Mehrauli Archaeological Park in Delhi (India) is a world heritage site with time ravaged monuments from the 10th century to the British era. My daughter was delighted and intrigued by the interesting nuggets of history that were narrated by our Talented Walk Leader Vaishnavi Singh, a student of History Department of Miranda House, Delhi.
In this guest post you will get to read about the tomb of Balban and Quli Khan, the 16th-century step-well Rajon ki Baoli, the mystique surrounding the Jamali Kamali mosque, attached to the tomb of the Sufi poet Jamali and more.
mehrauli archaeological park map
Delhi Heritage walk with raahi
The Raahi.MH Heritage walk in Mehrauli Archaeological Park follows the route from Balban’s tomb to the Dargah Hazrat Khwaja Qutubuddin Bakhtiyar Kaki.
In between, the mosque of Jamali, the two Baolis and also the tombs of the brothers Adham and Quli Khan will enrich your journey.
The walk begins from the main gate of the park. This gate is also called Bada Gate. It is not uncommon to see peacocks roaming around in full glory.
The Tomb of Ghiyas ud din Balban
Some 20 meters from the main gate one can see a huge gate on the right side which is the tomb of Delhi Sultan Ghiyasuddin Balban. Balban ruled from 1266 to 1286 and was the last sultan of the Slave dynasty.
Built in 1287 this place stands as the evidence of first true arch and dome in India. The tomb of Ghyasuddin Balban and few other graves, now stand mostly in ruins.
One of the graves found in the place is believed to be of his son Muhammad Khan who died fighting the Mongols , and thus also came to be known as Shaheed Khan.
Not much is known about the early life of Ghiyas ud din Balban before becoming the Sultan but he is said to have come from a family of Ilbari turks, the tribe which was sold away as slaves by Mongols.
Balban was a water carrier in early stages of his service, but rose to powerful position in the reign of Shams ud-Din Iltutmish. He took over Naseeruddin Mahmud , to become one of the most powerful and ambitious ruler of Delhi Sultanate.
Jamali Kamali Mosque
Moving further ahead take a right turn from Balban’s tomb.
On turning right, a beautiful medieval masjid like structure can be spotted. This is the Jamali Kamali masjid built by Jamali in 1528.
The masjid is a typical example of late Lodi Indo-Islamic architecture with Chajjas, flower and lace patters mixed with the arches and domes of the middle west.
There is a large courtyard in front of the Masjid.
The prayer hall has five arches. Only the central arch has a dome.
The size of arches increases towards the central arch, which is the largest of the five arches.
The rear end of the mosque has been provided with oriel windows.
Note: oriel (ˈɔːrɪəl/) – a large upper-storey bay with a window, supported by brackets or on corbels.
Jamali Kamali Tomb
On the right side of the masjid stands the now permanently locked tomb of Jamali.
The tomb was so beautifully embellished with blue tiles that many called it a house of a jeweller.
Inside the chamber, 12 verses composed by Jamali are written on the wall.
An interesting thing that can be noticed inside the tomb is the other grave which is supposedly of a person called Kamali.
The fakirs call upon Jinns on every Thursday as the place is believed to be haunted. People have noted to have been slapped by invisible forces and have heard various voices coming from adjoining graves. (Source)
Who was Jamali?
Jamali was also known as Jamaluddin Kamboh Dehlavi or Shaikh Hamid bin Faizullah. He was a Sufi saint, a traveller , a poet and also a teacher to Sultan Sikandar Lodi and Ibrahim Lodi.
Highly appreciated for his qalam (writing skill), his writings still survive and is widely read by medievalist historians. He also provides information about other Sufi saints
Who was Kamali?
The identity of Kamali is not clear. Few believe that their relationship was of wife- husband, others call it a pir (teacher) – murid (student) relationship and interestingly some even think of it as a homosexual bond.
Perhaps the reason for the other personal to be called Kamali could probably be that it rhymes well with Jamali.
Tomb of Muhammad Quli Khan
Further in the time travel across this park taking yet another turn towards the Qutub complex, a massive tomb can be spotted.
This tomb is of Shah Quli Khan , the foster brother of Akbar and the son of Maham Anaga (Akbar’s foster mother).
