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

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Feroz Shah Kotla – The Fort

Remains of the mosque courtyard

Dark skies with a hint of rain in the air made the ruins of Feroz Shah Kotla look amazing. Guess it did the same for many other people who had come there with their DSLR’s (mostly new) hanging from their necks. (Reminded me of the recent article on DSLRs I had read). For some whom I overhead, this was a just ‘some old fort’ with good photography opportunities.

For me it was an extension to the visit of the ancient college at Hauz Khas where Feroz Shah Tuglaq was also laid to rest. Feroz Shah was a reformer who built hospitals, colleges, mosques, reservoirs for irrigation. Many of them were part of Ferozabad – the fifth city of Delhi. This city extended upto Hauz Khas and Feroz Shah Kotla was the city’s highlight. Timur, who plundered the city some years later, too was impressed by this fort and very gladly took away all the ornamentation. The rest of the building material from the city was taken away for construction of Shah Jahan’s Shahjenabad.

One thing that still eludes my understanding is the fascination with pillars. There is a pillar in the Qutab Complex(one of the first cities in Delhi), here at Ferozabad and one in the latest city – the Luytens (inside Rashtrapati Bhavan).
Unlike the other two pillars, the one in Ferozabad is given special attention. It is placed on a 3 story high platform.

Ashoka Pillar

Also present inside the fort is the Jami Masjid, which impressed Timur so much that he took masons from here and built a replica in his hometown, Samalkhand(Uzbekistan). Interestingly, I found Diyas lit and people performing a prayer ritual in a true Hindu religion fashion near the stairs leading up to the masjid. Perhaps it is a good representation of the communal harmony that existed at the prime of this fifth city. In fact it was this tolerance towards Hindus which prompted Timur to invade India apart from the wealth – which can be only imagined adorning these ruins now.