Qutub Minar, Mehrauli, Delhi

Qutub Minar

It was my third visit but I am still quite awed by the magnificence of this edifice along with all the other ruins and architectural marvels spread around it. I wanted to go slow and cover each and every curve and the angle of the place but we were in a hurry. I felt a tinge of disappointment when we had to finally turn back as the sun was setting upon it.

Qutub Minar, Mehrauli, Delhi

The Minar was built by Qutub-ud-din-Aibak in 1193 and is considered one of the tallest brick minaret standing today in the world. Muhammed Ghori had defeated Prithvi Raj Chauhan. Qutub-ud-din-Aibak was the slave of Muhammed Ghori and he was left to take care of all the Indian possessions when Ghori went back to Afghan. He became the ruler of Hindustan when Ghori died. I kept wondering what would have inspired him to build such a tall building in the first place. Was it pride or security or to show the world his power and dominance. One would never be able to find the true answer.

This tower is so tall that if one goes up to the top floor and looks around, he/she would be able to see the entire stretch of Delhi from all the sides. So this could have been used like a watch tower to monitor activities of enemies or attacks planned on the city. However, some believe that it was built to celebrate his victory over the Hindu rulers. It is also said that it was built along with the Mosque to be used for the call for prayer.

Qutub Minar, Mehrauli, Delhi

We decided to go in from the south side this time. On the southern side is the tomb of Imam Zamin or Imam Muhammed Ali who came from Turkistan and was in some way connected with the Quwwat-Ul-Islam Mosque. The tomb stands on 12 pillars with perforated carvings of red sandstone with a dome standing on marble and red sandstone terrace. It has a marble door on one side. From there, we entered the Alai Durwaza.

 

I fell in love with Alai Durwaza!

Alai Durwaza - Qutub Minar, Delhi

The tall arched gateway looked stunning. The intricate carvings and engravings on the walls of this tall square domed building look splendid and superb. I couldn’t just take my eyes and hands off and move on. These looked liked blocks of ornamental artworks placed one upon the other going up to the roof. It was a marvel how these constructions were carried out. The masonry work, the building architecture and designs had influences of various cultures. Some of the designs seem to be from Central Asia – probably done by artisans who had taken refuge in India due to Mongol attacks.

Alai Durwaza - Qutub Minar, Delhi

 

From the Alai Durwaza, we came into the Mosque area. The courtyard was surrounded by pillars of cloisters ornately designed with Indian art motifs. There are various stories surrounding the construction of these places. Some say that many Hindu temples were destroyed and this building came up in place of that and the other concept is that Indian artisans were used to construct the building in the beginning and therefore there is influence of indian designs while in the additional structures added on by other rules have more Islamic designs incorporated.

Finally, we were standing in front of the grand minar. As we looked up from where we were at the base, we could see the beautiful edifice touching the sky. It had bands of intricate carvings of Arabic calligraphy. The architectural style is typically afghan from where Qutub-un-din-Aibak came. It is built in a red and buff coloured sandstone.

Qutub Minar, Mehrauli, Delhi

Qutub Minar is considered one of the monuments in Delhi that you should not miss if you are in Delhi.

Red Fort Front Facade

Red Fort or Lal Quila

Lal Quila or the Red Fort was the official residence of the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan built about 200 years ago in 1628.

For me, the whole experience of visiting Red Fort was like peeling off an onion.   The more you move into the inner realms of the fort, the more beautiful and whiter the buildings and structures would get.   Finally, it came to the one building that I admired the most in the whole complex and Amir Khusraw had most aptly described it as the paradise on earth.   His inscription is written on the walls of this white marble structure- If there be a paradise on the  earth, it is this, it is this, it is this – Diwan-e-khas!  I am still wondering what resplendent, what exciting and what colourful life it would have been then.

The boundary of the Fort and some of its buildings are built with red sandstone and the name Lal Quila or Red Fort comes from there.   It is a well built, massive structure that encircles and secures the entire surrounding of the complex – the official palaces, mahals, gardens and the many other small and little buildings it ensconces.    There were trenches and channels of water all around to give the added security to the fort.  The gates are massive and built to protect the citizens inside the walled city.   The walls are built with holes in it for firing arms and ammunitions.  The four posts at the four corners were used for keeping a vigil.

The front façade is used right now during the Independence Day celebrations by the Prime Minister to address the nation.   However, the fort is just much much more than the front façade!   There is another huge and massive gate as soon as you enter from the front with a metal door called Lahori Gate.  This leads to a long covered path with arches and arched bays on both sides – more like a market place where you have shops on both the sides of the road.   It is called the chatta chowk which means covered bazaar.   Even today there are shops where people are selling all kinds of wares – jewellery, clothes, handicraft items.  It was said that this used to be the case even during Shah Jahan’s time.   He started this concept after he saw something like this in Peshawar.     During his times, the market would be engaged in luxury trade  of the imperial household and used to sell silks, brocades, gold, velvet and other expensive stuff.

After the Chatta Bazaar, there is yet another gate which takes you to a red building – the Diwan-e-Aam which means the ‘Place of Public Audience’.    There is a long rectangular lawn with a water body in the middle that runs across to the Diwan-Aam and paths cutout on both the sides.  This is a place was used by Shah Jahan to meet the common public and hear their grievances.  The structure was made in red sandstone and in the centre  is a raised platform with the Emperor’s throne with a canopy all made in Marble with exquisite handiwork of floral designs inlaid with semi precious stones.

