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World Heritage Day 2019 special: Rediscovering Delhi’s Heritage

The Capital’s rich history lives in its countless monuments, many of them now hidden by the urban sprawl. But we have your back. A day before World Heritage Day, our lensman Shivam Saxena unearths some monuments dating back to the Sultans and Badshahs, and beyond.

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Adilabad Fort

A sense of peace and calm engulfs you as you step into the fortification of Adilabad. Built by Sultan Mohammad Bin Tughlaq, Adilabad Fort lies to the south-east part of Tughlaqabad and is connected to it via a causeway. The walls of the embankment connecting it with Tughlaqabad Fort are carried over the hills. The fort was fashioned after Tughlaqabad Fort with corbel arches and sloping walls. From its position, one can get some of the best views of the city. Adilabad Fort also houses the palace of a Thousand Pillars or Qasrr-i-Hazaar Satun.

It was at a vantage point as one could view the rest of the city from here. Similar to Tughlaqabad Fort, the Adilabad Fort contains an outer and inner enclosure. Entry to the fort is marked with gates at two locations (southeast and southwest). A citadel, consisting of walls, a large courtyard, bastions and gates can still be found inside the inner fortification.

Dwarka Baoli

Historically, Delhi was dotted with baolis, or stepwells, which were built as water storage tanks or for social gatherings. Now, only a handful of baolis remain. One of the lesser-known of these is the Dwarka baoli or Loharehri, built during the reign of the Lodi dynasty. The relatively-smaller baoli is now covered by wilderness. Legend has it the locality used to be inhabited by lohars (ironsmiths), thus giving it its name. There is an octagonal well at the base of the baoli.

Ghiyas-ud-Din Tomb near Tughlaqabad Fort

Opposite Tughlaqabad Fort is the tomb of Sultan Ghiyas-ud-din Tughlaq. Inside the mausoleum are three graves — the central one belongs to the emperor, the other two are believed to be those of his wife and his son and successor Muhammad bin Tughlaq. Constructed in the shape of a pentagon with conical bastions and parapet walls, the tomb’s interiors have intricate marble and red sandstone work. The edifice is topped by an elegant dome on an octagonal drum that is covered with white slabs of marble and slate. In the north-western bastion is another octagonal tomb in similar style with a smaller marble dome. According to an inscription over its southern entrance, it houses the remains of Zafar Khan, a general in the emperor’s army who died in battle. His grave was consciously integrated into the design of the mausoleum by Ghiyas-ud-din himself. The whole complex is shrouded in lush greenery.

Hastsal and Bara Dari

At Hastsal Minar, disregard for history is painfully visible — in grafitti on the walls, in the shabby barbed wire fencing and the many houses that have come up in its vicinity. At first look, the 55-feet tall monument looks unfinished, a poorer cousin of the famous Qutub Minar. It is said Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan built it in 1650 as part of a hunting lodge, and a tunnel would connect it to Bara Dari, a hall built for entertainment purposes. It is also believed that the monument, located in Uttam Nagar, originally had five storeys, of which only three remain now. Each storey, with reducing diameters, has octagonal rings around it. Among the many legends, there’s one around the origin of the name of this minaret. It is said that the place used to be submerged partly in water, where elephants used to rest, hence the name Hastsal (hasth-elephant, sthal-place).

The mini Qutub Minar is a Grade-A protected heritage monument with the Department of Archaeology, India.

Pir Ghaib

The baoli and the monument were built during the reign of Sultan Feroze Shah Tughlaq (1351-1388). The complex is also believed to have housed a mosque. There are two legends behind the construction of the structure—it is believed that it was built as a hunting lodge or as an astronomical observatory. The baoli, behind the present-day Bara Hindu Rao Hospital, was the only source of water for British officers and soldiers during the 1857 Sepoy Mutiny and war of independence. After years of neglect, the complex is now finally being restored.


Built in the conventional stone masonry, Satpula, or bridge with seven openings, is considered to be the oldest surviving dam in the city. It was constructed during the reign of Sultan Muhammad Shah Tughluq (1325-1351) and developed as an integral component of defense wall of the fourth city of Delhi, Jahanpanah. It was designed to regulate the possessed water for the purpose of irrigation. The defense towers, situated on both ends of the dam, also served as madarsas, or schools of Islamic learning.

An open field, overgrowing with vegetation, now welcomes you here. Evenings tend to get pleasant and this is when little boys come out to play cricket. Shepherds can be seen grazing their cattle along the fields. If you are in the mood to spend a quiet evening, this place might fit the bill.

Source: The Hindustan Times

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