book excerptise:   a book unexamined is wasting trees

Delhi and its monuments

Surendra Nath Sen

Sen, Surendra Nath;

Delhi and its monuments [reader: ]

A. Mukherjee & Company Calcutta, 1954, 42 pages

topics: |  india | history | delhi |

This is a "travel book" written by a serious historian. A 1954 tourist guide would have obviously become out-of-date on matters such as entrance times and fees - and even the routes and transport - so it does not bother about such practicalities, except for a short meander in the opening pages about how a visitor could take in almost all of Delhi in a day.

This short, crisp text focuses instead on aspects that will stand the test of time. It presents a detailed history, not overly technical, yet accompanying every statement along with how we come to know about it - the evidence and the uncertainties (historiography). While a few aspects may have changed in subsequent research, the presentation remains surprisingly contemporary since it does not claim to be a final statement, just what is best known at the time.

This rare archival text, along with Sen's other classic, eighteen fifty-seven, surely deserves being edited and re-printed in a modern incarnation!


Delhi : Early history

Delhi claims an antiquity far beyond the ken of history.  Popular belief
identifies the mound on which Sher Shah built his fort with Indraprastha,
where Maya, the Danava architect, is said to have built a splendid palace and
court for the Pandava princes of Pandava City (circa 1000 B.C. ?).  No relic
of the Epic Age has, been so far discovered, but the secrets of [several]
sites still await the explorer's spade. The tradition in any case is fairly
old, and goes as far back as the days of Qutbuddin Aibak. p.2

[at the Qutub] The masonry work in which the credulous visitor delights to
discover the ruins of Draupadi's kitchen is nothing but the remains of a
Muslim hamam (bathroom), and the temple associated with Kunti's name is a
very modern structure. But the mound itself would be an ideal place for a
pre-historic settlement, and similar antiquity has also been claimed for the
present sites of Nigambodh Ghat and the near-by temple known as Nili Chhatri.

But the mound itself would be an ideal place for a pre-historic settlement,
and similar antiquity has also been claimed for the present sites of
Nigambodh Ghat and the near-by temple known as Nili Chhatri. p.2

The only surviving son of Dhritarashtra, was probably installed at
Indraprastha (or Indarpat) as a deputy, and it is interesting to note that
Buddhist traditions of the first and second century A.D. refer to a line of
Kuru princes reigning at the old city. Protected by the ridge and the river,
situated on the main trade route between two important river systems it was
marked for the commercial and political pre-eminence which it early attained.

Maurya period

[The city of Indraprastha, if it was indeed here, appears to have been
ignored during the Maurya empire.]  in Asoka's time the main route of
traffic was diverted north...  the emperor was anxious that his edicts should
be widely read. He selected holy places of pilgrimage like Girnar, Rupnath
and Rumindei, emporiums of trade like Sopara, roadside rocks likely to
attract the notice of numerous wayfarers such as Mansera and Shabazgarhi, and
places of provincial importance like Jaugada and Maski as suitable sites for
his religious inscriptions, and obviously the old prehistoric mound no longer
satisfied any of these prerequisites.

[since I hadn't heard of ANY of the places listed, I made some notes:]

    Girnar : n junagadh - old temples / pilgrimage site
    Rupnath : famous pilgrimage spot Katni, MP. Temple of Rupnatheshvar
		(Shiva).  Local traditions also connect it with Ramayana -
		Rama Lakshmana and Sita are supposed to have stayed here
		during Rama's exile. Three kunds (tanks) located here are
		named after these three.
    Rumindei : Lumbini - Temple of the Nativity of Buddha
    Sopara : present day town of nalla sopara (Thane dt, near mumbai)
		- ancient port 3d c BC. Sanskrit name shUrparaka - excavations
		revealed a budhist stupa, possibly 8th c. BC
    Mansera : mansehra - Pakistan near Abbottabad (Khyber-Pakhtunwa) on
		Karakoram highway. on route from taxila to kashmir to
		xinjiang, over the khunjerab pass
    Shabazgarhi Shabaz Garhi : on Indus, junction of roads to Kabul and Taxila
    Jaugada : Orissa, 160km SW of Bhubaneshwar - fort - ancient Samapa
    Maski : Karnataka, on the Tungabhadra Maski

Postscript: Edict found in Delhi 1966

In 1966, during constructions for the residential houses in Kailash Hills/
Srinivaspuri, a contractor Jang Bahadur Singh, noticed some inscriptions
written on a rock which was about to be blasted away.  Archaeologists
M.C. Joshi and B.M. Pande visited the site and identified it as an ashokan

It can be found today in a cement enclosure in the park right next to C-Block
market, East of Kailash / Kailash Hills.  From the ISKCON temple, you
go east for about 300m to reach this park.

