From Lal Kot to Lal Qila, the journey of Delhi is indeed a long one, spanning many centuries; and through which, one witnesses he emergence and abandonment of several capitals.
It reveals not just ten fortifications, known to us as Lal Kot, Qila Rai Pithora, Siri, Tughlaqabad, Jahanpanah, Adilabad, Firuz Shah Kotla, Purana Qila, Salimgarh and Lal Qila; but innumerable, diverse buildings that mirror the distinct art styles of the city’s multi-dynastic regimes before the proliferation of the European styled architecture during British rule. These regimes wee formed by the Tomars, the Chauhans, the Mamluks, the Khaljis, the Tughlaqs, the Sayyids, the Lodis, the Surs and the Mughals.
Delhi’s history is speckled with the deeds of its great kings like Anangpal, Prithaviraj Chauhan, Alauddin Khalji, Muhammad bin Tughlaq, Sher Shah Suri and Shahjahan, to name just a few. More significantly, their built heritage still mystify us. Each of the monuments has a story to tell that is charming enough to make one ponder about their existence in the present day.
Lal Kot to Lal Qila- The Architectural Heritage of Delhi tries to recount the significance of these structures, the various possibilities of ht reasons, as also the absence of any logic sometimes behind their construction, which make the study of Delhi’s tumultuous history all the more captivating.
Anuradha Dutta Sur was a born in England in 1971. A part of her childhood days were spent in Iran, where she grew up amidst a multinational community in the pre-as well as, the crucial post Revolution days.
She took her Honours degree in History from Lady Shri ram College, Delhi, and subsequently completed her post-graduation in 1994. Having lived a significant number of years in Delhi, she had the scope to study the important heritage sites of the capital and its numerous historical buildings. Her stay outside of the country gave her exposure to various aspects of Persian culture and language; and most significantly, an understanding of the antecedents of our medieval rulers.
Lal Kot to Lal Qila –The Architectural Heritage of Delhi is her first book, born out of her love for the subject in general; and a special fascination for the ruined forts and palaces of this historical city.
Can we imagine a ‘Delhi’ without the Qutb Minar; Humayun’s exquisite resting place; the Lal Qila (Shahjahan’s sprawling fort of red sandstone); or even the comparatively ruined, but equally significant fort walls and other structures of the pre-Mughal era overlooking the western bank f the venerated Yamuna?
Delhi, the heart of the nation, is defined by these and many more monuments, that have endured the changing face of the city in the modern age and will continue to face more challenges with the ever-increasing mesh of flyovers and ‘Metro’ rail bridges. In the past hundred years and more, numerous books h ave been written on Delhi’s history and painstaking research has been conducted in its expanses for an in –depth understanding of the material legacies left by its rulers. However, despite the presence of such valuable information, the conservation of the monuments of Delhi has become an even more pertinent issue in the last fifteen years.
This book is not just a tale of seven cities; nor does it just speak about the whims of any particular ruler or rulers; infact, it describes how and in what form, monuments arose in the city of Delhi. The book traces the development of Delhi’s historical architecture from the age of the Tomar and the Chauhan rulers, therough to that of the Delhi Sultans; and subsequently, the Mughals. It is also an attempt to present to the reader, a chronology of events through the medium of the standing structures from the 11th century AD to the mid-18 century AD.
For the student of history, the intellectual youth of today, for anyone who appreciates the importance of these beautiful building s and for the tourist endowed with that extra dose of inquisitiveness, this book is for him. Delhi is, undoubtedly, a rich city, for we have inherited invaluable treasures from our past rulers. It is for us to stop and think what we shall be bequeathing to the next few centuries.
