Delhi: Ancient section (around Mehrauli Road)

From Indpaedia
Jump to: navigation, search

Hindi English French German Italian Portuguese Russian Spanish

This article was written between 1902 when conditions were
different.It has been archived for its historical value as well as for
the insights it gives into British colonial writing about India.
Indpaedia neither agrees nor disagrees with its contents.
Readers who wish to add fresh information can create a Part II
of this article.

Readers will be able to edit existing articles and post new articles
directly on their online archival encyclopædia after its formal launch.

See examples and a tutorial.

Extracted from:

Delhi: Past And Present

By H. C. Fanshawe, C.S.I.

Bengal Civil Service, Retired;

Late Chief Secretary To The Punjab Government,

And Commissioner Of The Delhi Division

John Murray, London. I9o2.

NOTE: While reading please keep in mind that all articles in this series have been scanned from a book. Therefore, footnotes have got inserted into the main text of the article, interrupting the flow. Readers who spot these footnotes gone astray might like to shift them to the correct place.

Secondly, kindly ignore all references to page numbers, because they refer to the physical, printed book.


Delhi: Ancient section (around Mehrauli Road)


BEYOND the Mausoleum of Safdar Jang the high road leading to the Kutab, which is five miles distant, and is frequently seen through the trees on the right, passes on the left the enclosure of Aliganj with a famous Shiah cemetery, the grave of Najaf Khan (the last champion of the Moghal power against the Mahrattas, who died 1782 A.D.) [present Jor Bagh], and the village of Bibipur, with a dense grove of tamarisk. On the left now appears the tomb of Mubarik Shah beyond the Tin Burj and a picturesque ruined line of arches marking the cemetery of Darya Khan {East Kidwai Nagar], and south of them the three domes and high back wall of the Moth ki Masjid [Uday Park], while a mile removed on the right the domes of a lofty and very fine Dargah in the village of Muhammadpur attract the eye.

1398:battle between Sultan Mahmud Shah and Sultan Timur

On the plain traversed by the road [roughly the present Aurobindo Marg/Mehrauli Road] was fought on 12th December 1398 the battle between the Pathan king, Sultan Mahmud Shah and the Moghal invader, Sultan Timur, which ended in the disastrous defeat of the former. It is a curious coincidence that the Moghal king, still more disastrously defeated by the Persian invader, Nadir Shah, three hundred and forty years later, should have borne the name of Muhammad Shah.

Timur1 had advanced with his army from Jahannuma [the area between Panchsheel Park South, Malviya Nagar, Adchini, the Aurobindo Ashram], and the battle was for a time fiercely contested, the Delhi forces being no doubt inspired by the recollection of previous occasions when the Moghal invaders had been defeated before Delhi.

“The soldiers of Sultan Mahmud,” the rival Sultan writes, “showed no lack of courage, but bore themselves manfully in the fight, still they could not withstand the successive assaults of my soldiers.” The Indian forces are put down at 40,000 foot, 10,000 horse, and 125 war elephants, which Timur’s men greatly dreaded.

The strength of the Moghal force is not definitely recorded, but as Timur took 10,000 horsemen with him to Bhatnir while sending the main body of his army up the Ghaggar, it probably amounted to some 30,000 to 35,000 men. Timur attacked on both flanks, and the Indian forces finally gave way.

Nearly all the war elephants were captured, and were sent as trophies of victory as far as to Herat, Shiraz, Samarkand, Aizarbaijan, and Tabriz. This plain had previously been the field of the battle fought by Tughlak Shah against two fainéant princelings — “foolish, ignorant lads,” records the chronicler, “who went forth like newlyhatched chickens, just beginning to fly, to fight with a veteran warrior like Malik Ghazi, whose sword had made Khurasan and the land of the Moghals to tremble.”

[1 Timur left Samarkand in the spring or 1398, and Kabul in August, and captured Multan in October of that year. He marched from Multan to Delhi via Dipalpur, Bhatnir, Sirsa, Fatahabad, Tohana, Kaithal, and Panipat, which had been desurted by orders from Delhi, and crossed the Jumna below Panipat to Luni (p. 58), and thence crossed back again to the Ridge.