The inscription is a shortened version of a  "minor" edict found on many

	It is two and half years since I became a Buddhist layman. At first
	no great exertion was made by me but in the last year I have drawn
	closer to the Buddhist order and exerted myself zealously and drawn
	in others to mingle with the gods. This goal is not one restricted
	only to let the people great to exert themselves and to the great but
	even a humble man who exerts himself can reach heaven. This
	proclamation is made for the following purpose: to encourage the
	humble and the great to exert themselves and to let the people who
	live beyond the borders of the kingdom know about it. Exertion in the
	cause must endure forever and it will spread further among the people
	so that it increases one-and-half fold.

[end postscript]

Gupta period : Iron pillar

[During the Guptas, the old mound may have remained in obscurity but the
neighbourhood must have] gained in importance, for on the Iron Pillar
Vishnupad hill, somewhere near the present village of Meherauli, a conquering
monarch, now forgotten, had set up an iron pillar to record his valorous
deeds. The inscription was first deciphered by Prinsep, but the accuracy of
his reading was successfully challenged by another eminent savant - Bhau
Daji. Into that learned controversy we need not enter. It is now generally
accepted that the inscription is in Gupta script, and should be attributed to
the fourth century of the Christian era. The hero is one king Chandra whose
identity still remains undetermined, [though it may have been]
(Chandragupta. II Vikramaditya of the Gupta Dynasty, c. 380-415 A.D.), who
held the major part of northern India in fee during the 4th century A.D. But
positive proof is lacking, and the prince of the iron pillar must remain a

gupta period iron pillar at qutb complex, delhi. the late Prof. R. Balasubramaniam of IIT Kanpur has argued that high Phosphorus content in the pillar causes a layer of passive oxide to form on the surface, that prevents further rust. This was a deliberate addition, since other contemporary iron items don't have it. (image from iit kanpur archives).

The pillar itself is an antiquity of no mean interest. Its total height exceeds twenty-three feet, the lower diameter is sixteen inches, gradually diminishing to about twelve near the capital which once bore the figure of Garuda, the divine man-bird venerated as the vehicle of Vishnu. Some unknown vandals fired matchlocks and cannon at the shaft, probably to test its strength, without causing any damage.

But what excites popular wonder is not its invulnerability but the absence of rust in spite of exposure to sun and rain for nearly fifteen hundred years. There has been much speculation about the component material. Dr Bhau Daji held that the pillar was made not of iron but of a compound of many metals. The great French naturalist, Jacquemont, called it "soft iron". According to Murray Thompson, the shaft is made of "pure malleable iron of 7.66 specific gravity". In more recent times it has formed the subject of an investigation by such a famous metallurgist as Sir Robert Hadfield. King Chandra's monument eloquently testifies to the mechanical skill and scientific achievements of the ancient Hindus. p.3

10th-11th c.

In the early years of the eleventh century. northern India was visited by a Muslim scholar of exceptional inquisitiveness. Abu Rihan Al-biruni wrote about many notable places and things, but either he had not heard of Delhi or he did not find anything worth tecording about it. In any case the place was not wealthy enough to excite the cupidity of Mahmud of Ghazni, and Utbi, his court historian, had nothing to say of that city.

But despite the silence of the early Muslim chroniclers the place may have attracted the notice of the Tomar Ra]puts within two decades of Mahmud's death. According to a Hindi inscription on the iron pillar, which may or may not be genuine, Delhi was peopled by the Tomar prince Anangapal in 1052 A.D. Possibly there was an earlier Tomar settlement around the present ruins of Surajkund which old traditions associate with Surajpal, a son of Anangapal I, and it is not unlikely that the nearby village of Anekapur was really named after the father (Anangapur).

Delhi passed under the Chauhan ruler of Ajmer, Vigraharaj IV, between 1151
and 1163 A.D. and the Chauhan chief boasts of his conquests and victories in
an epigraph of 1163 inscribed on Asoka's Topra pillar. It was from his
great-grand-nephew, Prithviraj III, Rai Pithora of Muslim historians, that
Delhi was conquered by Muhammad bin Sam in 1193 A.D.  p.4

Two records of 1826 A.D. (of dubious character, we are afraid) suggest that
the line of Prithviraj was not extinct till then. It may therefore be safely
assumed that Delhi rose to prominence under the Tomar and the Chauhan
princes. Probably an earlier Rajput settlement about Surajkund was later
abandoned, and in course of time the head-quarters of the reigning family was
shifted further north. Since then Delhi has been moving north and east.  Only
twice was the order reversed, once when the founder of the Tughluq monarchy
preferred an isolated rock to the plain below, and again when the British
Government decided to build their new city south of Shahjahanabad.