This place is rich in history also because it saw human settlement twice , although the latter after after 300 years.
Thomas Theophilus Metcafe (1795-1853), the agent of governor General of India bought this tomb from the descendants of Quli Khan.
This place was bought for a strategical plan ,as it was very near to the mahal of Bahadur Shah( Zafar Mahal) making it easy for the Britishers to keep an eye on the Mughal administrations.
Near the tomb a boathouse can be seen which acted as a boat deck connected to a pond of which only a depression and some pipes survive.
Metcalfe used this place as a monsoon retreat and called it “Dilkusha”meaning delight of the heart. He spent much of his time from the 40 yeas he spent in India at this place. Metcalfe died at the age of 58.
There is also a rumour attached to his death in which lies a suspicion that Zeenat Mahal, the wife of Bahadur Shah II poisoned Metcalfe.
The reason we can only presume but certain surveys also show that this could be a natural death as his father and fore fathers also passed away around the same age.
Metcalfe refurbished the entire structure which was in ruins and added more rooms extending it further. One can also spot two Metcalfe’s folly that is a chaattri like structure used probably to gather around for evening view and tea.
Baolis of Mehrauli
Baolis are Stepwells constructed to cope with seasonal fluctuations in water availability.
The construction of step-wells is mainly utilitarian, though they may include embellishments of architectural significance.
There are three Baolis in Mehrauli namely the 11th century Anangtal Baoli, the 13th century Gandhak ki Baoli and the 16th century Rajon ki Baoli. Out of these three baolis, two are inside the Mehrauli Archaeological Park.
The oldest of the three baolis, Anangtal Baoli, was built in the 11th century (1060 AD). Anangtal Baoli is in a forest 100 meters west of the Yogmaya Mandir outside the Archaeological Park complex.
Rajon ki baoli
From this tomb, if the visitor moves around 500 meters in the opposite direction , he/she can spot two Baolis (stepwells).
One of them is called Rajon ki Baoli which literally means the step well of masons. It was built in the Lodi period by Daulat Khan.
This is a beautiful construction about which much remains a mystery. Built in the traditional way of joining the step and vertical digging, the place also provides a space to socialise and sit in its enormous corridors.
The 4 level step well sadly does not have any natural water now but is filed with filth. A mosque can also be spotted a level above with 12 pillars.
It is fun to climb up the stairs and sit on the roof while enjoying the view of the park.
Gandhak ki Baoli
At the end of the park moving forward toward the Dargah Qutub Sahib , another Baoli called the Gandhak Ki Baoli can be spotted.
This Baoli was built by the Iltutmish for the well renowned Sufi saint Khwaja Qutubuddin Bakhtiyar Kaki.
The Baoli’s name Gandhak comes from the Hindi word meaning odour ,named so because of the smell of sulphur coming out from the water.
The water of Gandhak ki Baoli was said to contain sulphur which had healing effects and was good for skin. Now however, all one can smell is the toasty smell of tandoor coming from of Pehelwaan Dhabha beside the baoli.
In earlier myths and epics it was believed that a step well was a place where fairies met wizards, but now one can only wonder if fairies would like to visit here anymore.
Travel Tips to Mehrauli Archaeological Park
Mehrauli park, stands near the bustling road of Delhi, but on stepping in, the place becomes silent and aloof.
The opening and closing time of Mehrauli Archaeological Park.
The gates of Mehrauli Archaeological Park opens at 6 o clock in the morning but the gates to monuments open around 8 or 9 am.
It is however advisable to come out before it gets dark because there is no street light and the place has poisonous snakes.
There is no system of tickets , so anyone can walk freely around.
Photography inside the premises.
Photography inside the premises is allowed.
Pets inside the premises.
In the morning time the place is very serene and green and one could come to walk around with their pets or to play cricket in the numerous little parks and lawns.
Nearest Metro Station to Mehrauli Archaeological Park
The nearest metro to the park Qutub Minar station at a distance of 2 kilometres and the auto fare is Rs.30 per person.
Pro Travel Tip
It is preferable to come wearing sports shoes or comfortable shoes as the tour around the park is of 2 to 3 kilometres walk on a rocky road.