Mehrauli Archaeological Park – What to See
When you say Old Delhi, the image of Shahajahanabad pops up and you want to head there for its Paranthas and other delicacies. But hold on, that is not the oldest living area of Delhi, it is only 400 or so years old. Mehrauli has been a living area for more than a millennium. And this longevity means that it has been witness to all the known history of Delhi, and sure you find imprints of all times in this small living village of Delhi. You can see the imprints of Jain city Yoginipura, of Tomars, Chauhans, Khiljis, Slave kings, Lodis, Mughals and British. To create the imprint of post-independence India ASI carved out Mehrauli Archaeological Park as a tourist hot spot.
Though not sure of many tourists visit it, in spite of being so close to Qutub Minar Complex. But it is definitely a place that I recommend to all history enthusiasts and nature lovers.
This park was a living village till some time back, and villagers were moved out and some conservation work is done on some of the ancient monuments here. Traditionally this place is known as Jamali Kamali, after the Sufi saint whose mosque is located here. Unfortunately, there are no guides here to explain you the structures. And give you the stories, unless you are going with some walking tour groups. Still, move around and you would see nature and history interspersed with each other. There are tombs of Balban and Khan Shahid. When you look at the ruins of these, look at the early stage Indo-Islamic architecture. The arches are basic and gateways still have the beam and lintel, as the knowledge of making arches was not there with native workers. See the stone used and how it has managed to survive all these years.
Bauli or Step Well
Little ahead is Rajon ki Bauli, a step well that was meant for the masons working on these sites. It usually sounds like a step well belonging to the kings. A little ahead of this in the Mehrauli village is Gandhak ki Bauli. These step wells were the native method of preserving water in an area, which does not have a direct water source like a river. Though a canal used to pass through this area and there is a spring in Mehrauli village even now. The water levels have gone down a lot now so all these step wells are dry. If you wonder what are these long pillars corridors and rooms around the stepwell, well these step wells were social spaces as well or shared resources.
So people used to meet here, sit in the cool air around water on hot days. And rooms I assume would have taken care of any guests like traders who would be visiting the area. This is a beautiful Bauli and if you are tired of walking around the park, you can sit here and relax.
Quli Khan’s Tomb
Quli Khan’s tomb that was converted into a retreat by Metcalfe is a typical tomb from outside. Inside it was converted to act as the dining hall. And there were a lot of small structures added to make it living quarters. The most talked about structure Metcalfe’s canopy or folly here is a small canopy on top of a hillock. That was added just to create the old world for the place is not an original structure from the park. This canopy though is a good vantage point to view the wonders of this park.
Early 16th century Jamali Kamali mosque is the best-known monument in this park. It has the mosque of Saint Fazalullah or Jalal Khan. I read an interesting story about his conversion from a Jalali i.e. an angry saint to a Jamali i.e. a loving saint. It is said that at this Kamal or magic happened at this place. And hence the place came to be known as Jamali Kamali. Another story says that another saint named Kamal was responsible for converting Fazalullah, hence the name. Whatever may be the story but visit the tomb of the saint inside the mosque compound to see Delhi’s best-preserved tile work. The colorful work will hold you for some time as you hardly expect the color in those surroundings. See the influence of Rajputana as Jharokhas on outer walls.
Lawns for a walk
Apart from this, there are trees and lawns with no visible signs of modern day. You can do long walks here. And if lucky you can see some birds too, especially the peacocks. Do visit this gem in your own city.
Recommend you to read following Places to visit in Delhi. Walking Trails I have covered on this Indian Travel Blog.