Since its emergence as the city of Dhillika’ in the 8th century AD, Delhi has had many a tale to add to the chapters of Indian history. After the rebuilding of the city in the mind -11th century AD and the establishment of a capital for the Hindu ‘Tomar’ clan, the history of Delhi became synonymous with attempts of ambitious kings to convert it into a political haven for themselves. For three and a quarter centuries, Muslim prices of destiny held the reins of the most powerful empire in northern India, that of the ‘Delhi Sultanate’. The demise of the ‘Delhi Sultanate’ in AD 1526 exposed its inherent weaknesses, especially in its inability to effectively curb the repeated onslaughts of the Mongols. What followed thereafter was the foundation of Mughal rule in India by the Central Asina warrior, Babur. The Mughal capital was initially set up at Agra (in the modern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh) and was subsequently transferred to Delhi in the 17th century. The mesmerizing rule of the Mughals, who had successfully absorbed a major portion of the Indian subcontinent into their dominion, was drawn to its end in the 19th century. By a cruel twist of fate, the imperialistic ‘British Crown’ strengthened its political foothold over India between the years AD 1757 and 1764. Delhi, a region much sought-after by our medieval rulers for its strategic location, was named its capital and it remains so to this day.
The world’s larges t democracy is administered from this historical city. Its kings are gone, and so are the royal vestiges. What remain of them are the numerous monuments in the form of city walls, forts, towers, pillars, reservoirs, mosques, tombs and shrines that were erected by these royal personas; and the impressive buildings erected during British rule. Delhi’s heritage is constituted by these monuments ,which number at over twelve hundred. The conquests of the Muslims, as well as the settlements of the Europeans have had profound bearings upon the building of this city. In fact, the majority of the surviving structures of Delhi can be defined as ‘Islamic’ and ‘European’ in character. The only consequential remains of the indigenous Rajput architecture (of the pre-Sultanate era), characterized by ruins of Hindu andJain temples, are located in a southern part of the city’s present limits. This book attempts to describe those monuments of Delhi that were built between the mid-11th and the mid-18th centuries AD.
The term ‘monuments’ conjures up images of enormous and grandiose structures in the human mind. Yet time and again, man has overlooked the importance of these mute and standing testimonies in the understanding of his past ethos. In the modern city of Delhi, the large number of abused and effaced structures that dot the landscape, glaringly illustrates the disregard we have for our predecessors, the architects who assiduously perfected our buildings. The monuments of Delhi are of many dimensions and possess diverse characters. Large structures like palaces, fortresses, mausoleums, places of worship and public works that speak much about illustrious dynasties, as well as diminutive items such as stone tools, as well as art effects made out of other materials, and even an unembellished inscribed slab of stone have induced great interest amongst archaeologists and historians alike.
The city of Delhi, which has a population of more than thirteen million people, covers an area of fifteen hundred square kilometers. Its antiquity has been gauged by studies conducted within not only its modern limits, but also in the neighboring states of Haryana and Uttar Pradesh. The plethora of relics that hold relevance for this vast city date back to the prehistoric times. There have been chance discoveries of Stone-Age tools from 1956 to 1986 in Delhi. The systematic studies on the palaeochannels of the river Yamuna ( i.e. the older courses of this river, which number at five), along with the emerging evidences of habitation of this ancient city by Homo Sapiens have been so significant that it has compelled archaeologists to categorize this region as one of the biggest Palaeolithic sites of the subcontinent.
Palaeoliths or Old Stone Age tools were seen and reported in diverse areas of Delhi, such as on the ‘ridge’ (an integral part of the Aravalli Hills) near the University of Delhi; and from the campus of the Jawaharlal Nehru University . The most amazing finds were from amongst a heap of ‘Badarpur’ sands from the Malviya Nagar area in south Delhi. These tools were later categorized as ‘Acheulian’ tools by archaeologists. The source of these tools was traced to Anangpur (a village in Haryana) quartzite rock quarries. Anangpur is located about 30 Km from Delhi in District Faridabad of Haryana.
