Golden Temple

Golden temple is perhaps the most important destination in Sikhism. It has actually become a symbol  of the religion with its shining gold an attractive sight in the simmering in a bright sunlight as well under artificial lights at night.

Mughal emperor Akbar, impressed with the ideology and thoughts of Guru Nanak and Guru Angad, granted some land to Guru Angad’s daughter on her marriage. His son-in-law after some years built a water tank on one of these lands. Later a temple – the Golden temple and then a city – Amritsar was built around that water tank. 

Though the temple was brought into the present shape after many years by Maharaja Ranjit Singh (the temple was destroyed multiple times by the invading Afghans), but the ideology for it to be a symbol of a new faith is sown in the building plan.

Sikhism was born out of a combination of Hindu and Muslim religions. But Guru Arjun gave it a distinct identity and Golden temple is an example of that.

In a Hindu temple, a person has to climb stairs to reach the prayer hall. The golden temple was specifically designed such that people have to climb down the stairs from the road level. Also, generally Hindu temples have one entrance whereas the Harimandir as it is also called has 4 entrances.

Interestingly, the four doors symbolize the four castes of Hindus – Kshatriya, Brahmin, Shudra and Vaishya. It symbolized that the doors were open to all who wished to enter.

The philosophy still stands today and the temple is visited by people from multiple religions, castes and nations. It obviously is one of the most important pilgrimage destination for the Sikhs.

The experience of visiting the temple, though was not so great the last time around : http://sidharthbedi.com/2007/06/03/strengthened-beliefs-err-non-beliefs/

Quli Khan’s Tomb or Metcalfe’s Dilkhusha

Quli Khan is the lesser known brother of Adham Khan – who was (in) famously thrown from the Agra fort by Akbar.

The tomb is lesser known for Quli Khan and more for being the summer/weekend retreat for Sir Thomas Metcalfe – the resident british at the Mughal court. Thomas Metcalfe was instrumental in setting up an arrangement with Mirza Fakhru, one of the sons of Bahadur Shah Zafar – the last Mughal. They signed a secret understanding that British would recognize him as the formal heir after Zafar’s death and Mirza Fakhru would move the Mughal court from Red fort to Mehrauli, thus giving the fort to be used as British barracks. Eventually both Fakhru and Sir Thomas died – allegedly due to poisoning (by one of the wives of Zafar who wanted her son to be the heir to the throne)

But before all that, Sir Thomas Metcalfe made this tomb into a classic retreat home – on the lines of today’s farmhouse and called it Dilkhusha. He removed the grave of Quli Khan and made that room as his dining hall. The blue interiors look magnificent even today and on the outside there was a sprawling garden. Streamlets of water used to flow down from the house towards a dovecote – some of whose bricks are used from ancient temples which were perhaps broken down to build the monuments (like Qutub Minar) that we see today. The whole place gave a tough competition in its magnificence to the Zafar Mahal (Bahadur Shah’s summer retreat) in the same Mehrauli area.

But one thing that still eludes is some information on Quli Khan himself – whose grave has now been restored and who peacefully lies where perhaps Metcalfe’s dining table stood a century and half ago.

Bricks, perhaps used from old temples to be used in the more recent monuments

Adham Khan’s Tomb

Adham Khan is a character from history whom many people would now know. If the name doesn’t ring a bell, then he was one of the villains in the movie – Jodha Akbar. He was son of Maham Anga (Illa Arun) and killed Atgha Khan (played by Raza Murad).  Akbar (Hrithik Roshan) then defeated him in a fight and threw him down from his fort. When he was not killed, Hrithik had ordered his servants to bring him up and throw him down again.

The scene depicted is actually true. Maham Anga was Akbar’s wet nurse who used to feed him as an infant (According to customs, the mother who was the queen did not use to do it but a trusted nurse was appointed). Adham Khan, hence became the ‘milk-brother’ of Akbar.

When he was an infant, Akbar was force-ably taken by his uncle (chacha) and kept captive (to be used as a shield in case Humayun attacked). Maham Anga had voluntarily gone along with her own son to take care of Akbar. All three remained captive for nearly 12 months.

Years later, when Akbar appointed Ataga Khan as Prime Minister, it enraged Adham Khan (obviously he was expecting the job) and he went on a rampage killing Ataga Khan in the process. As a result, Akbar threw him down the ramparts of his fort in Agra. Few days later, Maham Anga also died of grief.

Akbar, who had deep sense of gratitude for them, decided to make Adham Khan a tomb. Maham Anga was also later buried along her son.

The tomb lies dilapidated in the midst of the Mehrauli market just behind Qutub Minar.

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.

Ghalib’s Abode

You cannot trust your mobile maps in the labyrinth of Shahjanabad, especially if you have to find Gali Qasam Jaan. This is the narrow lane where Mirza Ghalib spent his last 9 years. This is also the place (Balimaran) where on some terrace, one of my favorite Ghazal – ‘Chupke Chupke Raat Din’ was composed. Though I would have loved to visit that terrace but not much is known about it.

Ghalib ki Haveli - Old Delhi

What is known though is the Haveli where Ghalib spent his last years. The word Haveli springs images of grandeur – perhaps a huge mansion with many rooms, gardens, fountains etc. But this haveli of a space constrained Old Delhi is a bit different. You enter the ancient doors onto a pathway. There is a small, partially covered yard at the end of this small pathway and one room to the right of it. But it is certainly grand compared to the rest of the houses around and in its time would definitely have been an awesome place. Imagine Ghalib sitting there in the yard, in his own dreamy world, writing words which would take him to an enviable place in history.

