Djinns of Ferozshah Kotla

Jami masjid

The last time I had been to Ferozshah Kotla, I had wondered why people were lighting diyas inside the ruins of Ferozshah Kotla which was once a Muslim palace. Today was the day to find that out – on a walk organized by the India Habitat Center and led by Shahana Chakravarty.

Two things stood out for me on my first organized group walk. One was of course the story of the diyas and the prayers happening inside and the second was the further exploration of the place which I had missed out on the previous occasion. The second gave me some interesting shots which I had only day dreamed about the last time, while the first revealed the reason of the name of one of my favorite books – City of Djinns by Willliam Dalrymple.

The doors are closed to prevent Djinns from coming out
To keep the Djinns locked inside!

The first line of the book says about the Djinns of Ferozshah Kotla but it was on today’s walk that I realized the link between the Diyas and Djinns. Sometime in 1970’s a story emerged that Djinss or spirits resided at the Ferozshah Kotla. And it is to please them that diyas and agarbattits are lighted, milk is kept in bowls and even meat is kept at different places all around the fort. Don’t know if the Djinss taste them but the plenty of eagles and dogs there – ready to taste it as there were the cats thriving on all the milk, originally meant for the spirits.

People even write their requests to these Djinns and put it up in different cells beneath the Jami Masjid. They also express their gratitude by offering prayers if a request is granted by the Djinns, they offer their gratitude. This is done in the three floor of cells below the monolithic Ashoka Pillar which was specially brought in by Feroz Shah Tuglaq and installed in his citadel.

Some of the written requests to the Djinns

There were many other interesting facts explained by Shahana during the walk like the architectural details and the visit to the Baoli – for which permission has to be taken. But a key takeaway was a suggestion to come here at night especially on Thursdays when the whole place is lighted up with Diyas and candles. Let’s keep that on the list. May be I can see some Djinns of Delhi !!

Ashoka PillarThe Ashoka Pillar

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