Delhi: Qudsia Gardens
Delhi: Qudsia Gardens in 1902
This section was written between 1902 when conditions were
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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.
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THE SURROUNDINGS OF THE CITY, CHIEFLY ON THE NORTH AND WEST SIDES, THE MINOR BUILDINGS WITHIN THE WALLS, AND THE FIELD OF THE BATTLE OF DELHI, 11TH SEPTEMBER 1803.
ON the north of the city, outside the Kashmir Gate, are the pretty Kudsia Gardens, on the Jumna bank. These were constructed by the Kudsi Begam, mother of the Emperor Ahmad Shah, whose reign was the culminating period of the decay of the Moghal Empire. The walls which formerly enclosed it have been removed for the most part, and the river which once flowed under the terrace, on the east side, is now far away from it; but the fine though ruined gateway remains, and a handsome mosque, still bearing marks of the siege of 1857, stands near the south-east corner of the public recreation grounds.
In the Kudsia Garden are the sites of the Mortar Battery, and of Siege Battery No. III, Opposite the south end are the breaches of the Water Bastion and Kashmir Bastion, and outside the south-west corner are the Nicholson Garden and the cemetery where General Nicholson lies At the north-west corner stands Ludlow Castle, the residence of the Commissioner, Mr Simon Fraser, in 1857, and now the Delhi Club. The site of the left section of No. II Siege Battery is in the grounds of the Club, near the east wall
As the longest portion of the City Walls generally seen by visitors to Delhi is that on the north side, it may be noted here that these defences as they now stand were constructed between 1804 and 1811 by the British Government, after the attack on the city by the Mahrattas,1 at which time the Kashmir Gate was also reconstructed.
The Moghal walls were apparently never properly completed, and after they had been seriously damaged by a severe earthquake in 1720, offered no serious obstacle to any enemy; and it was by a special irony of fate that in the summer of 1857 the British forces found themselves unable to batter down the ramparts which the British Government had itself raised. The walls were never any real defence against the fire of heavy artillery, as was proved in less than a week in September 1857, and under the conditions of modern warfare are an entirely negligable item. They are fully described, from a military point of view, by Colonel Baird Smith, in his report upon the Siege and Assault (p. 200), and as they were in 1857, so they are now. They are well built for the most part, though some curiously rough bits exist between the Kashmir Bastion and the river.
Near the extreme north end of the Ridge, where it ceases abruptly on the bank of the river, is the picturesque shrine of a local Muhammadan saint, by name Shah Alam, in the limits of the village of Wazirabad. This is built on the banks of a channel which drains the Bawari plain, and is spanned by a fine bridge above the north-west corner of the building. Shrine, gateway and courtyard, and mosque, bridge, and paved causeway alike, belong to the period of Firoz Shah Tughlak (1365-1390 A.D.), and in spite of vile whitewash, they form one of the prettiest architectura groups at Delhi, when viewed from the north side of the bed of the stream, from which two flights of steps ascend to the enclosure.
It was at Wazirabad that Timur and his Moghal horde encamped and crossed the Jumna on 1st January 1399 A.D., after having deluged Old Delhi with blood and utterly destroyed the central Muhammadan power of the day in North India. Six years later the great Sultan died on the borders of China, having meanwhile sacked Baghdad and captured the Turkish Emperor, Bajazet.
West of Wazirabad and north of the Grand Trunk Road is the Bawari plain, the site of the Imperial Darbar of 1st January 1877, and the Coronation Darbar of 1st January 1903. Two miles further west along the main road at the site of Badli-ki Sarai and the village of Pipal Thalla is the battle-field of 8th June 1857
Less than a mile to the north-west of the Sarai and across the railway line are the scanty remains of the Shalimar Gardens, which must be visited on foot. It may be doubted if these were ever fully finished, as they were begun by the Emperor Shah Jahan only in 1653, though Bernier speaks of them as fine gardens, with handsome and noble buildings (inferior, however, in his opinion, to Versailles or St Germain), and the Emperor Aurangzeb was formally crowned there.
At any rate, they were no doubt ruined at an early date by some one of the many invaders of Delhi in the eighteenth century—Nadir Shah encamped here on quitting Delhi— and but little now exists to mark their former grandeur. The depressions of the three principal tanks, and the long water-channel connecting these, lie outside a fine grove of mango trees, which still shades the highest pool, overgrown by lotus, and forming a very picturesque bit; and a half-ruined summer-house, called the Shish Mahal, stands at the southwest corner of the garden.