Qutub complex - (image:

Qila Rai Pithora: the earliest Muslim capital

When they overthrew the Rajputs, the Turks chose for their capital the city
of their adversaries.  Here lived .and reigned the first nine Muslim
sovereigns of Delhi, Qutbuddin, Aram, Iltutmish, Ruknuddin, Raziyya,
Muizuddin Bahram, Alauddin Masud, Nasiruddin Mahmud and Ghiyasuddin Balban
popularly known as slave kings though all but three of them were born in
purple and a slave ceases to be a slave when he wears a crown. [p.5]

Qila Rai Pithora was strengthened by its new masters and within its circuit
were built the famous white palace of Qutbuddin Aibak (1206-1210), the
turquoise palace of Shamsuddin Iltutmish (1211-1236) and the green palace
where the god-fearing king Nasiruddin Mahmud Shah (1246-1266) held his
court. Delhi was then a busy city humming with trade and throbbing with
life. Traders used to come here from far-off cities of Central Asia and
soldiers came in hundreds .from all parts of the Muslim world in quest of
adventure, fame and fortune.


But the splendid palaces and superb private mansions were far surpassed in
grandeur and beauty by the cathedral mosque which the first Muslim Sultan
Quwwat-ul-Islam dedicated to the glory of his faith.

Quwwat-ul-Islam [mosque] was a living symbol of the might of the new force, which
impelled the Turks and the Afghans to carry its banner further east and
south; and the piety of successive sultans, added new arches, fresh towers,
cloistered courts and domed gateways to the original mosque.  Qutbuddin built
in a hurry, and twenty-seven Hindu and Jaina temples were pulled down to
furnish materials for a prayer-hall worthy of the conquerors.

pillars at the Quwwat-ul-Islam mosque with pre-islamic carvings
image: wikimedia commons

The pillars still bear all the traces of their origin and sculptured
representations of men and animals, forbidden by the Quran, tell their own
story. On some of the pillars are found female figures mounted on lions, on
others will be noticed human faces and kirtimukhas. The Muslim overseers
who supervised the work of Hindu masons and workmen had no time to efface
from the stone slabs the figures of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva, and some of
them still retain sculptured depictions of scenes from Krishna's life. Not
all the Hindu gods and Jaina saints were, however, permitted to peer at the
praying congregation. Only those near the ceiling, and therefore least
conspicuous, were left alone, but every obnoxious figure down below, which
might distract their attention or offend their sense of decorum was
ruthlessly chiselled off.  [p.6]

The Qutb-Minar

[The history of the Qutb Minar] is to be found in its inscriptions. According
to Sir Syed Ahmed, one inscription runs as follows: "Amir of Amirs,
Commander-in- Chief, the Chief in the State, Qutb". Two inscriptions refer to
Muhammad bin Sam. Two other epigraphs assert that the building was commenced
and completed by Iltutmish's order. Yet other two refer to the repair and
restoration of the minar by Firuz Shah bin Rajah and Histor; o.f the Sikandar
Shah Lodi (1489-1517).

There is reason to believe that the two topmost storeys were entirely
rebuilt by the Tughluq ruler, as they differ in style as well as material
from the rest of the tower. If General Cunningham's reading of the Nagri
inscriptions is accepted, Firuz Shah had employed a Hindu architect in
repairing the minar when it was damaged by lightning in 1378 A.D. Firuz Shah
had furnished the minar with a cupola which was in existence till

"Smith's folly", a superstructure erected by Maj Robert Smith in 1828.

[After an earthquake in 1803, Major Robert Smith of the Royal Engineers
(of St James Church fame), while executing repairs in 1828,
replaced the cupola with a Bengali-style chhatri. (ref: rangandatta]

Major Smith built another superstructure which appeared so incongruous that
Lord Hardinge ordered its removal in 1848.  It is now to be seen in the lawn
near the Dak Bungalow. [called Smith's folly].

Purpose of the Minar

Was it a tower of victory? Or was it an adjunct of the neighbouring mosque, a
ma'zina wherefrom the mu'azzin used to summon the faithful to prayer at
specified hours? Probably it served both purposes.

A tower built so near the mosque, copiously embellished with Quranic texts,
could not but share the sacred character of the neighbouring edifice, but its
very height rendered the upper storeys superfluous for the mu'azzin's
purpose, though they served very well to illustrate and emphasise the
superior might of the power against which Rajput daring and chivalry had
proved of no avail.

Qutb the saint or Qutb the king?

Who gave this unique tower its name, Qutb the king, or Qutb the saint? If the
king's tide finds a place in one of the inscriptions the saint was the
preceptor of the Sultan (lltutmish) under whom the minar was completed.

In popular estimation probably the saint was a greater personage than the
soldier, for he was believed to have been endowed with supernatural
power. Qutbuddin Bakhtiyar Kaki came from Ush in Central Asia. He was a
disciple and the apostolic successor of Sheikh Muinuddin Chisti.  The
shrine of Qutb Sahib has afforded two of the roi foineants ["do-nothing
kings"] of Delhi, Shah Alam II (1759-1806) and Akbar II ( 1806-1837 ),
their last resting place.

