Walking Talking and Photographing Delhi Heritage in Mehrauli
So how many Delhi cities you know? If you are a Muggle like me you may say 2, New Delhi and Old Delhi. But if you read historians they will give you a lot more than just 2 cities of Delhi. From the mythological Indraprastha to the modern New Delhi there were many cities in between. The Dhillika or Tomars, Jahanpanah and Tughlaqabad built by an emperor who is either called an idiot or a genius depending on whose version you want to listen, but everybody agrees on his tyranny. A few of us are familiar with what Shah Jahan built and at time was known as Sheher or The City and everything around it was a village, this is what we call Old Delhi of today. And then we have the most important historical geographical part of Delhi called Mehrauli from where 19 generations of Tomars before they lost the crown and Delhi became seat of power of one of the slave dynasties.
Recently I went on a walk with Vikramjit Singh Rooprai, who is the founder of Delhi Heritage Photography club and passionate about all things historical. We have interacted on twitter, and even talked on phone but I have never met him in person. So when he invited me to this photo walk I was very excited as I wanted to meet the man who has brought Delhi history into limelight and suddenly ruins are muse of a whole generation of photographers in saadi Dilli. What started as a personal passion for Vikramjit Singh Rooprai is now a movement in Delhi and slowly gaining momentum. Sahir would have approved.
Main akela hee chala tha janibe manzil magar, Log saath aate gaye aur carvan banta gaya! (मैं अकेला ही चला था जानिबे मंज़िल मगर, लोग साथ आते गये और करवान बनता गया I set off alone towards the destination but, People joined by and by and lo! a soon it was a caravan!)
But I had no idea what a Rock star like following Vikram has, and since I reached a bit late like a true Dilliwala, I slowly sneaked into the group trying to get as little attention as possible. ( We are like that only jee )
Our meeting point was Adam Khan’s tomb and by the time I reached there after a bit of confusion over parking Vikramjit was already explaining to folks about this octagonal structure that has an in-built Bhool Bhulaiyan or labyrinth in its walls. More that tourists and photographers it is very popular among locals to sit and enjoy some Sunlight in the mostly foggy months of Delhi.
We soon started walking towards Chaumachi Khan’s Tomb which does not have any entry point due to encroachments and a bunch of mongrels were trying to perfect their tan.
We left the tanning mongrels undisturbed and walked towards Hauz-i-Shamsi & Jahaz Mahal, but this is where I lost the group (or the group lost me? Opinions are divided on this and the blog will be updated the moment we reach a consensus, but as it is my blog I can assure you I will have the last word).
I initially thought that Jahaz Mahal would be shaped like an airplane as Jahaz = Plane but later learned that the Jahaz Mahal was called so because it was surrounded by water and hence it is more likely to be after a ship that sails in open seas. Hauz-i-Shamsi was built by Emperor Iltutmish of the Slave Dynasty in 1230 CE, at a location revealed to him in a dream by the Holy Prophet Muhammad. Later the Lodhi’s built Jahaz Mahal on the eastern edge of the same reservoir in the 16th century as a retreat or Inn for use by pilgrims.
I did not visit the tank as I got busy chatting with kids playing Gilli Danda in the open grounds near the Jahaz Mahal. If you are wondering what Gilli Danda is then you need to visit Mehrauli as quickly as possible, because the sport is Great Grand Father of all Bat and Ball games. One branch of family developed in cricket and is played in former colonies of United Kingdom; the other branch of family developed in Baseball and is played in current Wanna Be clones of USA.
While the group walked away I was busy clicking pictures of the now empty Jahaz Mahal and again lost my way in the gullies of Mehrauli.
But our next destination Zafar Mahal is a well-known in the area and the helpful locals happily guided us there.
Zafar Mahal is protected by a once formidable gate, that today is no match for the Jugadoo Dilliwalas to enter
Vikram by then has started explaining about this once magnificent palace that is considered the last major building constructed by the Great Mughals and also how it is related to the joint festival of both Hindus and Muslims in Delhi – ( Take a guess ) which I was fortunate to attend last year. A post on the same is coming soon. Go ahead follow desi Traveler to not miss it.
Now this Zafar Mahal at one time was equivalent of the Farm House of current rich and mighty and hosted various cultural programs during the visit of the emperor of Delhi, who practically now now not even ruled withing the walls of Red Fort.
When we visited it was hosting a Gilli Danda Match and some boys were counting planes as it was a bit difficult to count pigeons.
All this while Vikram was busy enlightening us about the history and geography of Delhi and while I wanted to meet him and say a Hi, he was surrounded by history lovers so I decided not to disturb him and left with my friend Pankaj G who was kind enough to drive me around.
While walking back we clicked some pictures of old homes and a few shopkeepers. But that my friend is another post. I missed a few other places that Vikram and the Heritage photography group went to. But I hope to meet him again and walk again the paths where the mighty emperors of Delhi have rewritten history.
Below is the Google Map that I took during the walk:
Remember I did not complete the walk so for a more correct version of the walk visit Vikram’s post here.
How to reach Mehrauli: The best bet is Delhi Metro Yellow line and then get down at Mehrauli Metro Station and walk or take a feeder service, or auto rickshaw. If you are a bit less pro-planet you can take a car and park it either in front of Qutub Minar or opposite the Sub Registrar’s office in Mehrauli, very close to Yogmaya Temple.
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