Investigations in the Palaeochannels IV and V of the river Yamuna around the village of Anangpur in 1991 and 1992 led to the discovery of thousands of implements made by Stone Age men. These tools belonged to the Early and Late Acheulian phases. The Early Acheulian tools were found around the Palaeochannel IV area, while the Late Acheulian cultural phase was dominant in the Palaeochannel V area. The types of tool found in this area mainly comprised of hand-axes, cleavers, picks, choppers, discoids, knives, points and scrapers. The majority of the tools were made on fine-grained quartzite, while a few were made on sandstone.
Aside from man-made tools, buildings are important proofs of human settlements. The evidence of ancient constructions in Delhi are important proofs of human settlements .The evidence of ancient constructions in Delhi was revealed in the second half of the 20th century by the discovery of structural remains (in seven different levels) in an area occupied by a famous medieval monument, the Purana Qila, which was constructed in the mid-16th century AD. The earliest of these remains date back to circa 300-200 BC, the age of the Mauryas. In fact, the city’s status as an important town and a nexus between trade routes during the reign of the famous Mauryan king, Asoka (r. 269-231 BC), was confirmed in the year 1966 by the discovery of an inscription at Bahapur, near Sriniwas puri in southern Delhi (Pls. 1 & 2). This inscription seems to be connected with the ‘Uttarapatha’-the great trans-regional trade route of north India. The inscription, which is engraved upon a tilted slab of stone atop a rocky hill, contains a portion of the text from Asoka’s Minor Rock Edict I issued in 257 BC. The proclamation issued upon this particular rock in Delhi is comparable to the inscription constituting the edict at Bairat, a district in Jaipur (in the modern Indian State of Rajasthan). Other versions of Asoka’s Minor Rock Edict I occur at Ahravra (in Uttar Pradesh); Sahasram (in the modern Indian State of Bihar); Rupnath, Gujjara and Panguraria (in the modern Indian State of Madhya Pradesh); Erragudi and Rajula Mandagiri (in the modern Indian State of Andhra Pradesh); and Brahmagiri, Gavirmath, Maski, Palkigundu, Siddapura, Nittur and Udegolam (in the modern Indian State of Karnataka.)
The slanting piece of stone at Sriniwaspuri contains ten lines in the ancient Prakrit language, written in the Brahmi script. The contents of this edict of the Mauryan emperor, Asoka, are illuminative with respect to his (i.e. Asoka’s ) deeds, especially, in the active promulgation of the Buddhist faith and the spread of ‘Dharma’ ideals after he joined the Buddhist ‘Sangha’ (order) and became a monk. He states that he was able to bring the people of ‘Jambudvipa’ (India) ‘closer to the gods’ by ‘exerting in the cause of ‘Dhamma’. He also appeals to his people (both small and great) to exert in a similar manner to achieve heavenly bliss.
Remains of structures, such as houses, soak-wells and hearths made out of burnt bricks, mud bricks, wood, wattle and daub’ also, the presence of a large number of coins, terracotta figurines, seals and potsherds in the Purana Qila complex have established the fact that Delhi was peopled even in the subsequent ages after the Mauryan period, before it became the city of the Tomar kings in the 8th century AD. Interestingly, the existence of a pre-Mauryan culture in Delhi was proved by the discovery of remnants of the ‘Painted Grey Ware’ (PGW) pottery (the use of which is dated to circa 1200-600 BC) within the scope of the excavations carried out in the Purana Qila.
The presence of the remnants of the PGW pottery in the excavated mound in the Puran Qila, which pushed back Delhi’s history to such early times, was also noted in another fort complex of the city.
This other fort (also constructed in the mind 16th century AD) is situated approximately 6 kilometers north of the Purana Qila. Better known as Salimgarh, this fort has also shown to reveal apart from potsherds of the Painted Grey Ware, artefacts, such as, coins of the Sultanate period, glazed ware of the succeeding Mughal period; as well as, other finds of great import. These artefacts were revealed in archaeological excavations carried out in the last decade of the 20th century (more specifically, in 1995); and although , no continuous pattern of settlement from the Mauryan age to that of the Tomars were encountered, there were definite evidences of occupation of the site from the 1st millennium BC to early historical times. In fact, certain finds pointed to its having been occupied subsequently, in times preceding the rule of the Mughals and the Surs through to the present times.