2 It was the visit of Timur’s ladies to this, and the insults offered to them, which led ultimately to the massacre at Old Delhi by Timur’s troops.]

Towards Siri and Hauz Khas

The road next passes Mujahidpur on the right, and Karera hidden inside old walls on the left; opposite the latter are seen two groups of tombs of the later Pathan style, one group near the road with a dome surmounted by a pavilion, a frequent feature In this style, and the other group further back not far from the village of Hauz Khas. On the left the ruined walls of the citadel of Siri now come into view, and south of it the lofty Badi Mandal and the large dark Begampur Mosque, both of which are situated within the limits of Jahanpanah.

The former is a high platform from which a splendid view is obtained, and which may have formed part of the Thousand Column Palace 2 (Kasr-i-Hazar Situn) of Muhammad Tughlak.

Begampur Mosque is the finest of the mosques built by Jahan Khan, and well deserves a visit, although the arcades of the mosque are occupied by a village, in which some English refugees were long concealed in 1857.

The building dates from 1387 A.D., and is nearly 300 feet square by exterior measurement, the interior court being 247 feet long by 223 broad from east to west; it is the next largest at Delhi to the Jama Masjid of Shahjehan

Between these buildings and the road, half a mile south of Karera, is a fine Idgah, with round towers at the ends in the heavy Pathan style, which beyond all doubt is that at which Timur pitched his camp subsequent to the battle of Delhi. What he writes in his Memoirs as to this is as follows, referring to the day after Sultan Mahmud and Mallu Khan had fled :–

“I mounted my horse” (at Hauz Khas) “and rode towards the gate of the maidan” (the gate of Siri or Jehanpanah, opening on to the Maidan or plain, where the battle had taken place). “I alighted at the Idgah, a lofty and extensive building, and I gave orders for my quarters to be moved there, and for my throne to be set up in the Idgah.” It was here that the Sultan received the submission of the people of Delhi, now deserted by their leaders.

A mile away to the right of the road at the south corner of a line of trees is seen the pale dome of the tomb of the Emperor Firoz Shah, situated at the southeast angle of the Hauz Khas, or Hauz Alai, of Ala-ud-din, where Timur first rested and encamped after the battle, and received, the congratulations of his Amirs on the victory gained. Of Hauz Khas he writes:—

“This is a reservoir which was constructed by the Emperor Firoz Shah, and is faced all round with cement. Each side of the reservoir is more than a bow-shot long, and there are buildings round it.”

The tank is extremely picturesque when viewed from below, although it no longer contains any water. There was once a pavilion in the middle of it, as in the Hauz-i-Shamsi at Mahrauli Along the east side and the east end of the south side are the ruins of a number of galleries and steps in the wall of the tank, and above these rise some fine buildings, the domed tomb of the king (died 1389 A.D.) being the finest of all.

The exterior of the tomb is plain, but the interior, of which the sides measure 28 feet, is fine, and a certain amount of the coloured decoration of the dome still remains. The three marble tombs are believed to mark the restingplaces of the king, of his son Nasr-ud-din Tughlak Shah, and of a grandson.

The tomb was restored by Sikandar Shah Lodi, and was specially repaired by the Punjab Government some years ago. Several of the open stone canopies over graves near the tomb are extremely picturesque.

At the ninth milestone from Delhi the road passes through the defences of Jehanpanah, which connected the citadel of Siri, built by Ala-ud-din Khan with the original Delhi round the Kutab.

Ibn Batuta’s description

This will be clear from the following extracts from Ibn Batuta, who was at Delhi seventy years before Timur, and from Timur’s own Memoirs. The former writes :— Delhi is a city of great extent, and possesses a numerous population. It consists at present of four neighbouring and contiguous cities.

1.Delhi, properly so called, is the old city built by the idolaters, which was conquered in the year 584 H.

2.Siri, also called Dar-ul-Khilafat, or Seat of the Khilafat.

3.Tughlakabad, so called from the name of its founder, the Sultan Tughlak.

