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Monday, November 17, 2014

Stories about the Darwazas of Delhi


There are many historical and legendary stories associated with the gates of Old Delhi

Delhi Gate at the entrance of Daryaganj, one of the 14 built by Shah Jahan in his city wall, has a quainter history than the other 13 though Kashmere Gate, Mori Gate and Lahore Gate saw most of the fighting during the First War of Independence(1857). But earlier Kashmere Gate was witness to a big flow of wounded soldiers after the third Battle of Panipat in 1761. Delhi Gate did not see much action until 1804, when Jaswant Rao Holkar attacked the Capital. His siege was however broken by Col. Ochterlony, who defended the gate and the wall extending from it to the Turkman and Ajmere Gates. After the Battle of Patparganj a year earlier, Lord Lake is said to have entered the city through this gate to meet Shah Alam but some historians differ. 

About 54 years later, the rebel sepoys from Meerut entered Delhi via the Rajghat Gate (now no more). However, the British force under Hodson sent out to arrest Bahadur Shah Zafar, who had taken shelter in Humayun’s Tomb, went this way and brought back the bodies of two of the Emperor’s sons and a grandson, through it after their cold-blooded murder at the Khooni Darwaza.

How much importance Shah Jahan gave to his Delhi Gate can be gauged from the fact that besides naming one of the gates of the Red Fort also as Delhi Gate, he ordered this one to be more sublimely built.  

Going by oral history, two criminals were killed and their bodies buried in the foundation (something also believed to have been done when the foundation of the Red Fort was laid, though the number of condemned criminals was four or five). This was not unusual in those times, when such a tradition was followed, probably in continuation of the one in vogue in ancient Egypt, where cats were buried alive in the foundation, as the Pharaohs held the cat sacred.  

The story that the Delhi Gate, like the Kashmere Gate, is haunted is widely believed. While a White Lady sat outside the latter in a ghostly vigil after 1857, the haunting at Delhi Gate started 30 years later after the murder of a sweeper killed by her lover, a British sentry who had fallen in love with her and got offended when he learnt of her impending marriage. The woman did the sweeping early morning when the soldier was about to end his night duty. Others, however, think it is the peepul tree growing outside the gate that is haunted by a churail who at times startles passers-by with her jingling anklets.

The Delhi Gate in Agra, built on the road to the Capital by Mohammad Farrukhsiyar, is modelled after the older one. Farrukhsiyar, grandson of Bahadur Shah I, and successor of his uncle Muizuddin Jahandar Shah, erected the gate at the instance of his patrons, the Sayyid Brothers of Bara, Hussain Ali Khan and Abdullah Khan. It was with help from these two that he had defeated his uncle at Agra to usurp the throne and finally get Jahandar Shah imprisoned and murdered in the Red Fort. To commemorate his accession, he thought of building a gate in the city in which he had realized his ambition of becoming emperor.

This Delhi Gate also has a mosque adjoining it, which, however, that doesn’t prevent it from being haunted, not by a female ghost but by a Pir whose spirit is seen coming to offer Isha namaz (the last one at night) in the masjid. The story goes that the Pir was held in high esteem by Farrukhsiyar for bringing about his success (through his blessing) at the second and fatal battle, after his victory at the first one at Khajwah. It was on hearing of this defeat that Jahandar Shah had marched to Agra from Delhi in a bid to quell his nephew’s rebellion.

Salim Pehlwan, who had gone off his head, used to sit at the gate and slept inside it at night too, blaming a city dancing girl, who had discarded him, for his plight. 

The main Delhi Gate was not illuminated like the one at Agra, which had a thousand lights (diyas) burning at it on Farrukhsiyar’s orders. When his eventual successor, after two puppets, Mohammad Shah was crowned at Fatehpur Sikri, the new Emperor made it a point to visit the gate, 26 miles away, to offer fateha for his unlucky kinsman who had been tortured and assassinated after a brief rule of six years. 

Some say this was as per the prophecy of Banda Bahadur, the Sikh general, whom Farrukhsiyar had similarly tortured and killed after quelling his rebellion. However, of the two gates the namesake in Agra seems to have a more colourful history, though few are aware of it like the old bearded fruit seller who used to stand outside the gate, past which and Raja-ki-Mandi station visitors from Delhi go to see the Taj.

This article has been posted under the Miscellaneous and Historical accounts and FolkLore section of history_geek's Blog.

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  1. Interesting stories! There would be Halloween party, in these Darwazaas, i suppose :)
    There was some story of maid servant of Jodha begum who cursed Fatehpur Sikri.:)

  2. Geeta,
    There are many tales prevalent even today about these gates of Delhi. :)
    I posted that story about curse as a comment on one of the posts here.

  3. Tales about haunted darwazas :-o.....A big thanks for sharing these interesting folktales Abhay :)

  4. Amazing!
    I never knew about the supernatural occurrences associated with these places!

  5. V interesting posts you make about Mughal-era Delhi :) And you seem to love stories about haunted buildings and ghosts :)

    Will comment in detail soon!

  6. Abhay, where can I find the story?

  7. Purani,
    It can be located in the comments(a bit jumbled) on this post, but very informative. :)


  8. Abhay,

    So Patparganj has a very old history? I thought it was pretty recently developed :)

    The Rajghat gate must have been originally called something else - do you know that name? :)

    Who is Salim Pehlwan?

  9. The Delhi Gate of Red Fort, lying on the southern side of the fort, is flanked by the statues of 2 elephants renewed in 1903 by Lord Curzon in place of the ones that were destroyed by Aurangzeb.

  10. The main entrance is through the Lahori Gate lying on the western side of the fort. The palaces lie on the eastern side. The palaces are reached through a roofed passage, flanked by arcaded apartments called Chhatta Chowk and now used as shops.

    Both Lahori and Delhi gates were later provided by barbicans (fortified outposts or gateways) by Aurangzeb.

    3 other entrances on other sides are now largely closed.

  11. The master builders of the Red Fort were Hamid and Ahmad. Other officers supervised the construction and were rewarded with high positions.:)

  12. Naubat or Naqqar Khana (Drum House)

    This stands at the entrance to the palace area. It is a large, rectangular 3-storied building. Carved designs on its red walls were originally painted in gold. The interior was painted in other colours. Several layers of these paintings can be traced even now in the entrance chamber.

    Music was played here 5 times a day at propitious hours. :)

    It was also called Hathipol because visitors dismounted their hathi here. :)

    Why I mentioned this is because it is said that Jahandar Shah (1712-1713) and Farrukhsiyar (1713-1719) were murdered here!

    The War Memorial Museum is now housed in its upper storey.

  13. Radhika,
    Thanks for sharing these interesting bits. :) Very much informative.

    Patparganj is quite old. I don't know about details of Rajghat Gate.
    This Salim Pehalwan was a man who almost went mad after the lady whom he loved left him. ;p This story passed on from generation to genration like a folklore.

  14. This is about the Tripolia Gateways through which the GT Road passed. These gateways are located on the road connecting Subzimandi with the Delhi-Karnal road. They were largely built of bricks with sandstone used in dressings. A sarai called gur-ki-sarai was near these gateways.

    Nazir Mahaldar Khan built them in 1728-29.