It will probably be safe to infer that the construction of the minar was
originally commenced by Qutbuddin whose title is.  inscribed on the first
storey and completed by Shamsuddin Iltutmish, who does not hesitate to
designate himself as Qutbi, a protege or slave of Qutb, and the inscription
on the fourth storey very likely refers to a part and not to the whole of the
minar. 12

Sultana Raziyya (1236-1240), the only lady who occupied the throne of Delhi,
however, found no place either near her father in the Quwwat-ul-Islam
compound or in the shrine of Qutb Sahib. An unassuming tomb in an obscure
lane near Turkman gate has been identified by Sir Syed Ahmad as. Raziyya's,
but on what evidence we do not know According to Minhaj-usSiraj, a reliable
historian of her times, Raziyya met with a violent death at Kaithal. 10


Ghiyasuddin Tughluq (1320-1325), though crowned at Siri, did not choose to
stay there. He went south in search of a suitable site for his capital. Of
the fortress city of Tughluqabad, nothing remains but the bastioned walls and
some underground chambers. The lofty gateways and the triple storeyed towers
and the remnants of the massive ramparts still look impressive, and the only
monument from which some idea of the new architectural style can be fanned is
the mausoleum of the sultan built on an island-like mound and connected
with the fort by a long causeway. p.13

tomb of ghiyasuddin tughluq (1320-1325), founder of tughlaqabad.

Ghiyasuddin's tomb is worthy of a hardy soldier. Extremely severe in outline
and sparing in decoration, it forms a remarkable contrast to the profusely
ornamented gateway of Alauddin and the tomb of Iltutmish. The sloping walls
offer a sense of strength and support to a marble dome massive yet well
proportioned. Does the tomb reflect the reaction against the profligacy and
pomp of the preceding period? It has at least one indigenous feature, the
stone amalaka and the kalasa on the magnificent marble dome are
reminiscent of the usual terminals of a Hindu temple.

According to the prevailing tradition, Ghiyasuddin shares the tomb with his
wife and eccentric son, Muhammad (1325-1351). How far this tradition is true
we do not know.  Muhammad died in far off Sind, and the army was then in a
state of rebellion. It is more likely that a younger son, who shared his
father's doom, was also interred with him.


Muhammad transferred his capital to Adilabad, the city of the just, on the
hills opposite. The ramparts were of the same style as those of his father's
fortress capital, but they enclosed a much smaller area. 14

The pride of the new citadel was Muhammad's palace of a thousand pillars, the
second of its name, the first being at Siri as already noted. It was built
not of stone but of timber. Ibn Batuta, who had been there, describes it as a
spacious hall of a thousand columns of varnished wood that supported a wooden
roof beautifully painted. Muhammad's preference for timber is not altogether
unintelligible.  It was in a wooden pavilion that he had welcomed his
victorious father, and his enemies insinuate that by some clever contrivance
he caused it to collapse and kill the old man on the spot. But Adilabad was
abandoned for old Delhi before long. Siri and the older city. were enclosed
within a protecting wall and Muhammad gave the new city

The high sounding name of Jahanpanah or asylum of the world. The name was not
without a significance. The suburbs of old Delhi had long become
unsafe. Mewati desperadoes used to rob with impunity girls at the wells and
reservoirs, and the chastisement they had suffered at the hands of
Ghiyasuddin Balban does not appear to have left a lasting impression. In more
recent years, repeated Mughal incursions had rendered the outskirts of the
two cities, Siri and Qila Rai Pithora, still more insecure. The enclosing
walls provided the people within with that sense of safety and security which
had so long been wanting. If the enclosed city was not an asylum for the
whole world, it was at least a safe asylum for the citizens of Delhi, new and
old. Jahanpanah had thirteen gates one of which "opened towards Hauzi-khas",
Alauddin's famous tank. 15

Firuzabad (Firuzshah Kotla)

Muhammad's cousin and successor Firuz (1351-1388) was a milder man, but he
could not rise above the all too common; temptation of founding a fresh
city. Somewhat of an archaeologist, he repaired and restored some of the
older monuments of Delhi, but the urgent need of building materials led him
to deeds of vandalism, which to his own cost were readily emulated by
others. 16

As Hindu and Jaina temples yielded materials for Qutbuddin's mosque, so the
ruins of Siri and Jahanpanah were despoiled to find stones and bricks for
Firuz Shah's capital. The pack-animals of the local traders were
requisitioned for a day, and bricks were brought from the old city to the
banks of the river.  Firuzabad was a fairly big town and stretched from the
river to Alauddin's tank and from the Kushak-i-Shikar on the ridge to the
traditional site of the Pandava city. It included a large part of the later
town of Shahjahanabad. Within the battlemented enclosure of the fortress
Firuz built many palaces and public buildings. Not a trace however remains
of his palace of grapes, the palace of the wooden gallery and the palace of
the public court which, in all likelihood, corresponded with the hall of
public audience of the Mughal days. The ruins of the cathedral mosque that
extorted unstinted admiration from Timur can be seen opposite the pyramid
that bears the Asokan pillar. Alas, it cannot be described even as a shadow
of its departed grandeur.

