Balban’s Tomb

Ghiyas-ud-din Balban rests here..
Balban’s Tomb and (in the background) one of the pillars of the now broken first dome in India

Ghiyas-ud-din. The name doesn’t suit a king. Does it?

The first thing that comes to my mind whenever I hear Ghiyas-ud-din is a person jisko life mein bahut Ghisna pada. May be a lowly servant in a king’s palace.  Though there have been 3 kings of Delhi named Ghiyas-ud-din, but Ghiyas-id-din Balban was indeed a servant – a slave. But he was also a king – the last king of the Slave dynasty. (Literally speaking his grandson who became the king after his death but he ruled for a mere 3 years before the start of Khilji dynasty).

Balban was captured by Mongols as a child and later on ‘bought’ by Iltumish (Razia Sultan’s father and a popular king of slave dynasty). Balban rose in power and became one of the nobles in the court and after much Ghisayi became the king at the age of 60.

The place, which may have been Balban’s palace is also known for it being the first instance of a true arch in Indian architecture. Before that Corbeled Arches or Trabeated arches were used. I did not know what a true arch means before this visit and it is quite interesting to find out the differences.

Balban’s tomb is also known for the site of the first dome in India. The dome no longer exists but the pillars on which it stood are visible and you can imagine a huge round structure on top of it.

Also, some ruins of a city have been unearthed near the place which show homes, markets etc – although in complete ruins.

Jamali Kamali: At the intersection of two eras

Jamali kamali tombJamali Kamali’s Tomb

I have recently started reading a quintet on five Mughal emperors by Alex Rutherford. The first one was about Babur. Towards the end it is all about his conquest of India and establishing the Mughal empire here. This he did by defeating the Lodhis. In the Lodhi king’s court, there was a poet – Jalal Khan a.k.a Shaikh Fazlullah a.k.a Jamali (He is said to have the same status as Tansen did in Akbar’s court). Later as the power shift happened, he also was a member of Babur’s son – Humayun’s court.

ArchesThe arches at the Mosque

Jamali designed the mosque at Mehrauli near the Qutub Minar. The design is similar to that in Purana Quila – the difference being that it is said that this was the first mosque to have such a design. But what is truly amazing is the adjoining tomb. The tomb was designed and prepared (1528) before Jamali died in 1536. There some rare Persian work on the flat roofed structure.

Jamali Kamali - under the shadow of QutubThere was some rare and fine persian work (blue) which has now eroded

The whole place is right now disputed. Right to pray there by the community members on one hand and the archaeologists wanting to save the site on the other. Obviously if people are given easy access to this place, there will be nuisance – as it is there in the rest of Mehrauli Archaeological park (broken signboards, information boards etc).

Due to the dispute, the place needs special permission to visit. It was courtesy Vikramjit (who was leading the photo walk) that some clicks were possible inside the tomb which is worth a dekko. There is a sense of disproportional inside – reason similar to that in the Taj Mahal. Taj Mahal is exactly symmetrical in every way except one. It was designed to have one tomb – that of Mumtaz Mahal but Shah jahan was buried there too thus spoiling the symmetry. It is similar here. The design seems to have been for Mr. Jamali only. But a certain Kamali – supposedly the best friend of Jamali, was buried there alongside (perhaps much later).

The work on the walls is amazing and the roof tops it – literally and figuratively.

Aamazing view for the deadThe inside of the tomb

Mehrauli is full of monuments from a wide range of eras. Jamali Kamali tomb and mosque come from an interesting period. India’s history generally draws a line in 1527 when the Sultanate period ended after around 300 years and ushered the famous Mughal era which was to last another 300 years. Jamali Kamali stand – or rather lie at either side of that line.

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