The designation given to it by the Emperor was Khanah-i-Aish-wa- Ashrat, the Home of Joy and Companionship; the name by which it and the more famous gardens of the Emperor Jahangir, or, more properly of his consort, Nur Jahan, at Lahore and Kashmir are known, is derived from two Hindi, or Sanscrit words, also meaning the Abode (shála) of Joy (már). For a time after 1803 the gardens were used by the Resident at Delhi as a summer retreat, and General Ochterlony contracted in them the fever of which he died thirtytwo years after his defence of Delhi.
Returning from the Badli-ki Sarai and Shalimar, the road to the right at Azadpur may be followed to the Roshanara Gardens. The point of separation is that where our force divided after the battle on 8th June 1857, and advanced in two bodies on the Ridge This road runs through gardens on both sides, passing on the left hand the Ochterlony Garden, or Mubarik Bagh, which was one of the finest round Delhi. Near the Sabzi Mandi and the Roshanara Gardens are two handsome gateways, each of three arches, and known as Tirpulia, built in 1728 by one Mahaldar Khan Nazir, or Superintendent of the household of the King Muhammad Shah, and bearing his name.
They formed the entrances of a bazar, on the right side of which is a garden made by the same official, approached by a handsome portal. There are very few notable buildings in or near Delhi of subsequent date to this, the principal being two of the Golden Mosques and the tombs of Safdar and Jang and Ghazi-ud-din Khan.
Half a mile nearer to Delhi, and two miles from the Kashmir Gate, are the gardens of Roshanara Begam, standing a little back on the right. The present grounds, which are extremely pretty, have been formed by the combination of several gardens into one, that from which the whole is named lying on the east side.
It was made in 1650 by the Princess Roshanara Begam, a daughter of the Emperor Shahjahan, and the devoted adherent of Aurangzeb against Dara Sheko and his partisan sister, Jahanara Begam and she lies buried in it, after having survived her brother’s accession for thirteen years. The grave enclosure, which is open to the sky, is placed in the middle of a pavilion which no doubt once stood in the centre of the garden; the tomb itself carries earth in the recess hollowed in it, like that of her sister at Nizam-ud-din. The gate of the garden on the east side was once decorated with beautiful encaustic work.
Across the canal, and reached by the road which runs south from the front of this gate is an interesting Armenian graveyard, containing a number of tombs which are much the oldest Christian graves in Delhi. It is known by the name of the family of D’Eremao, which was once connected with the imperial court.
About three miles from here, and four miles from Delhi, down the Rohtak road is a fine old masonry aqueduct, called the Pul Chaddar, by which the Western Jumna Canal was carried towards the city across the cut from the Najafgarh Jhil. This, and various bridges across the canal were blown up in 1857 to prevent the enemy crossing to the rear of our position.
Returning through the Sabzi Mandi from the Roshanara. Gardens to the city, the quarters of Kishanganj and Paharipur, from which the enemy so persistently annoyed and attacked our position in 1857, are passed on the south side of the Western Jumna Canal. The bridge across this on the road running south from the end of the Ridge leads in 300 yards to a solitary grave and monument in an open space on the right hand.
The former marks the resting-place of Captain G. C. M‘Barnett, killed in the attack of the 4th Column on 14th September 1857, and the latter records the bravery and losses (four sergeants, three corporals, and twelve privates) of the 1st Bengal Fusiliers near this spot on that day. “Familiar with the aspect of Death which they had confronted in so many battles from which they had always emerged victorious, they met his last inevitable call here with intrepidity, falling on the 14th September 1857 in the faithful discharge of their duty. This monument, erected by the officers and fellow soldiers of the 1st Regiment European Bengal Fusiliers, is their remembrance, which is part of its glory. The rest remains with the Lord.”
Outside the Kabul Gate of the city once stood the fine garden and tomb, known as Tis Hazari, of Malika Zamani Begam, the high-spirited mother of the Emperor Muhammad Shah, who freed her son from the Syad tyranny; and outside the Lahore Gate stands a third mosque built by a wife of Shahjahan, known as the Sarhandi Begam. It is not perhaps generally recollected that the Lady of the Taj died in 1630, two years after this Emperor ascended the throne, and that the bereaved husband proved by no means inconsolable during the thirty years of his reign. Both in size and in architectural merit, this is the poorest of all the buildings inaugurated under the auspices of the founder of modern Delhi, the domes being low and ungainly in shape; they are constructed of red sandstone, which is very unusual in domes of such a size.
Nearly a mile south of this gate and mosque, and across the channel which connects the Western Jumna and Agra Canals, is a fine old Sarai, known as the Idgah Sarai, and behind it to the south is the Dargah, or Sacred Enclosure, of the Kadam Sharif —the Holy Footprint, which must be approached on foot. This is a very interesting and picturesque building of the time of Firoz Shah, having been raised by that king as the last resting-place of his eldest son, Fatah Khan, in the year 1375. The tomb enclosure is surrounded by a citadel wall, like the tomb of Tughlak Shah, constructed, no doubt, to protect it against the attacks of the Moghals, as it lay, of course, outside the city of Firozabad.