pillar from Topra, at firozshah kotla today. (image: flickr)

Secret passages

Every old castle has its traditional secret passages and Firuz's Kotla is
credited with no less than three, wide enough to allow his ladies to ride
through in stately palanquins.  One led straight to the river, the second
connected the palace with the hunting box on the ridge and the third and the
longest went towards Qila Rai Pithora. A deep hollow on the ridge is
popularly believed to be the exit of the second of these tunnels but its
mysteries are yet unsolved.

But the real wonder of Firuzabad was a tall monolith column that glittered
like burnished gold. The sultan found it at Topra near Ambala while touring
in the neighbourhood.  Shams-i-Siraj_ Afif says that it had been there since
the days of the Pandavas and good historians averred that it was nothing but
the walking stick of the "accursed" Bhim.

A second pillar of similar design and identical material was found in the
neighbourhood of Meerut and Firuz Shah removed both of them to his newly
built capital and installed the first on a pyramid near the Jami Masjid and
the second on the ridge close to his hunting palace (Kushak-i-Shikar) the
ruins of which are still extant. The pillars and the inscriptions they bore
occasioned wild speculations, for the pundits consulted by the Sultan had no
knowledge of the strange script, nor could they say anything about the
language used. The shining surface of the monolith led Tom Coryat to think
that it was made of brass and he was not alone in his error. Bishop Heber
believed it was a "cast metal column", for little was then known about the
bright polish which the Mauryan craftsmen could impart to common
sandstone. Edward Terry, Chaplain of Sir Thomas Roe, suggested that the
language of the epigraph might be Greek. In those days European travellers
were wont to ascribe everything of unusual stature to Alexander and his
men. It was only in 1837 that the ingenuity of James Prinsep solved the
riddle. He successfully deciphered the inscriptions, and found that they
recorded the edicts of a king Piyadasi, beloved of the gods. Piyadasi was
later identified with Asoka, the third Maurya emperor of Pataliputra.

Installing the Meerut pillar

The arrival of the pillar was probably a great event for the common
people. Shams-i-Siraj Afif, then a boy of twelve, had a vivid recollection
of the transport and re-installation of the obelisk.

The transport of a monolith 42 feet in height and 27 tons in weight was no
easy task:

	After thinking over the best means of lowering the column, orders
	were issued commanding the attendance of all the people dwelling in
	the neighbourhood, within and without the Doab, and all soldiers,
	both horse and foot. They were ordered to bring all implements and
	materials suitable for the work. Directions were issued for bringing
	parcels of the cotton of the sembal (silk cotton tree). Quantities of
	this silk cotton were placed round the column, and when the earth at
	its base was removed, it fell gently over on the bed prepared for
	it. The cotton was then removed by degrees, and after some days the
	pillar lay safe upon the ground. When the foundations of the pillar
	were examined, a large square stone was found as a base, which also
	was taken out. The pillar was then encased from top to bottom in
	reeds and raw skins, so that no damage might accrue to it.  A
	carriage, with forty-two wheels, was constructed, and ropes were
	attached to each wheel. Thousands of men hauled at every rope, and
	after great labour and difficulty the pillar was raised on to the
	carriage. A strong rope was fastened to each wheel, and 200 men
	pulled at each of these ropes. By the simultaneous exertions of so
	many thousand men the carriage was moved, and was brought to the
	banks of the Jumna. Here the sultan came to meet it. A number of
	large boats had been collected, some of which could carry 5,000 and
	7,000 mans of grain, and the least of them 2,000 mans.  The
	column was very ingeniously transferred to these boats, and was then
	conducted to Firuzabad, where it was landed and conveyed into the
	Kushk with infinite labour and skill.
		[from chronicles of Firuz Shah's reign, by Zia ud-din Barni;
		 quoted in Vincent Smith and many others.
		 (source not provided by Sen)]

The golden pillar, as it was. popularly known on account of its colour, still
stands where Firuz Shah had placed it but that from Meerut had
a different history. It was dislodged by an accident during the reign of
Farrukhsiyar and broken into five pieces. In 1838 Hindu Rao made a gift of
it to the Asiatic Society of Bengal hut the removal of the heavy fragments
were likely to be very expensive and only the inscribed portion was sawn
off and sent to Calcutta. In 1866 it was returned to Delhi and the next
year all the pieces were joined together and put up on the ridge. There it
now remains, it is hoped, never to be disturbed again. 18

Ashokas message on the pillar

The golden pillar has the full complement of Asoka's seven pillar
edicts. [very lengthy - see]. 