More recent explorations by the Department of Archaeology of Delhi have brought to light the occurrence of the Painted Grey Ware pottery at places in Delhi such as, Maim ka Rehra or the mound of Gordon Highlander’s Column, Khera Kalan, kharkhari Nahar and Jhatikra ( near Najafgarh, west Delhi), Majnu ka Tila, Bhorgarh, Bankner, Loni (in Ghaziabad district, Uttar Pradesh), Bhupani and Chhansa (both in Faridabad).
The oldest monuments of the city stand in its south-western parts, which at present is alluded to as Mehrauli. This area is the site of an ancient Hindu temple that was dedicated to ‘yoginis’ (female semi-divine beings). This temple is not in existence in the present day; however, a temple preserving the memory of this ancient temple was raised in the 19th century AD in its place. During the reign of the Tomars, their city was known by the names of ‘Dhillika’ or ‘Dhilli’. ‘Yogininpura’ (denoting ‘the city of the yoginis’), which was obviously derived from the temple of the ‘yoginis’, was also a preferred name during those times. A Jain literary source, the Kharataragachchha Pattavali mentions the name of a king, ‘Madanapal’, as the ruler of Dhilli or Yoginipura in VE ( Vikrama era) 1223, which corresponds to AD 1166. Centuries after the birth of ‘Dhillika’, later kings of the Tomar clan moved from the region of Kanauj ( in Uttar Pradesh) and established a political capital in the Mehrauli area. The fort of Lal Kot, which was erected by king Anangpal II in AD 10 52, physically represented their stronghold.
The ‘Chauhan’ Rajputs captured the Delhi region and overthrew the Tomar dynasty in the 12th century AD. The extents of Lal Kot, the Tomar citadel, were increased by the Chauhans and was renamed as ‘Pithorgarh’. ‘Pithorgarh’ or ‘Qila Rai Pithora’ (as it was generally referred to by the Turkish rulers of Delhi) was subsequently occupied by Muslim conquerors from Afghanistan towards the end of the 12th century. The combined extents of the ramparts of Lal Kot and Qila Rai Pithora contain some stupendous creations of the early and later rulers of the Delhi Sultanate; as well as, a few buildings constructed under Mughal patronage.
It may be worth mentioning that the importance of the Tomar kings in Indian History is not restricted to the Delhi region alone. The Tomars, regarded as the feudatories of the Rajput Pratihara clan, were eminent I certain places of the neighboring state of Haryana ( apart from the state of Uttar Pradesh). A certain king, Raja Surajpal, whose name is mentioned in the genealogies of the Tomar Kings; and who is also believed to be a son of Anagpal II (the builder of Lal Kot), constructed an artificial lake in the Ravalli hills, south of Delhi. The material (typified by large and medium sized boulders) from this rocky terrain of the Haryana region was utilized to construct the Surajkund (literally denoting ‘Sun Lake’) reservoir. This artificial lake or reservoir, built in a semi-circular plan with stepped stone embankments circumventing it. The Tomars constructed the Surajkund by taking advantage of the connecting iternal drainage system and the depression of the fifth palaeochannel of the river Yamuna, which flowed through the Surajkund area in the prehistoric times.
The western portion of the Surajkund is represented by a fortified enclosure, which surrounds the ruins of a Sun temple. Today, the Surajkund lake (with its adjoining areas) is a favourite picnic resort for tourists all over the world, as well as, the venue for an annual crafts fair.
