“When Solomon’s takth was flying over Mehrauli, he noticed showers of Devine light descending into a specific area. On enquiry, the angels revealed that this piece of land was being readied for Allah’s special friend.” ~ Sadia Dehlvi
That special friend arrived in 1773 AD and is now known as Qutubdin Bakhtiar Kaki, or simply Qutub Sahib for the believers. Mehrauli, the oldest continuously inhabited place in Delhi, where there are still remnants ranging from the Mahabharata period to the tear soaked grounds of the last Mughal emperor to the insensitive atrocities of the Raj.
It is believed that the pandavas after the Mahabharata war constructed the Yogmaya temple, dedicated to Krishna’s sister. It falls inside Lalkot, the 8th century fort city, considered to be the first city of Delhi (if we ignore that Indraprashtha existed on the current old-fort grounds). Today only the walls of Lal Kot remains, and where the city is suppose to be, lays a forest and outside it is another forest. So as one starts to walk on the fort wall, within minutes, the civilization is left behind. Amongst the keekar and babool its hard to imagine a city. Well it is funny though that the Lal Kot means Red Fort and Lal Kot is older than Old fort.
Walking is addictive, but on an 8th century fort wall with forest on either side during early Delhi winter morning is an experience in itself. Some 20 minutes down, is a break in the wall, the masonry work suggests that this would have been the fort gate, but the imagination runs back to the attack of Ghori….suddenly the scars on the stone wall seems to weep, standing like a mature mute witness to the wild rush Delhi is experiencing today…
The serene wild and green feel of the forest turns into a manicured experience in the Mehrauli archeological park…. Well! a way to “conserve” heritage is by making them mere show pieces, and an extensive exercise to squeeze out and erase meanings from the buildings, ASI is an expert in that. The amazing baoli which was actually a madrassa….. the gora who chose to live in a tomb…. The idot who put an extra floor on Qutub minar….stories are many in the park. The Mehrauli village is far more interesting. I don’t know why one should call it a village, it’s the seat of the most revered Sufi Saint of Delhi and was the summer capital of Zafar.
Late Mughals used to come to Mehrauli during summers, then Fraizer and other goras used to come here and now the rich lots of modern Delhi have their farm houses here. It is like many other old settlements, bustling with activities….starts in the morning with the famous flower market. The flower traders still celebrate the phool walon ki sair…the age old festival of hindu muslim unity…. My favorite- there are three baolis in the location, the rajaon ki baoli in the archeological park, gandhak baoli on the edge and Qutub Sahib ki baoli right at the centre. Well, none of the baolis now seems to have clean water….Gandhak baoli had clean water when I visited last year, but who cares about water and a small monument!!!
It is more of Zafar’s legacy inside the settlement. Emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar’s devotion to Qutub Sahib is clearly shown by the proximity of his palace to the mazar. It looks like one big complex…. As I explored and compared the Zafar Mahal with Red Fort, a grassy patch stuck me ….. this is the space which Zafar left for himself to be buried at…. A modest 6 feet land, still seems waiting for his master…. More of a poet than a king, few of his last verses ran through my mind…
Umr-e daraaz se maang kar laaye the chaar din
Do aarzoo main kat gaye, do intezaar me.
(Poetry is no more when you translate it, but still…… I got 4 days to live…. 2 I spent in hope and 2 by waiting)
Bulbul se koi shikeva, na sayyad se gila
Qismat main qaid likhi thi fasl e bahaar main
Kitna hai badnaseeb, Zafar, dafn ke liye
Do gaz zameen bhi na mili koo e yaar main