Inscribed in the 26th year of Asoka's coronation the first four edicts
explain how difficult it is to attain happiness in this world, how to
practise morality, how to avoid sins and the duties and functions of the
lajukas~ the fifth enumerates the animals not to be killed, the sixth records
the emperor's anxiety to lead his people to happiness, and the seventh
narrates in detail what Asoka did to make men conform to morality.

[In 1398, Timur invaded Delhi.  In the Tuzuk-i-Timuri, a document of somewhat
doubtful authenticity, Timur allegedly rode to India on a mission to rid it
of infidels.  The document, which was presented to Shah Jehan as a newly
discovered autobiography, says:

	I had put to death hundreds of thousands of infidels and idolaters, I
	had dyed my proselyting sword with the blood of the enemies of the
	Faith, and now that I had gained this crowning victory, I felt that I
	ought not to indulge in ease, but rather to exert myself still
	further in warring against the infidels of Hindustan. Having made
	these reflections, on the twenty-second of Rabi’-al-akhir, 800
	A.H. (Jan. 1, 1399 A.D.), I again drew my sword to wage a religious war.
	[He then takes Meerut and Haridwar, and eventually returns to

[According to the Tarikh-i Firuz Shahi [composed shortly after the
conquest], Timur was apparently awed by this pillar, describing it as
a wonder (´aja’îbān). ]

Firuz's minister, the second Khan Jahan was also a great builder. He has
three notable mosques to his credit. The Kalan Masjid near Turkman gate, the
Khirki Masjid and the Begampuri Mosque illustrate well the architectural
style of the later Tughluqs. The sloping pilasters lend the buildings an
Egyptian air and the arches are without any keystone. The mausoleum which the
minister built for his father (the first Khan Jalian) to the south of Sheikh
Nizamuddin Aulia's shrine supplied the model for the Sayyid and Lodi tombs.

Shrine of Nizamuddin Auliya

From Firuz Kotla we may turn due south to Ghiyaspur where the Dargah of
Hazrat Nizamuudin still attracts thousands of devotees every year. He
commands the veneration of Hindus and Muslims alike.

We have already referred to Qutb and Muinuddin Chisti. Nizamuddin was third
in apostolic order from Muinuddin and the second Chisti saint to lend
sanctity to a suburb of Delhi. His ancestors belonged to Bokhara in Central
Asia, but the family later migrated to Badaun via Lahore. The future saint
came as a humble student to Delhi and refused to be tempted by the wealth and
honour that the sultanate, then at the height of its power, had to offer. His
immediate apostolic predecessor was Shaikh Fariduddin, whose association
converted Ajodhan into Pak Patan (town of purity). Fariduddin made
Nizamuddin his chief disciple and left to him his cloak, prayer carpet and
staff -- the regalia of his holy office and the charter which he had
inherited from Qutb Sahib.

The saint of Ajodhan wrought many miracles and the admirers of Nizamuddin
credited him also with similar power. It was commonly believed that Siri once
owed its deliverance from the horrors of Mughal occupation to his

Nizamuddin scrupulously kept away from the court though more than one sultan
was anxious to shower upon him those material gifts which lesser men would
accept with alacrity.  He lived in a hovel the remains of which are still
pointed out in the compound of Humayun's tomb, and became the Shaikh of Delhi
par-excellence.  The shrine contains a cistern, the saint's tomb and the
superb mosque, commonly attributed to Khizr Khan, eldest son of Alauddin

The cistern is ·believed to have been a work of the saint himself and the
water is credited with healing properties and efficacy against evil
spirits. There is a tradition that the shaikh built a mosque and he was
buried in its courtyard.

The mosque in question must, therefore, be identified with the Jamaat Khana
to the west of the tomb. According to Ferishta, the mosque was built by Khizr
Khan, the eldest son of Alauddin Khalji and a disciple of the saint. Sir Syed
Ahmad attributes only the central hall to Khizr Khan and the compartments on
eitther side to Muhammad bin Tughluq.  In 1572-73 A.D. the mosque was
repaired by the great emperor, Akbar.  Built of red sandstone, the Jamaat
Khana is one of the finest mosques of Delhi, and its latticed stone screens
and pendentives are beautiful specimens of early Muslim craftsmanship.

The tomb, however, is not the work of any single individual or of any
particular age. The reverence of successive generations has extended,
embellished and renovated the original building. Muhammad Tughluq built a
cupola over the grave.  His successor, Firuz, claims to have added arches and
sandal-wood lattices. In 1562 Faridun Khan rebuilt the tomb, and forty-six
years later (1608-9) Farid Murtaza Khan supplied a lovely canopy of mother of
pearl and wood. Thus did "two Farids make ready for the Shaikh of Delhi all
(that is needed) in this world and the next. One Farid gave him a transitory
building, the other (his preceptor, Shaikh Fariduddin) raised him to the
position of ever lasting life".

