement. The part called Jahanpanah is situated in the midst of the inhabited city. The fortifications of the three cities (old Delhi, Siri and Tughlaqabad) have thirty gates. Jahanpanah has thirteen gates, Siri has seven gates. The fortifications of the Old Delhi have ten gates, some opening to the exterior and some towards the interior of the city.”

    Really impressive!!!

  8. @radhika

    Interesting responses..It was a pleasure to read this..
    Looking forward for more responses. : )

  9. Within Shahjahanabad, is the Kali or Kalan masjid. An inscription on the eastern entrance states that the mosque was built in 789 A.H. (1387) by Khan-i-Jahan Junan Shah Maqbul, son of Khan-i-Jahan, the prime minister of Feroze Shah Tughlaq. This was one of the 7 mosques built by him.

    There were 4 graves in its courtyard, which were removed in 1857. 2 of these belonged to the builder of the mosque and his father.

    1. Please don't get confused here. The father was Khan-i-Jahan Maqbul Khan, also known as Khan-i-Jahan Tilangini. He was a Hindu convert, who became prime minister of Feroze Shah.

    2. The 7 mosques include Khirki Masjid, Begampuri Masjid, Kali or Kalan Masjid near Turkman Gate and another mosque of the same name in Nizamuddin. The latter one is mentioned above, as being built in 1387 A.D. It is the grave of the son.

      The 2 Kali masjids bear inscriptions and were definitely built by the son. Who among father and son built the other tombs is not certain.

      The father's mosque is also in Nizamuddin. It consists of a domed octagonal chamber enclosed by a verandah. Each of its sides has 3 arches. This is the first octagonal tomb in Delhi. Later this style became the hallmark of the Sayyid and Lodi architecture.

    3. All 7 mosques have eaves or chhajjas, low domes, sloping minars on corners and at the entrance.

  10. Qadam Sharif, a large square tomb, was believed to be built by Feroze Shah Tughlaq for his own use. But, when his son Fath Khan died, he was buried there.

    According to tradition, Feroze Shah's spiritual guide, Makhdum Jahanian Jahan Gasht, brought from Mecca, at the emperor's orders, a stone with the Prophet's footprint or qadam. As Fath Khan died first, this stone was placed at his grave.

    The emperor later built a mosque and a school here and enclosed the tomb within high walls. Later other chambers such as Majlis Khana (assembly hall) and Langar Khana (feeding house) were added to the tomb. There are many graves and tombs inside the enclosure.

  11. Shalimar Garden

    A narrow road going west from the Delhi-Karnal road about 10km from Delhi leads to the village of Haidarpur. The Shalimar Garden is to the east of this village.

    It was in this garden that Aurangzeb crowned himself king on 31st July, 1658. Originally, a palace called the Shish Mahal was located in the centre of an enclosure. Now only parts of this palace exist. All other buildings have disappeared.

    This garden was originally known as Aizzabad Bagh. It may have been built by Shah Jahan for his mistress Aizzu'n-Nisa Begum.

    Aurangzeb used it as his country house.

    Sir David Ochterlony, British Resident at Delhi used it as his summer retreat. Unfortunately, he fell ill here and died.

  12. Raushanara's Garden and Tomb

    Raushanara, the younger daughter of Shah Jahan, laid out her garden-tomb in 1650, soon after Shahjahanabad was completed. The tomb known as Baradari is in the centre of the garden.

    It consists of a brick-built but palstered small roofless grave chamber in the centre surrounded by a hall, the 4 sides of which are occupied by arcaded dalans - apartments with arched openings. The corners have double-storeyed domed chambers.

    Originally, the tomb was enclosed by deep, ornamental troughs provided with fountains on either side.

