The British Magazine

During the 1857 uprising, hundreds of sepoys came into Delhi after a  mutiny in Meerut where they killed all the British. In Delhi too they went about killing all the English – men, women, children they could find. By the afternoon, almost all of them in the city had been killed. At around 4 PM, the sepoys went to the Mughal king – Bahadur Shah Zafar to seek his blessing and support for the uprising.
The old king, having very less options, reluctantly agreed to it. As soon as he came back to his quarters after announcing this publicly, there was a huge blast north to the Palace (The Red Fort). It was so strong that it was heard 20 miles away.

The epicenter of this blast was the British Magazine – North India’s largest arsenal of ammunition and guns. Lieutenant Willoughby was defending this Magazine since morning. By the afternoon he was fully surrounded by the sepoys. To prevent such a large cache of arms and ammunition landing in the mutineer’s hands, Willoughby blew up the whole building along with a large mob of the sepoys who were attacking it and of course himself.

What remains of this magazine are the two entrances around 100 meters apart. Kashmiri Gate Post office stands where perhaps  there was a warehouse of the ‘modern’ Enfield rifles which were the primary reason for the 1857 uprising.

Khooni Darwaza

Khooni Darwaza

Khooni Darwaza – the name itself has horror written all over it. Had this place not been in the middle of a road, it could easily have been an ideal place for shooting of a supernatural themed movie. There is already an original story in place for the movie.
Khooni darwaza was originally called Kabuli Darwaza and formed the boundary of Shergarh – the city which was originally built by Humayun and later taken over by Sher Shah Suri. Kabuli Darwaza became Khooni darwaza 300 years later in 1857.

When the British re-captured the city after the sepoy  uprising, Bahadur Shah Zafar – the last Mughal King went into hiding at the Humayun’s tomb along with his family. The British offered to spare his life if he surrendered. He did so. But his sons (who had led forces against the English army) kept on hiding. Some time later, when British came to know about them, they asked them to surrender too. Thinking that their lives would be spared like their father, they surrendered too. The British, meanwhile had no intentions to keep them alive. While Captain Hodson was taking them back to the city, a crowd started gathering, threatening to rescue the princes (this fact is disputed though).
Hodson then stripped the princes and shot them in cold blood at point-blank range. This happened at the Khooni Darwaza.

It is said that the spirit of the princes still haunts the place. Though they did not disturb me but the place does have the haunted look to it. It lies hidden among the trees with an old chowkidar mysteriously sitting there all by himself. While I was clicking some photos, I day dreamed about the chowkidaar slowly walking up to me and in his shaky voice telling me that he was a Mughal descendent and had royal blood in his veins.

Oh Damn. Was that a day dream or did it really happen!!!

Safdarjung Tomb

Safdarjung's tomb

Safdarjung is a very popular name in Delhi. There is a hospital and an airport after the name besides the tomb which is perhaps where the name came in the present consciousness. Safdarjung was the Nawab of Oudh (Awadh) – the present east U.P. When the Mughal power began to decline after Aurangzeb’s death, Safdarjung began to increase his influence, ultimately becoming the chief minister of India and a virtual ruler, the ineffective king being just a puppet in his hand. Soon the power got to his head and he fell out of favor. When he died, Safdarjung’s son asked permission to build his tomb in the ‘waste lands’ south-west of Shahjanabad (the present Old Delhi). Today the waste land is one of the poshest areas of Delhi.

When you see the Safdarjung’s tomb it looks similar to a person with a small body and huge head. Inspired by the Humayun’s tomb, Taj Mahal and Mughal architecture in general, this tomb is one of the last buildings to be built in the 300 year long Mughal period.
Marble was in short supply as the now weakened Mughal dynasty did not control the quarries near Agra, so marble was used from other buildings in the vicinity. Obviously it was not enough as it is clear if you closely look at the patchy work. But the walls, ceilings and pillars, all are intricately and lavishly done. It could easily have been a palace had a marble tombstone not been there at the center of it.