In 1652-53 Alamgir II devoutly offered his grateful thanks to the saint in an
inscribed tablet for his elevation to the throne, but his reference to "the
royal crown of whole world" and "the kingly crown of Hind" is likely to raise
a derisive smile to-day. In 1882-83 Khurshid Jah of Hyderabad built a marble
balustrade around the grave.  In more recent years the Nizam of Hyderabad
paid his homage to the Nizam of Delhi, and liberally provided for the
restoration of the faded paintings of the dome.  21

Amir Khusru, Jahanara, and others

Of the distinguished personages who sought their last resting place in this
shrine, are Amir Khusru, "the sweet-tongued parrot of Hind", who wrote verses
in Hindi, Persian and Arabic; the gentle princess Jahanara, daughter of
Emperor Shah Jahan, whose humility would not permit her grave to have any
other covering, but a bed of green grass; and Emperor Muhammad Shah
(1719-1748), who probably expected to be forgiven for all his lapses in this
world through the intercession of the saint in the next.

Popular tradition identifies a nameless grave near the poet's tomb with that
of Ziyauddin Barni, author of Tarikh-i~Firuz Shahi. Next to Muhammad Shah
sleeps Mirza Jahangir, the eldest son of Akbar II, whose restless spirit
might have found a better scope in the days of his great namesake.  Near the
shrine of Nizamuddin stand two mausoleums of a later day. Shamsuddin
Muhammad, Akbar's foster father, was done to death by Adham Khan, a spoilt
son of another of the emperor's foster parents.  Akbar, then in the prime of
youth, stunned the murderer with a single blow of his fist and hurled him
down a precipice.  Adham Khan was interred on the outskirts of Rai Pithora's
city and his tomb is still to be seen there. His victim was buried in a
pretty tomb specially built for the purpose by his son, Mirza Aziz Kukaltash,
who himself sleeps in the Chausat Khambah nearby.

Before we take leave of the Shaikh of Delhi a reference,.  however brief,
must be made to his chief disciple and apostolic successor, Nasiruddin,
Chiragh-i-Delhi (the light of Delhi).  A Sayyid by birth, he came to the city
he was to illuminate when he was forty years of age.  Nasiruddin forsook his
preceptor's dargah, and betook himself to the village of Khirki far from the
bustle of the crowded metropolis. There he lived and died a victim of royal
persecution and a martyr to intolerant fanaticism.  With him were interred
the most prized heirloom of the Chisti ascetics -- the cloak, the staff and
the carpet of prayer which he had received from Shaikh Nizamuddin.  His tomb
is of little architectural interest, but near it were buried two monarchs of
very different character, Buhlul, the sturdy Pathan architect of Lodi
fortune, and Farrukhsiyar, a weak but wicked puppet of the Sayyid
king-makers. 22

Lodi monuments (1451-1526)

Only two Lodis deserve
special mention. Buhlul (1451-1489), the founder of the
family, probably ruled at Siri. His son, Sikandar (1489-
1517), transferred his capital to Agra, and Delhi suffered a
temporary eclipse. But the honour of receiving the
mighty sultan after his death was not denied to the traditional seat of
Muslim power. 

The tomb of Sikandar Lodi looks like a fortress, a worthy resting place for
so brave a wa.ttior. The battlemented enclosure ·gives the place a martial
air which was quite in keeping with the departed monarch's taste. By the
clever device of adding an inclined buttress to the angle the pillars are
given a sloping effect so characteristic of this period, and copious use is
made of enamelled tiles of many hues both for inner and outer decoration.  We
may quote here Fergusson's description of a typical Pathan tomb which applies
for all practical purposes to all mortuary buildings of this period. "It
consists of an octagonal apartment, surrounded by a verandah following the
same form-each face being ornamented by three arches of the stilted pointed
form generally adopted by the Pathans, or rather Sayyids, and it is supported
by rectangular pillars, which are almost as universal with them as this form
of arch. It is a form evidently borrowed from the square pier of the Jains,
but so altered and so simplified, that it requires some ingenuity to
recognise its origin in its new combination."

In Sikandar's reign was built the beautiful Moth-ki-Masjid and thereby hangs
a tale. "Once upon a time, a poor man picked up a grain of moth (pulse) which
he sowed in the earth and vowed to devote its produce to a charitable purpose
harvests were large enough to defray the cost of this mosque."  Carr Stephen
considers it a good specimen "of the style of architecture which was common
in the time of the Lodis".  Fanshawe goes so far as to suggest that it served
as a model for Sher Shah's Qila-i-kuhna Masjid. Ibrahim, the last of the
Lodis, was killed in the first battle of Panipat (1526) and the throne of
Delhi passed to the house of Timur.