The shrine is approached by two fine outer gateways, and consists of a quaint arcaded enclosure round the grave of the prince, over which the sacred imprint, sent by the Khalifa of Baghdad to Firoz Shah, is placed in a trough of water. It is worth while descending the steps on the north side of the mosque, in order to view the west end of the enclosure from the outside. South of the outermost gate of the outer walls is a fine stone tank; and on this side is situated the principal Muhammadan cemetery of Delhi, unhappily much neglected. On the Ridge west of the Kadam Sharif is the Idgah, a fine enclosure which merits a visit, which also must be made on foot. The view of the city from this point is very pleasing.
Following the road to the left from the main road past the west of the city to Paharganj and the Kutab, we pass round the hornwork enclosing the Mausoleum and College of Ghazi-uddin Khan, and reach the Ajmir Gate.
The former specially deserves to be seen, as one of the few remaining specimens of a religious endowment, similar to those of the middle ages in Europe, comprising a place of worship, the tomb of the founder, and a residence and place of instruction for those who were to have charge of both, all built in his lifetime. Ghazi-ud-din was son of the first Nizam - ul - Mulk of Hydrabad.
He became the leading noble of the Delhi Court when his father returned to the Deccan after the events of 1739, and died in 1752 A.D., on his way to assert his succession to the Hyderabad Territories. The courtyard, approached through a gateway of which the wings are thrown forward, is surrounded on three sides by a double tier of chambers for students, like the colleges of Samarkand and Bokhara: on the west side the mosque, built of very deep coloured red sandstone, and with very rounded domes, fills the centre, and the south of it is the grave of the founder, enclosed by a beautiful pierced screen of fawn-coloured stone, with doors elaborately carved with flowers.
This corner is, perhaps, quite one of the most picturesque bits in Delhi. For a long time the building, which had been closed eighty years after the founder’s death for want of funds, was occupied by the police: it is now again devoted to educational purposes in connection with the Anglo-Arabic school.
From the Ajmir Gate—the wooden doors, which are no doubt much what those in the Kashmir Gate were in September 1857, should be noticed — the straight road runs to the Sita Ram Bazar which turns to the right to the Kala or Kalan Masjid, standing a little back on the west side from the main street. This was probably the principal mosque of the city of Firozabad, which extended further west than this, as distinguished from the Citadel or Kotila of Firoz Shah and its mosque, and is a curious building, well meriting a visit.
It is reached by a high flight of steps, and like other mosques built about 1380 by the latter of the two great Wazirs who bore the name of Khan Jahan in the reign of Firoz Shah, consists of a courtyard, surrounded on three sides by a simple arcade, borne by plain squared columns of quartzose stone, with a dripstone over the arches, and on the west side by a mosque chamber of three rows of similar columns, each carrying five arches.
The corner towers and outer walls of the mosque are all sloped inwards; there are no minarets, and the call to prayer was made from the roof of the terrace. It would appear from Bishop Heber’s journals that for a long time prayers were not held in this mosque. The graves of the founder of it and of his father were destroyed in the troubles of 1857.
Three other mosques, built by them in the same style but of more interesting arrangement, exist at Nizam-ud-din, Khirki, and Begampur Near the Kalan Masjid are two historically interesting graves of a date of 150 years earlier. On the left side of the road opposite the mosque is the tomb and cemetery of Turkman Shah, after whom the Turkman Gate of the city is called, a militant saint of the first period of Muhammadan conquest and settlement, who died in 1240 A.D. A little to the north, reached by the Bulbuli Khana lane at the point where the Sita Ram Bazar ends, is a small isolated enclosure containing two graves, of which the larger is, according to old tradition, that of the Sultan Raziyah, El Malika Raziyah, Ibn Batuta calls her who was killed and buried in the same year as the above.
There is no reason, I think, for distrusting the popular tradition in this case, as it is on contemporaneous record that the Sultan was buried on the banks of the Jumna, and that the city of Firozabad included the area of her grave; and we may reasonably believe that we see in this humble tomb the last resting-place of the first Empress of India, known like her predecessors and successors as Sultan.
About 200 yards to the north-west from the Jumna Mosque, and conveniently reached from there, is the Jain or Saraogi Temple of Delhi, the elegant decoration of the porch of which is specially commended by Mr Fergusson, and well deserves a visit, which must be made on foot. The times and conditions for visiting the interior can be ascertained at the Temple, and are known to the local guides.