4.Jahan-panah, Refuge of the World, specially designed for the residence of the reigning Sultan of India, Muhammad Shah. He built it, and it was his intention to connect all these four cities together by one and the same wall. He raised a portion of it, but abandoned its completion in consequence of the enormous expense its erection would have entailed.

The wall which surrounds Delhi has no equal. It is eleven cubits thick. Chambers [1 Compare this description with the walls of Tughlakabad ]are constructed in it which are occupied by the night watch, and the persons charged with the care of the gates. In some of these chambers there are stores of provisions, and magazines of munitions of war, and in others are kept mangonels and ra’adas (“thunder”—machines employed in sieges).

Grain keeps in these chambers without change of the least deterioration. I saw some rice taken out of one of these magazines; it was black in colour, but good to the taste. I also saw some millet taken out. All these provisions had been stored by Sultan Balban ninety years before.

Horse and foot can pass inside this wall from one end of the city to the other. Windows to give light have been opened in it on the inside towards the city. The lower part of the wall is built of stone, the upper part of brick. The bastions are numerous and closely placed. The city of Delhi has twenty-eight gates. That of Badaun is the principal.

The chief Kazi of Hind and Sind, Kamal-ud-din Muhammad, son of Burhan-ud-din of Ghazni, Sadr-i Jahan, informed rne how the city of Delhi was conquered from the infidels in 584 (1188 A.D.). I read the same date inscribed upon the mihrab of the great mosque of the city. The same person also informed me that Delhi was taken by the Amir Kutab-ud-din Aibak, who was entitled Sipah-salar, meaning General of the armies. He was one of the generals of the venerated Shahab-ud-din Muhammad, son of Sam the Ghorian, king of Ghazni and Khurasan.

Timur’s description which follows will be found to agree with this, and both are completely confirmed by the ruins and lines of defences on the ground, as General Cunningham has shown. They are indicated upon the map of the country round Delhi, published with this work.

“When my mind was no longer occupied with the destruction of the people of Delhi, I took a ride round the cities. Siri is a round city (skahr). Its buildings are lofty. They are surrounded by fortifications (kala), built of stone and brick, and they are very strong. Old Delhi also has a similar strong fort, but it is larger than that, of Siri. From the fort of Siri to that of Old Delhi, which is a considerable distance, there runs a strong wall, built of stone and cement.

The part called Jahanpanah is situated in the midst of the inhabited city. The fortifications of the three cities have thirty gates, Jahan-panah has thirteen gates, Siri has seven gates. The fortifications of Old Delhi have ten gates, some opening to the exterior and some towards the interior of the city.

When I was tired of examining the city I went into the Masjid-i jami,1 where a congregation was assembled of saiyids, lawyers, shaikhs, and other of the principal Musalmans, with the inhabitants of their parts of the city, to whom they had been a protection and defence. I called them to my presence, consoled them, treated them with every respect, and bestowed upon them many presents and honours. I appointed an officer to protect their quarter of the city, and guard them against annoyance.

Then I remounted and returned to my quarters.” [1 It does not appear this was the Masjid-i-jama of Old Delhi, i.e. the Kutab mosque, or some Mosque in Siri or Jahanpanah, which may have been the Begampur mosque.]


Inside the Jahanpanah defences, which are well seen some 600 yards west of the road, a fine but partly ruined mosque stands up high on the left hand in the village of Kala Sarai; and after proceeding through Adchini [on the main road just ahead of Essex Farms/ Aurobindo Ashram] with several old buildings and cemeteries (one on the right

with the grave of the mother of Shekh Nizam-ud-din-Aulia), the north walls of the Fort of Rai Pithora [where a wide road to Saket branches off from Mehrauli Road; near the public golf course] to are reached at a fine garden just beyond the tenth milestone.

From the top of the ascent to the higher level inside these are seen the massive southern defences of the citadel of this city, the Lal Kot on the right, and on the left the red front of the Jamali Mosque and the huge ruin of the tomb of Sultan Balban to the east of it

Location finder

The following monuments are in what is now called

Green Park

Diran ki Gumbad

Chhoti Gumti

Sakri Gumti

Dadi Poti

Hauz Khas

The Hauz Khas monuments

Personal tools