Locomotoring

Seven continents, seven seas, seven billion people and seven thousand good eats …

A walk down Delhi’s ancient quarters.

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Rajon ki Baoli Mosque at Jamali Kamali Behind Dilkhusha

You are a conscientious visitor to Delhi. You have read your Lonely Planet India, done some web searches, and know that Delhi is an ancient city, the site of seven capitals over millenia. The Red Fort is on your list, as is Humayun’s tomb, and perhaps the Qutab Minar. And then you make your way to the Taj in Agra.

But surely Delhi must have accumulated a few more ruins than what India’s lackadaisical tourism industry would have you believe. Here are just four examples, all of which can be reached on foot from Qutab Minar.

Mosque adjoining Rajon Di Baoli, click for more

Mosque adjoining Rajon Di Baoli, click for more

If you walk past the Mehrauli flower market near Qutab Minar, look out for a small gate near the end of the market on your right. It leads you straight to the gardens surrounding the beautiful Jamali Kamali Mosque. The adjoining tomb (1528-29) houses the graves of poet Sheikh Fazlullah and an anonymous partner, and has a beautifully preserved interior with lovely red and blue plaster work on the ceiling. The tomb does not see heavy tourist traffic and is kept locked, so you will have to find the person-in-charge and have him unlock it for you.

Opposite the Mosque, slightly to the left, you see Metcalfe’s Folly (19th c.). Sir Thomas Metcalfe was a representative of the Governor General of India to the last Mughal Emperor of India, Bahadur Shah Zafar. This area was part of Thomas Metcalfe’s country estate, and follies were ornamental structures made to look like ruins. Thomas Metcalfe also bought a 16th century tomb nearby and extended it on either side to set up a home (yes, he converted a tomb into a home). He named it ‘Dilkhusha’ which translates as ‘heart’s joy’. You can reach it by going straight down past Jamali Kamali and the Folly.

Details of Dilkhusha, click for more

Details of Dilkhusha, click for more

Instead of going straight past Jamali Kamali, if you take a left you will reach Rajon ki Baoli (1506), a stepwell surrounded by wild forest land. Raj is hindi for mason so it is assumed that the baoli is named after people who perhaps constructed it. It is a four floor stepwell with a well at the back. There is an adjoining mosque and a tomb built in 1506 during Sikandar Lodi’s reign. As inviting as it may look on a hot Delhi day, resist the urge to jump in the baoli’s dirty water. Instead watch the local boys, who are equipped with third-world immunity, perform dangerous diving stunts.

Continuing in the same direction you will come across another dilapidated 15th century tomb. Walk past the settlement opposite and you will emerge into the bustling neighbourhood of Mehrauli. Turn right to find Gandhak ki Baoli (early 13th century). This is considered to be the oldest stepwell in Delhi, built by Iltutmish, the third Sultan of Delhi’s Slave dynasty (1206-90).

These are just four of the many examples of early to late Mughal architecture. Walk around, and you will find many more.

Related posts:

  1. Ramlila, a local festivity (more)
  2. Coronation Park, a dump yard of British era statues (more)
  3. India’s modern Art at National Gallery (more)
  4. An adorable 24 hr cafe (more)
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2 Responses

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  1. Finally, a Delhi blog after my own heart. I thought they didn’t exist. Congratulations on the great photos, and interesting content.

    Deepa

    August 10, 2009 at 1:14 pm


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