Appendix: Dynasties connected with Delhi

    l. The Kurus				C. 1 000-C. 345 B.C.
    2. The Nandas				C. 345-C. 323 B.C.
    3. The Mauryas				C. 323-C. 185 B.C.
    4. The Indo-Greeks				C. 185-C. 100 B.C.
    5. The Sakas and the Kushanas  		C. 50 B.C. -C. 320 A.D.
    6. The Imperial Guptas			C. 320-C. 500 A.D.
    7. The Huns  				C. 500-C. 600 A.D.
    8. The House of Pusyabhuti  		C. 606-C. 647 A.D.
    9. The Gurjara Pratiharas   		C. 836-C. 1018 A.D.
    10. The Tomaras?    			C. 1052 A.D.?
    11. The Chauhans or Chahamanas		C. 1151-1192 A.D.

    12. The Shamsabanis
	    Muizuddin Muhammad bin Sam 		1193-1206
    13. House of Qutbuddin (Muizziya Kings)
	    Qutbuddin Aibak 			1206-1210
	    Aram Shah 				1210
    14. House of Iltutmish (Shamsia Kings)
	    Shamsuddin Iltutmish 		1211-1236
	    Ruknuddin Firuz 			1236
	    Raziyya 				1236-1240
	    Muizuddin Bahram 			1240-1242
	    Alauddin Masud 			1242-1246
	    Nasiruddin Mahmud 			1246-1266
    15. House of Balban 1266-1220
	    Ghiyasuddin Balban			1266-1287
	    Muizuddin Kaiqubad			1287-1290
    16. Khaljis 1290-1320
	    Jalaluddin Firuz 			1290-1296
	    Ruknuddin Ibrahim 			1296
	    Alauddin .Muhammad 			1296-1316
	    Shihabuddin Umar 1316
	    Qutbuddin Mubarak 			1316-1320
	    Nasiruddin Khusru (usurper) 	1320
    17. House of Tughluq 1320-1414
	    Ghiyasuddin (I) Tughluq 		1320-1325
	    Muhammad bin Tughluq 		1325-1351
	    Fituz bin Rajab 			1351-1388
	    Ghiyasuddin II 			1388-1389
	    Abu Bakr 				1389-1390
	    Muhammad II 			1390-1394
	    Sikandar 				1394
	    Mahmud 				1394-1396
	    Nusrat Shah 			1396-1399
	    Mahmud (Restored) 			1399-1413
	    Daulat Khan Locii (usurper) 	1413-1414
    18. Sayyids 1414-1451
	    Khizr Khan 				1414-1421
	    Muizuddin Mubarak 			1421-1434
	    Muhammad 	 			1434-1444
	    Alauddin Alam Shah 			1444-1451
    19. Lodis 1451-1526
	    Buhlul 				1451-1489
	    Sikandar 				1489-1517
	    Ibrahim 				1517-1526
    20. Mughals (1) 1526-1538
	    Zahiruddin Babur 			1526-1530
	    Nasiruddin Humayun 			1530-1538
    21. Sur Interruption 1538-1555
	    Sher Shah 				1538-1545
	    Islam Shah 				1545-1554
	    Muhammad Adil Shah 			1554-1555
	    Ibrahim Shah 			1555
	    Sikandar Shah 			1555
    22. Mughals (Restored) 1555-1857
	    Humayun				1555-1556
	    Jalaluddin Akbar			1556-1605
	    Nuruddin Jahangir			1605-1627
	    Dawar Bakhsh (pretender) 		1627-1628
	    Shihabuddin Shah Jahan  		1628-1657
	    Murad Bakhsh (pretender) 		1657
	    Shah Shuja (pretender)		1657
	    Muhiyuddin Aurangzib Alamgir	1658-1707
	    Azam Shah (pretender)		1707
	    Kam Bakhsh (pretender)		1707
	    Qutbuddin Shah Alam I Bahadur	1707-1712
	    Azimush-Shan (pretender) 		1712
	    Muizuddin Jahandar Shah 		1712-1713
	    Muhiyuddin Farrukhsiyar 		1713-1719
	    Rafi-ud-Darajat			1719
	    Shahjahan II Rafiuddaulah		1719
	    Nasiruddin Muhammad Shah		1719-1748
	    Mujahiduddin Ahmad Shah Bahadur 	1748-1754
	    Azizuddin Alamgir II		1754-1759
	    Shah Jahan III 			1759
	    Jalaluddin Shah Alam II		1759-1806
	    Muinuddin Muhammad Akbar II		1806-1837
	    Sirajuddin Bahadur Shah II		1837-1857

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This review by Amit Mukerjee was last updated on : 2015 Mar 20