Raj Ghat and other ghats
To the east of the Sonahri Mosque of Javed Khan may be seen a cross at the bottom of the slope of the southern glacis of the fort, marking the site of the old Daryaganj cemetery. East of this again is the Raj Ghat Gate, with a ramp ascending from the river below, and south of both is the garden of the little cantonment of Daryaganj, in which the native regiment of the Delhi garrison is quartered, and the officers of the regiment reside.
This was the original cantonment of Delhi after 1803; but the garrison was subsequently located beyond the Ridge, and in the Mutiny the quarter was mainly occupied by subordinates of the Arsenal, and of various departments of Government. The tale of the strenuous defence made by a number of these against the mutineers will be found on page 106.
The house held by them was that now numbered five, the first on the left beyond the road leading up from the Khairati Gate, by which, as by the Raj Ghat Gate, the mutineers of the 3rd Light Cavalry entered the city on finding the Calcutta Gate closed, and being directed by Captain Douglas to leave the ground below the king’s apartments in the palace. On the north side of the road above the Khairati Gate is the mosque of the Zinat-ul-Masajid, or Beauty of Mosques, built in 1700 by one1 of the daughters of the Emperor Aurangzeb.
The building is a fine one, and well deserves a visit: the steps leading up to it from the roadway are particularly picturesque. The mosque was used for military purposes for many years after 1857, and during that time the tomb of the foundress, which stood on the north side of the enclosure, was removed.
The only other buildings in Delhi which call for any notice are the Mosque of Roshan-uddaulah (1745 A.D.), on the right hand of the Feiz Bazar, leading to the Delhi Gate of the city, and the Fakhr-ul-Masajid, or Pride of the Mosques, built in 1728 A.D. inside the Kashmir Gate. The latter is a very graceful mosque—the former is a clumsy one, far inferior to the Sonahri Masjid of Javed Khan, built three years subsequently to it.
Hathi Gate Once Opened Into The 17th-Century Garden Of Qudsia Bagh
The 18th-century Qudsia Bagh offers a quick escape from the din and bustle of Kashmere Gate. Once a Mughal palace garden, today it’s a mere skeleton of its past.
The imposing gateway to enter this palace garden has been in a decrepit condition for many years, with the plaster having chipped off from the facade, floral motifs going missing, pillars at the front and kanguras on the external parapet getting lost over time. Now, the Archaeological Survey of India is trying to restore the missing portions of the gateway and repairing cracks.
The arched gateway, also called Hathi Gate, used to open up to a beautifully laid out walled garden which housed a sprawling palace built by Qudsia Begum, the wife of Mughal Emperor Muhammad Shah and mother of emperor Ahmad Shah Bahadur, in 1748. History says the palace was destroyed by the British during the 1857 Revolt and only a mosque and the gateway were left standing. The mosque has been occupied by people who offer namaz and ASI has been fighting a court case on it.
While ASI owns the mosque and gateway, the rest of the garden is owned by North Delhi Municipal Corporation. The property being divided between two agencies makes maintenance difficult.
Missing portions of the gateway are being carefully restored where evidence is available, and for this work ASI has roped in expert craftsmen from Madhya Pradesh who specialise in this kind of work. The front side of the gateway had two imposing pillars on each side, with an open lotus flower motif at the top. While one of these pillars was only partially standing with just a few leaflets of the flower, the the lotus was missing completely on the other. “The pillar where the flower was partially available was taken up for restoration. The flower was restored because we had the detail of the original design. We will restore the one that is missing from the other pillar as well,” said an ASI official.
The craftsmen are being led by Har Charan who has done similar work at the Taj Mahal and Fatehpur Sikri in the past. “The whole length of the pillar is about 40 feet from the ground to the top where it opens as a flower. It will take about a month to restore the other pillar,” Charan said.
ASI’s conservation policy does not allow reconstruction where parts of a monument are missing, but where evidence is available on the original design, ASI can undertake restoration on a case to case basis. The pillars aside, the south side of the wall has a number of kanguras which are missing on the parapet wall. Of nearly 15 kanguras on the parapet, just a few are still standing and one if partially damaged. Making each kangura will take about a week and is being done on the site itself.
ASI also intends to restore the missing kanguras. “We had to be very careful in restoring the decorative elements. Where we could not find any traces, we left the surface plain but where some elements of moulding or decorative plasterwork could be seen, they were restored,” said an official.
A single cell on the upper floor of the gateway, has also been conserved and missing plasterwork repaired. Next on the agenda, said officials, is plasterwork on the external facade of the gate where one can see cracks and missing plaster.