The only drawback being the present guards of this palace who were on the wrong side of the rudeness scale.

Lake….. again…

Aaj main upaar asmaan neeche

Nothing new to say about the Lake.. Just a few lines from Pink Floyd come to mind.

Beyond the horizon of the place we lived when we were young
In a world of magnets and miracles
Our thoughts strayed constantly and without boundary
The ringing of the division bell had begun
Along the long road and on down to the causeway
Do they still LIVE there by the cut
There was a ragged band that followed in our footsteps
Running before time took our dreams away
Leaving the myriad small creatures trying to tie us to the ground
To a life consumed by slow decay

The grass was greener
The light was brighter
With friends surrounded
The nights of wonder

Gates of Old Delhi – part 2

Kashmiri Gate of the Shahjanabad (old Delhi) was the way out to the North side of the city – facing towards Kashmir, as the name suggests. This can also be termed as the most important one as out of all the gates, only this one had an entrance with double gateway.
Today, the inter-state bus terminus(ISBT), which is known by the same name has become a symbolic representation of this gate by being a point where people come and exit the city of New Delhi.

The actual Kashmiri gate lies anonymously on the side of a road under the colossal shadow of the ISBT metro station. Surrounded by buildings, it is one of the busiest areas in Delhi and as you enter the compound you can very well lose your sense of direction and wonder whether you are standing inside the erstwhile Shahjanabad or outside it.
But one look at the gate is enough to tell you.

During the 1857 mutiny, five months after the Indian soldiers had taken over the city, the British launched an attack at the city through the Kashmiri Gate. They pounded it with Canons and the damage from those canon balls is still preserved. So if you are facing the side of the gate with these damaged walls, you are actually outside the old city and standing at a point which once used to be a moat around the walls.

Kashmiri Gate - as viewed from outside the city

On the inside, some part of the wall is still standing with the barracks built into these walls. It is rather interesting to see some photographs of the gate during late 1800’s and run your imagination around them.

.Kashmiri Gate - the view from inside the city

Gates of Old Delhi – Part 1

Today’s Purani Dilli or Shahajanabad – the city built by Shah Jahan was a walled city. To get out of this city, there were many gates around the walls. The one to the north was known as Kashmiri Gate. The southern – Delhi gate, the eastern – Lahori gate and so on. During the 1857 uprising, the sepoys closed the gates and barricaded themselves behind these walls. So when the British put down the rising, they did the same to the walls too. Along with these came down these gates. These gates still remain in our vocabulary (Ajmeri Gate, Kashmiri Gate, Delhi Gate, Mori Gate) but only few of them survive physically. And the ones which do would be wondering if it was worth all the effort being a witness to all the change around them. You see the images and drawings of the Old Delhi before 1857 and feel what wonderful experiences these gates have been through. As for the present you just need to get around the old city.

Ajmeri GateAjmeri Gate

I started with Ajmeri Gate. When you walk down from Chawri Bazar Metro station, you are taking almost the same path as people did in Shahjanabad. Though you have to get around the now barricaded gate rather than through it. The once famous Delhi college is just opposite gate but the guard did not allow me inside even to take a photograph. Mirza Ghalib, some hundred and fifty years ago, too had stood here after being invited to be a persian professor. He expected the secretary to come and formally welcome him inside but that did not happen and Ghalib – his ego hurt, never taught at the college.

Turkman GateTurkman Gate

Moving east along the imaginary wall of the city, you come to the Turkman Gate. Overshadowed by the Delhi Stock Exchange it lies forgotten on one side of the road. Though the area was filthy but inside the barricades, the Gate and its immediate surroundings were clean. Standing there and clicking the photos of this gate, I got ‘what-a-mad-guy’ looks from passers-by.

Delhi GateDelhi Gate

You need to go further east to reach the Delhi Gate. The gate which saw Mughal kings ride leisurely through it on elephants now witnesses people rushing past by its sides. The road once led to a Lunatic Asylum just outside the city. Today it leads to..well..New Delhi.


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 144 other followers