Early 14th century seems to be have been an era of fort construction in Delhi. As it saw the building of three major forts in the city. First being Tughlaqabad, which was quickly followed by Adilabad and then came the Feroz Shah Kotla, which was the only fort from where the king ruled. It was the century of Tughlaq rule in Delhi. After Ghiyasuddin Tughlaq and his son Mohammed Bin Tughlaq came to his nephew Feroz Shah Tughlaq.
Feroz Shah Kotla – The Fort at Ferozabad – Places to visit in Delhi
It is said that Feroz shifted the fort and palace to the banks of Yamuna to tackle the persistent water problem. His city extended from the current day northern ridge to the Hauz Khas on one side and Purana Qila on the other side. Besides the ruined fort there are other imprints of Feroz scattered around the city like his hunting lodge Khuske-shikar on the ridge. Ashoka pillar outside Hindu Rao hospital and his tomb at Hauz Khas. Ferozabad was the first capital on the banks of Yamuna that would later become a norm as Purana Qila, Salimgarh, Shergarh and Lal Qila are built along the Yamuna.
About 1.5 Lakh people inhabited the city of Ferozabad. Which it seems was a big number in those days though today a small colony may have a similar number. This city was built from the material from the forts of Lal Kot and Siri. Which was again pulled out from here for the construction of later forts? So what you see now in the fort is just the ruins with open bare stones.
The most important part of the ruins of Feroz Shah Kotla is the Ashoka Pillar. Which was brought here from Topara near present-day Ambala? There is an interesting story of how the pillar was wrapped in cotton and then transported through the river route. A grand three-storeyed pyramid-like structure was built to mount the prized pillar. Ironically, today an industrial chimney many times in height of the Ashoka pillar and very similar in shape makes the original pillar look dwarfed. When you climb up the dilapidated structure, almost taking a risk, you wonder what is it about these pillars that they have been a subject of intrigue for so many centuries. They were erected by a king who wanted to spread his chosen dharma.
Significance of Ashoka Pillar
But what was it that Feroz Shah Tughlaq saw in them that he wanted to have them in his fort. Was it just the fancy of a ruling king or was there a superstition associated with the pillar? It must not have been for the height of pillar as Delhi already had Qutab Minar. Must not have been for the inscriptions as they are not even in a language known to the king. The pillar’s top is broken as of now, but it is said that when it was installed here, it was crowned with a capital of precious stones. And a globe with a crescent on top of it, probably indicating the goals of the Sultan.
Visiting the Ashoka Pillar
Though the whole structure is enclosed in an iron grill, a small opening in the grill allows you to enter the structure. Now we do not know if officially you are allowed to go inside or not. But the ASI in charge led us to the opening, so we assume you can enter it. Though the structure’s glory is hard to imagine. But it seems a fair amount of effort was put to construct a beautiful structure on which to mount this pillar. Indicating again the importance that the pillar had. There are many inscriptions on the pillars, most of them are in Pali language and Brahmi script. But the last 4 lines are in Devnagari script and dates to 1220 Samvat which would mean about mid 12th century. From wherever you stand in the fort, you can see this pillar.
Round Step Well
Another interesting feature in the fort is the round Baoli or step well. Unfortunately, the structure is closed from all sides. You can just get a glimpse of it from some the openings in the walls. When you climb on top of the pyramid structure close to Ashoka pillar, that is when you get a top view of this Baoli which does look elegant. With lush green lawns around it and an old tree standing by its side like a security guard.
Jami Masjid or mosque on the side of Ashoka pillar is still a practicing mosque. You have to climb a flight of stairs, which seem to be recent construction. And then pass through a gate with a dome to enter the mosque. The arches around the corridors have been marked green. Most of the structure is nothing but an open space. In the center of the courtyard is what looks like an erstwhile tank, which is now filled to make a smooth ground. Most of the other parts are not visible now. But it was supposed to be a beautiful mosque. As the literature tells us that invader Timur was so impressed by this mosque that he got a similar one built in Samarkand.
The part that is marked palace ruins is hard to decipher. You can see some rooms on the side and some corridors with open arches. One interesting feature in this palace part is protruding rooms with pyramid roofs. Which are quite spacious for rooms of security guards. There are gateways with recessed arches, and you may wonder what they divide the space into. Very few walls are left with a thick plaster that would have covered the stones below. You can see the modern inscriptions of visitors who wanted to leave their names on the structures. Only in one of the place, I could see the red color in an arch with white outline amidst the monotone
Only in one of the place, I could see the red color in an arch with white outline amidst the monotone grey color of the rest of the complex. You cannot see any parapets on top of the wall. Going by the period of construction would have been there, but you do see arrow holes
You cannot see any parapets on top of the wall. Going by the period of construction would have been there, but you do see narrow holes in the walls.
We noticed the multiple signs of a strange kind of worship being done on various walls and gates of the fort. These walls were dead black from smoke and soot of the incense and oil lamp burning. Then there were marks in various bright colors. There were nails in the walls, which seem to be a part of the worship. We were told that some Baba Syed is worshiped here, but no one could tell us more about it. Interestingly, even the Ashoka pillar seems to be worshiped regularly. There were lots of cats, a few dogs, and vultures flying over the structure. As if there were feeding bowls all over the place to feed the animals and birds.
This fort today is known more for the cricket stadium that bears its name. At least its name is not lost like that of Lal Kot whom no one seems to remember, not even Archeological Survey of India. Located in the heart of the city, the fort is easily accessible, but not many seem to visit it. To me, the strong bastions at the entrance were quite inviting. About 150 years of city’s history are buried in the ruins of Ferozabad. so go there sometime to meet that part of your history.