After the Diwan-e-aam lies the little gems of beauty –  domains where Shah Jahan and other successive emperors used to actually live and spend time. You would be greeted with an expanse of garden and green lawns and water canals with white marble structures spread across the expanse.   The water bodies at that time was an important part as they provided the needed water and air cooling for the entire place.

Three white marbled palaces are placed in close proximity to each other at the other end of the garden – The  Rang Mahal (also called Shish Mahal), Khas Mahal and Shah Mahal (or Diwan-e-Khas).

Red fort -  The  Rang Mahal (also called Shish Mahal), Khas Mahal and Shah Mahal (or Diwan-e-Khas)

These were like 3 little pieces of jewels in that whole area.   Built completely in marble, they are a sight to behold!

Rang Mahal was the place where Shah Jahan used to entertain and be entertained.   It was painted in different colours from the inside and therefore derives its name from there.  It also had mirrors fitted on the top and therefore it was called the sheesh mahal though right now there is neither colour nor the mirrors.  This one actually looks faded and is the drabbest one out of the three.

red fort rang mahal

The next one is the Khas Mahal where Shah Jahan had his bed chambers and the dressing room.

Diwan-e-Khas next to it was the place where he would meet people close to him.  This palace was truly amazing in its architecture and the structure.  Though faded and greyish and yellow in colour, the structure speaks of the glorious past.   The peacock throne was removed from this place by Nadir Shah who attacked Delhi and it is said that this throne is somewhere in Iran right now.

The opulence and the extravaganza was clearly visible in the luxurious setting of the entire structure.  The richness of the designs and the work on the structure was truly marvelous.  I was wondering if these structures look so good even today after the wear and tear of the last 200 years, then what would it have been when it was pristine white colour of the marble resplendent with all the other colours the buildings would have been painted with, the coloured drapes, the carpets and all the precious stones that were embedded in the building design.  It would have been truly mesmerizing and therefore What Amir Khusraw said about this building would have been completely true at that point of time.  It would have been a paradise to behold!

Diwan-e-Khas

It is said that Taj Mahal was inspired by the Diwan-e-khas and its architectural designs.

There are other buildings too like the Mumtaz Mahal which is now converted to a museum and does not look like anything that was in the earlier days though one can see the arches and the carvings on the roof that are reminiscent of a celebrated past.

Then there are gardens and pavilions which would have been used by the Emperor, his wives and sons to relax during leisure times.

Zafar Mahal, Delhi

Zafar Mahal

I had never heard of Zafar Mahal till some days ago when my husband brought it up as one of the places we should be visiting.  And to know that it was in Mehrauli which is about 15 minutes from where we live was even more astounding.

When we finally made the visit today we realized that people living right next to the Palace were also quite unaware of its existence and significance.   We asked some people for directions in Mehrauli and they were quite clueless.

It could be probably because the area around Zafar Mahal has been encroached and people have built all kinds of buildings in and around that it is not seen properly and even the front façade does not give out the impression of the vastness that lay beyond.

The frontage is very simple.  The Mahal looked deserted.  The gates called the “Hathi Gate / Elephant Gate” were massive but closed and only a small enclosure which was part of the gate was open for people to pass through.  We got in not knowing whether we should or not but once inside, saw some men old and young in groups sitting on the inside lanes playing cards.  I was a bit scared, but since I was with my husband, we went on with our discovery mission.

 

I should confess, it was a revelation!  The more we went in, it opened up more and more surprises.   Even though the building was in a ruined condition, it was delightful to see the gorgeous formations and composition of the pillars, walls and its structure.   Made in Red Sandstone with some marbles thrown in, there was hardly any roof left apart from the main building and the domes.

To think that this is a place where the last Mughal Emperor, Bahadur Shah Zafar wished to be buried was quite shocking.   He used to spend the summers in this place and was called his Summer Palace.

The Palace was originally built by Akbar II and named after his son Bahadur Shah Zafar.   The entrance was then modified by Bahadur Shah Zafar himself.   The tombs of Akbar II, Shah Alam and Mirza Jahangir lie within this Palace.   Akbar II’s tomb is inside a marble enclosure.

There is a royal mosque also built in marble adjacent to where the tombs lay.

The halls in the upper parts of the buildings are vast with columns of arched pillars.  The carved pillars and arcades are beautiful to behold.

jantar mantar, delhi

The enigma called Jantar Mantar

Surrounded by huge and towering buildings, this set of architectural structures stand for some long forgotten magical spell as the name suggests!!

Jantar Mantar is the oldest of a set of unique observatories built by Jai Singh II around 1724. There are mantras and yantras that Jai Singh created amidst these structures that give accurate tables for study of time and space to give astronomical insights.

The Misra Yantra is believed to be constructed by Maharaj Madho Singh designed to be accurately measuring the longitude of celestial objects like moon and can measure close to the minute of an arc.

One of the main structures is the Samrat Yantra which is also called as ‘King of Instruments’ that measures solar time or local time of a place and the sun’s declination.

 

The Jaiprakash Yantra (means Light of Jai) is named after the Maharaja Jai Singh who invented and constructed this hemispherical sundial system used both in day and night observations. The position of the sun was indicated by the shadow of the cross wires inside this hemisphere.

It has always been an enigma to me. I have tried to understand the way these things work, but haven’t got a clue looking at the structures though!!

A video on how the sun moves across different time spheres is given at http://www.jantarmantar.org/