The open yard - Haveli

Presently, this Haveli has been converted into a mini museum with Ghalib’s writings, photos and even a sculpture in an attempt to build his lifestyle there. The timings are 10 to 5 and entry is free so it’s worth a visit if you are around shopping near Chandni Chowk.

Ghalib's Room at  his Haveli

Sunheri Masjid

There are two Sunheri Masjids – both in Old Delhi. One, built in 1751 is just outside the Red Fort. Its ‘sunherapan’, which it got from copper gilded domes, has long gone. The other one, built 30 years earlier in 1721 is on Chandni Chowk – next to Sees Ganj Gurudwara. Unlike its younger counterpart, this one still retains the golden colored domes though they are in a pretty bad shape as is the rest of the mosque. Had it not been the golden touch, it would easily merge with the rest of the buildings and be ‘just another mosque’ which it actually is not.

The Sunheri masjid, which stands on a balcony with shops beneath, has been known for some wrong reasons in the past. The mosque was built by Roshan-ud-dualah, the treasurer of Mughal King Mohammed Shah. Roshan-ud-dualah, it is alleged was a notorious bribe taker.

Then later in 1739, Nadir Shah invaded Delhi. After the defeat, Mughals invited him to Delhi. All was fine till his men murdered some cows as a sacrifice. Religion has always been a sensitive spot in the Indian mentality. Slowly the matter snow balled and many of his men were killed. It was escalated when a rumor starting floating that Nadir Shah was poisoned. He then came out to see what was happening. Facing hostilities on Chandni Chowk he dismounted and went up the Sunheri masjid. Here an attempt on his life was made when someone fired a bullet. All this angered him and, he ordered a mass massacre of Delhi. As Mr. Shah sat watching on the balcony, around 30,000 people were killed through the night. Some historians say the number was 120,000. In any case it is counted as one of the bloodiest slaughters in the world.

 An old drawing of the mosque in its prime

Around the Red Fort

Nigambodh Gate

The aim was to find the fifth gate of the old city – Nigambodh Gate. The first four gates – Kashmiri, Delhi, Ajmeri and Turkman were easier to find. For Nigambodh, I studied the pre-1857 Delhi Maps and tried to figure out where the gate would be today. It’s easy theoretically but after searching around I could not find the actual gate. I may be wrong but there is not gate at all. What is left are two walls and the road that divides them. This is probably the same road that led out of Shahjanabad eastwards onto the boat of bridges over the river Yamuna and further ahead to Meerut. Presently it leads to the Ring road that too under a flyover.


Walking on the water

Turn right after emerging out of the city and you are walking where Yamuna used to flow once. There are 2 bridges over the ring road. One which was built much later is for the trains coming out of old Delhi railway station. The other one is the one which originally connects Red fort to Salimgarh Fort. In the old photos of Delhi, one can see a branch of Yamuna flowing under this bridge where today the flow now consists of a stream of cars and buses.

The bridge to Salimgarh fort

Red Fort – the Prajja Point of view.

If you visit the red fort, you get to be a Mughal emperor in your imagination. Come out to the ring road and you get to see what the residents of Delhi saw. The king used to come out on the terrace and wave at the audience every day. It is said that if he missed out on this ritual, it used to create an anxiety among the populace and set rumors about his health or being getting overthrown. There is nothing red about this view of red fort as you see the personal chambers of the king in pure marble white.

Red Fort - the King's chambers


Gumshuda Talash Kendra

The Gumshuda Talash Kendra of Daryaganj’s nayi kotwali is a historical place in itself for the Doordarshan generation. Walking on the ring road, turn to the right on reaching the Southern wall of the red fort. A few meters of walk brings you to this piece of modern history.

Gumshuda Talash Kendra

Sunheri Masjid

The royal mosque which was built by wife of Mughal king, Ahmad Shah in 1751 had domes gilded with copper giving it the name. Later they were repaired and replaced with Sandstone by Bahadur Shah Zafar – the last Mughal. The mosque, fortunately survived the onslaught of soldiers and the British.

Sunheri Masjid

Turn right from the Sunheri Masjid and you are back facing the Lahore Gate of the Red Fort.

Red Fort

Red Fort

The 'Oval Office' of the Mughal king - Diwan-i-KhasA shadow of its glorious past

The phrase, “If there is paradise on earth, it is here, it is here“, is often quoted in reference to Kashmir.
It was originally said by the father of Qawwali, Amir Khusrau, in praise of Delhi.
The same can also be seen written in persian, embedded on two pillars at the Diwan-i-Khas at Red fort. Diwan-i-Khas was a special court room, akin to the Oval office of USA where the Mughal emperors used to meet their advisors and take important decisions apart from normal chit-chat with close friends.

Red fort was the jewel of the new town of Shahjanabad. It took 9 years, 3 months to be built and cost 60 lakh rupees. The now ruined but still beautiful marble buildings inside the fort could easily have rivalled the Taj Mahal had they not been destroyed by the British in 1857. Even in the condition they are now, the mirrors of the Rang Mahal do reflect the glory of the exorbitantly rich past.

The whole fort meanwhile is a juxtaposition of the British and Indian architecture. After 1857, many buildings inside were broken down and 4 huge buildings – the barracks – all distinctly British were constructed. They are an eye sore as they overshadow the beautiful gardens.

The most beautiful part of the palace, though I could only imagine it was a stream of water flowing throughout the line of the royal buildings – the Diwan-i-Khas, Khas Mahal, Rang Mahal. Imagine a drawing room completely built from Marble with a stream of water throughout with a huge beautiful fountain in the middle, a peacock throne to sit on, silk curtains, persian carpets. Now how could a person who lived there ever doubt about him living in a paradise.

“If there is a heaven on earth”

“It is here. It is here.”

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.

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

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