  13. Radhika,

    These details are a cherry on the cake. :D

    Why don't you make a post about all these gardens.?
    It will be nice to read it as separate posts, what all you share in comments. More readers will be able to read them, those who miss the comments. :)

    About this Aizzabad Bagh, it was supposedly octagonal. :D

  14. Abhay,

    Only you can make historical posts, since you can verify what you write. :)

    But if you like, you can verify the comments and then we can post them as articles. :)

  15. Radhika,
    Your snippets are probably from verified sources already, you can post them. :)

  16. A painting (made in the 1840s) of the baoli built by Hazrat Nizamuddin

  17. A professional photo of the same Nizamuddin baoli taken in the early 1900s

  18. OMG Radhika, I have overlooked this indeed. BUT it was buried deep in the old comments???
    However, where in Delhi is this Baoli? Delhi is a gem Radhika. layers and layers of history!. You know I have an old school friend in Delhi with common interests and The next time I am in town we are going to go on a thursday to listen to the qawali at Nizamuddin's Dargah and then go to KArims for some kababs :) Thanks to your other post I will now visit Jahanara's tomb and pay my respects to that great lady too!

  19. Preeti,
    This Baoli is in Nizamuddin area in Delhi.
    By the way, glad to know you are a Delhite. :D
    But, i heard that Karim's has shut shop recently. I am not sure, though.

  20. Oh No how can Karims Shut down :(.
    No Abhay, I am a Mumbaite!! I am a north indian from Mumbai....loads of relatives in Delhi there fore I keep visiting.

  21. Preeti

    Delhi is a history buff's and an explorer's delight. Hope you have a grand visit to Delhi next time. :)

  22. The Barapullah Bridge, Delhi - Slipping into Decay

    Today's newspaper carries an article on a historic 17th century Mughal-era bridge in Delhi that was used by the Mughals coming from Agra to cross the Yamuna to reach Nizamuddin's Dargah and Humayun's Tomb. This bridge known as the Barapullah Bridge - as it has 12 piers - was personally commissioned by Emperor Jahangir himself and is protected by the ASI. Yet it has totally been consumed by haphazard urbanization and is in danger of totally disappearing unless steps are taken to conserve it.

    This is the complete article.

    Article in The Times of India, 16th April, 2015 (Link)

    Next time you use the elevated Barapullah road, spare a thought for the 17th-century bridge that runs almost parallel to it. Over 400 years old, the historic Barapullah bridge is a monument of national importance protected by the Archaeological Survey of India, yet it's barely visible today and overrun by squatters.

    This old, dilapidated stone bridge dates back to the 1600s. It is said to have beenbuilt during Jahangir's rule and personally commissioned by him. The structure has 12 piers and 11 arches, and is 200m long. Historians say Mughals who were coming from Agra used the bridge to cross Yamuna to reach Nizamuddin Dargah and Humayun's Tomb.

    Today, however, the historic bridge is surrounded by Nizamuddin Basti, and its earlier function as a connector across the river is now forgotten. "The Barapullah Nullah runs close to the monument. The stench emanating from it, accumulating garbage, encroachments and years of neglect have placed it in danger of vanishing completely," said an expert.

    The bridge has now been taken over by squatters, vegetable vendors, fruit-sellers and illegal car parking. A part of it is even used as a garbage dumping ground. There is no easy pedestrian access and those who can brave the filth to visit the Mughal bridge would not be able to see much of it, except the pillars on either side. "Were it not for the pillars, no one would even know this is a historic bridge," said a conservationist. The surrounding area is not much better and the best view of the bridge can only be from the elevated road above it. ASI officials could not be reached for comment.

    When the elevated Barapullah road was built, it hid the Mughal-era bridge completely. Conservationists till date question how the elevated road was built at a distance of 10m from an important ASI monument and in the regulated area of another centrally-protected monument, Abdul Rahim Khan-i-Khanan's tomb. Some years back, DUAC raised concerns that the elevated road project could endanger the Barapullah bridge. It even suggested an alternate route for the elevated road. But ASI gave the go-ahead and the bridge has nearly become lost to urbanization.

    Historians have called for a move to preserve the bridge. "The bridge is historically very significant and a living reminder of life during the Mughal era. It's shameful that most people are not even aware of its existence. ASI has failed to do anything to protect the structure," a heritage expert said.

  23. very beautiful post Radhika to my knowledge Delhi has seen a lots of political changes.I am really amazed, to know that so many monuments r their in and around Delhi. all the information andpost are very interesting

  24. Niranjana

    Delhi is a living historical city. Every nook and corner has some hidden story. All it needs is the urge to explore and discover. :)