Blast from the Past

The best part about history is the story. And they can be found in plenty at the Purana Quila. The popularity of the place is indicated at the approach road itself. There was a long line of cars and people turning right towards the neighboring zoo but the ones marching straight towards the ‘real’ place were only couples interested in having some space and time to them. Space they get in plenty as they are only a handful of them in what was around 500 years ago a whole city.

The Purana Quila

The story of the place goes like this. Humayun, the second Mughal ruler, decided to build a city and chose this site on the banks of river Yamuna. A walled city called Dinpanah was quickly built. Sher Shah Suri then defeated Humayun, forced the poor guy out of India and took charge of the city. He allegedly demolished all buildings inside and built some of his own (and called it Shergarh). Humayun returned with vengeance and regained the city 15 years later. After a few months, he was enjoying the magnificent view on top floor of his library (Sher Mandal) when he heard the prayer call and in a hurry slipped down the stairs and died. This was perhaps coming. History tells that whoever tried to build a city in Delhi did not survive to rule. (Shah Jahan and the British are other prominent examples after Humayun) . His tomb was later built a few kilometers down south and is now a more popular tourist spot.

Sher Mandal – Humayun fell down the stairs here and died

But this is a story only 500 years old. Much more interesting is another one. In 1950’s areas of Purana Quila were excavated and many civilizations were found to have existed here. They date back to the days of Mahabharat and the city of Indraprastha. A mud hut has been excavated from that age.  Unfortunately, it may be the case that the pandavas and kauravas were not at all like we see in the TV serials with all kinds of jewellery and all. They were, as William Dalrymple puts it, simple cave men who fought with sticks and stones.

The Western Entrance

Just behind the Sher Mandal there is a steep slope. On this slope is the evidence of 3000 years of Delhi. The actual slope is now covered with trees but it is beautifully displayed in a well maintained museum. On entering the museum there is a huge photograph which truly shows the importance of the site. There is a wall with the three thousand years in different layers. Indraprastha at the bottom, then Maurya, Sunga, Saka, Gupta, Post Gupta, Rajput, Sultanate and finally the Sher Mandal on top representing the Mughal era. Far away you can see the buildings of modern Delhi.

May be 500 years from now these would also become just a layer in history.