A journey around the environs of the Surajkund would bring one to a village called ‘Anangpur’, where ruins of some rubble-built fortifications, as well as, a dam exist. The village of Anangpur (also called Anekpur or Arangpur) is located 30 km south od Delhi and 5km southwest of Surajkund on the quartzite tableland of the Aravallis. The fort was first noticed by Carr Stephen in the 19th century. The fort is located west of Anangpur village upon a hillock. What remains of this fortifications is an over 300 meter long stone wall that runs from the southern slope of the hill northwards to the top and t hen winds in an ellipse around the summit. This fort was in all probability, built by the Tomars; and as the name suggests, by the king of the name ‘Anagpal’. But it is still not clear which ‘Anangpal’ of the Tomar geneology built it.
The fort overlooks a gorge on its southern and western side. During the rains, this would have filled up with water, forming a sort of moat. Traces of a few structures and streets have been found near the western gateway. Some interesting artefacts were also found from this area: these included a circular coin belonging to the Rajput period. The obverses side of this coin seems to depict Lord Shiva and the ‘Nandi’ bull, while the reverse bears traces of an illegible legend. Sherds of red pottery and a quartzite block with a 5-line inscription written in the Nagari script were discovered standing in the fields of the village. It has some partially legible numbers o n it, which may be a dat. A stone sculpture depicting a seated drummer flanking the main figure belonging to the 9th or 10th century was also found. A few surface finds of fragments of glazed pottery from the hill suggest that Anagpur was occupied during the Sultanate period as well, following the Rajput phase.
The dam, meant for impounding rainwater, was constructed out of local quartzite stone. The builder of this dam is said to be none other than Anangpal II. The dam which is 50 meters wide and 7 meters high, has sluices or trap doors for the controlled flow of water. Indeed, this dam is an architectural marvel of early medieval Indian history.
Two factors, the natural and the political environment, have been common determinants for the creation of man-made legacies all over the world. The construction of a citadel I n different countries makes an interesting case-study. For instance, the tall castles, characterizing the landscape of many European countries, an d the expansive forts of the Indian subcontinent were both constructed with the objective of defending the homeland from enemies. Nevertheless, one also finds variances within them; and these are the result of the different methods of construction employed, the distinct art styles and the raw material peculiar to a country. Down the ages, there have been borrowings between diverse cultures that have considerably narrowed the gap between the occident and the orient , and have made the essential components of the castle, the kot and the qila very similar. The advent of Islam in the Indian subcontinent has played a significant role as a catalyst in the amalgamation process of two architectural styles. It was the group of Muslim conquerors from Afghanistan ( later turned ‘gvernors’), who introduced the ‘dome’ and the method of constuctiing an arch with voussoirs (referred to as the ‘true arch’)* in India. The use of the ‘battered’ or the sloping plinth, which was widely used in Europe and the Middle East in the early middle ages, was introduced in Indian architecture by Sultan Ghiyasuddin Tughlaq 9the first ruler of the Tughlaq dynasty of the Delhi Sultanate) in the 14th century AD. The mausoleum of Sultan Ghiyasuddin Tughlaq and the Tughlaqabad fortress in Deli are t he earliest monuments of India, where the system of ‘batter’ was employed.
The contact with t he West, however, had arisen much before the birth of Isla in the 7th century AD. It is now know that the Harappan culture that flourished around 2500 BC had trade contacts with places that fell outside its purview. The artefacts of this ancient Indian civilization have been unearthed within the present boundaries of Iran , Iraq, Afghanistan and parts of Central Asia. Centuries later in the historic age, the Greeks and the Romans set foot on Indian soil. There were contacts with Persia (Iran0 and China as well. Then in the 8th century AD, the Arabs made their presence felt it the India subcontinent with the conquest of Sind.
