Alauddin Khilji’s tomb

 

 

Alauddin Khilji was the second of the khilji dynasty emperors. Ambitious and aggressive, he was the first islamic ruler to venture south and gain major parts.

Alauddin Khilji is often associated with a popular folklore. According to the story, he, saw after hearing/seeing about the beauty of rani Padma attacked Chittor. The impressive fort of the kingdom provided a good defence. Allaudin lay siege and after a long wait, the women of the kingdom, led by Padmini performed ‘jauhar’ by self immolation on a pyre. The men with no family left behind left the defences of the fort and gave everything they had in a vicious battle. Khilji ultimately prevailed and occupied Chittorgarh.

The year was 1303. 13 years later Allaudin Khilji died and was buried at what is today called Qutub complex. The tomb is a simple brick on  structure with no decorative marble or intricate carvings as in the tomb of Iltumish or the towering Qutub Minar nearby. It lies on a small hill on one corner of the Qutub complex and from my experience of around 5 visit to the place, it is not the most popular spot as far as the visitors choice is concerned. Perhaps the tomb, like the man craves for some beauty.

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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.

City of Tombs

Barakhamba

If you roam around Delhi, you can get a sense of how people loved their after life. May be it was their relatives who wanted them to be remembered. Many of the monuments here are tombs. And though Humayun’s tomb is the largest and most beautiful of it all, the ‘parampara’ did not start with Mughals. It was prevalent much before – Feroz Shah Tughlaq being one of the examples.

May be the rulers at that time had not imagined that space would be such scarce in few hundred years. They designed the resting places of their ancestors/relatives as colossal and peaceful places. Standing alone and visible from a distance, they look like an imposing figure in their old ‘black and white’ photos taken a few hundred years ago. Today they jostle for space. Many of them are nestled among the modern markets, hidden by the trees, ignored and visited by people interested in sleeping under the cool tree shades.

These shades along with neatly pruned green grass was what pulled me too, towards two such monuments in Hauz khas as I, tired after walking a lot, passed by them. There is no recorded history of these places. Barakhamba is nowhere near the barakhamba road and simply called because there are 12 pillars in the structure. The dadi poti tomb does not get its name from a granddaughter and her grandmother buried there. It is more linked to the size of the tombs. As you can get an idea from random names, no one knows who is buried here and they even belong to different eras (Dadi – Lodhi and Poti – Tughlaq). They have been taken by the Archaeology survey team for improvements and now they look like Aishwarya Rai – beautiful but artificial.

The College with a View

Students studied under the shadow of their teachers

There are tombs strewn all over Delhi. But perhaps one of the most beautiful after-life view is enjoyed by Feroz Shah Tughlaq. He is the guy who built Feroz Shah Kotla – not the cricket stadium but a city which once stood and was later destroyed (the cricket stadium came in there many years later).
He was a liberal ruler, who came in after his tyrant uncle Mohammed Tughlaq and focussed on education and medicine. He built around seventy dispensaries and many Madarsas. One of the them was at the Hauz Khas overlooking the magnificent Hauz Khas tank. He liked the view so much that he decided that this place would also be his resting place. Along with the madarsa he built his to-be tomb 30 years before he died. The tank is now an algae ridden lake but considering the view, studying at this Madarsa must have been a delightful experience. A chronicler of those times once wrote, “People come from East and West in caravan after caravan just to look at it”.

view from college

View from the College


It is hard to imagine that this place, with a dense cover of trees is in the middle of Delhi. May be that is an important difference between Delhi and Mumbai. In Mumbai you hardly find a place where you have the out-of-the-city feel. Delhi on the other hand has many Delhi’s within it – some ruined, some beautiful and some like this corner of Hauz khas – Peaceful. May be it looked peaceful because it was an early Sunday morning.

But I was not alone this morning. There was another group of people who were there visiting the tomb and the Madarsa. A lady in the group was diligently picking up the wrappers of chips, biscuits etc which people had strewn the place with. And some time later as I passed the group, I realized that I knew one of the persons in that group. It was Nandan Nilekani.

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Dormitory of Mughals

Humayun, it seems did not rest in peace after his death. His body was moved around and finally his wife decided to build a huge tomb for him – unsurprisingly called Humayun’s tomb. In this grave, he must have thought…”Finally, a nice airy room to rest with a high roof and lots of windows”.
But it was not destined for him to remain in peace because even today hundreds of people come to that airy room with high roof and say ‘how beautiful!’. The matters have been made worse by Obama who visited the tomb last month. Reportedly, the footfall here has increased 30% after that.(though I didn’t overhear even one English speaking foreigner)
Graves of some relatives of Humayun

Honestly speaking, inside the monument there is nothing beautiful. May be except the architecture which to an untrained eyes is just a complex maze of rooms filled with graves. There are over hundred graves from the Mughal family at this place which is called the dormitory of Mughals. The old walls are filled with graffiti which makes the interiors simply ugly. The graves too are long past their good days. The restoration work has been in progress but it seems very slow and the focus has been on the exterior than interiors.
Wish Rubina hated the guy
Quite logical because, it is actually the exterior which makes the monument attractive. The view from far away standing in the lawns is excellent with red sandstone merging with the blue sky and the well kept green lawns. Here one gets to see the perfect symmetry and the simplicity of the monument which is a prelude to the Taj Mahal and has a stark resemblance to it. Both are on the banks of same river – Yamuna. Both share a similar story (built in memory of a husband or wife) and both have expansive lawns around them.
Similar to Taj Mahal??
I fully utilized the combination of this rare Delhi greenery, royal surroundings and the warm winter sun to write this post and read a book before returning to the call of the hunger.