The coming of the Muslims in the India subcontinent was a major turning point in history. Initially their ambitions were directed at plundering temple cities famed for their wealth; but by the end of the 12th century AD, their dreams of an Islamic empire in India were being realized. The Turko-Afghan invaders of the principality of Ghor (in Afghanstan) were the first people of a foreign race to have successfully established a long-standing empire in the Indian subcontinent. One of the most significant repercussions of this development was experienced in the building policies of the new rulers. There was an efflorescence of a new form of religious architecture, which in most constituents of the conquered territories completely overshadowed the shilkhara (spire) or the elongated ‘pyramidal roof’ of the typical Hindu temple. In its place, the Muslim tenement of worship-the ‘masjid’ (mosque) with its essential components: like the minar (a tower meant for the muezzin to call the faithful to prayer), the ‘prayer hall’ at its western end and the mihrab (an arched recess placed centrally within the western flank of the prayer hall) made an appearance. The ‘trabeate’ form of construction (whereby gaps are spanned by the use of beams) was replaced by the ‘arcuate’ form (represented by the employment of arches). The impact of Islam was felt in all spheres of India culture like art, architecture, and painting, as well as, in the medium of communication. Elements of Turkish, Pathan and Persian art were ingeniously incorporated within the indigenous style of architecture. The Qutb Minar (built in the 12th century); the Alai Darwaza (built in the 14th century); the Qila-i-Kuhna Masjid (build in the 16th century); the mausoleum of the seond Mughal ruler. Humayun, (which was built in 16th century); the Jami Masjid and the Lal Qila (both of which were built in the 17th century by the fifth Mughal ruler, Shahjahan) are, outstanding examples of the ‘Indo-Islamic’ architecture of Delhi.
The local art (Hindu, Buddhist and Jain) of India displays an intricacy and a maturity of style, which is most evident in the exquisite sculptures, delicate cave art, temples, ’stupas’ and other building that are sprawled all over the country. But it is an indisputable fact that political domination by our Muslim ruler have made the country’s architectural heritage richer. In spite of the fact that Isla forbade the use of human and animal figures on buildings, their edifices are storehouses of extremely appealing and revolutionary art forms. The reason behind this is, that the Muslims introduced an exceptionally arresting form of decoration-the ‘arabesque’, whereby hard surfaces were embellished with the use of lines, curves and colour.
Delhi is the place where the first Islamic government of India was set up. AD 1192 marked the end of Hindu rule in the region, when the Rajput Chauhan ruler of Delhi, Prithviraj (III) Chauhan, was defeated by the forces of Muhammad Ghori, a Muslim solider from the principality of Ghor in Afghanistan. Delhi and some important neighboring regions were successfully brought under the yoke of Islam and the rule of the Delhi Sultanate was established. From that point in time, the Delhi Sultanate was responsible for the transformation of the architectural landscape of the city. In a significant battle fought in the year AD 1526, Sultan Ibrahim Lodi (the third ruler of the Lodi dynasty of the Delhi Sultanate), was defeated by the Mughals.
The Mughals erected great building all over the country, including the city of Delhi. A brief period of domination by the Afghan ‘Sur’ clan n Delhi also brought forth some outstanding structures in the city. The European impact upon Delhi’s architecture was felt mainly from the middle of the 19th century. With the passage of time, the Muslim rulers of Delhi established several capitals; and by doing so, they redefined the city’s extents.
In between the 11th and the 17th centuries AD. Seven capitals were raised in the city of Delhi; initially by the Hindus, and then the Muslim rulers. This has been a convenient number for historians to choose, because, the capitals were basically represented by the seven ‘cities’ that emerged at different points of time at various sites of Delhi during the above –mentioned period. The seven well-known ‘cities’ are, Lal Kot-Qila Rai Pithora (built in the 11th and the 12th centuries by Anagpal II and Prithviraj Chauhan respectively) ; Firuzabad (built in the 14th century by Alauddin Khalji); Dinpanah (built in the 16th century by Humayun); and Shahjahanabad (built in the 17th century by Shajahan). These ‘cities’ were constructed as formidable forts. However, there were several more ‘cities’ that were supposedly contemplated by other rulers; and archaeologically speaking, Delhi’s expanses are defined by more than seven forts. The book begins with a description of Lal Kot, the first fortification constructed in the city, and its significance in Delhi’s history.
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