Monuments and Historical Ruins of Delhi


The following article is a brief journey through the Monuments and Historical Ruins of Delhi.

Almost paradoxically, this rapidly changing, growing and global city is also a city of monuments and historical ruins. A city which is been built and destroyed many times. Mostly, such remains are medieval in origin and are Islamic in character owing to the fact that Delhi was ruled primarily by the Muslim rulers.

The tourists intending to see pre-Islamic ancient remains may visit the site of the Rock Edict of the Buddhist Emperor Ashoka (273-236 BC) near Sriniwaspuri (South Delhi) which contains the appeal of the great humanitarian monarch of his people to follow the path of righteousness. Further collaboration of the same theme is also available in his inscriptions on two pillars, one in Firoz Shah Kotla and other on the ridge in North Delhi.

The architecture of Delhi in the medieval period is Islamic in nature and design. Standard Indo-Islamic architecture with developed techniques and refined features, like the pointed true arch, low dome and geometric decoration, emerged during the Khalji period. Of the extant structural specimens of the Khalji period, Alai Darwaza in the Qutub complex is the finest show-piece.

Tughluq architecture is characterized by plain exteriors, pointed arches and doorways with lintels. During the periods of the Saiyads and Lodhis, some of the structural features of Tughluq monuments underwent modification; the octagonal type of tombs with a veranda around it and kiosks above became popular.

Edifices raised during the Mughal period, however, represent the best of Delhi's structural style and are a pride of India.

The Mughal monuments also possess traditional Hindu and late Sultanate traits. Shahjahanabad has some fine examples of architecture of the time of Shah Jahan and later kings. The main attractions among the remains of ancient Delhi is the ruined Quwwatu'l Islam (Might of Islam) Mosque complex inside the Tomar Fortress. Built originally by Qutubuddin during 1192-1198, out of the demolished Hindu Temples, as a congregational mosque, it consists of a courtyard, cloisters and a prayer hall. To enhance its elevation grace, a lofty arched-screen was erected facing the prayer hall. A fascinating aspect of the edifice is the enclosing wall and corridor of reutilised Hindu carved pillars. In the courtyard of the mosque stands a rust-free iron pillar, raised originally as a standard of Lord Vishnu, by Chandra Gupta, a ruler of 4th Century AD.

Qutubuddin Started building the Qutub Minar in 1199 as a memorial of victory and also as an accessory to the adjoining mosque, to call the faithful to prayer. The minar is a tapering tower of five tiers.

Alai Darwaza is the southern entrance to the enlarged enclosure of Qutub Complex, added by Allauddin in 1311. Its well finished form using the principle of the arch and treatment and decorations in a mixture of red sandstone and marble illustrates a maturity in structural experience. Amongst other remains of the complex is the rather ornate tomb of Sultan Iltutmish.

A little west of Qutub Minar is the township of Mehrauli, with its narrow conventional bazaar. It has two notable shrines: the temple of Goddess Jogmaya and the tomb of Muslim divine Khwaja Bakhtyar Kaki (1336) visited by local pilgrims.

Other interesting monuments in Mehrauli include Adham Khan's tomb, Shamsi Tank, Jahaz Mahal and Jamali's Tomb with its coloured ceiling. Built by the first Tughlaq ruler on rocky ground with high rubble walls, Tughlaqabad was a well planned city with a citadel and a large reservoir to its south. The most well preserved monument here is the mausoleum of Ghiyasuddin Tughlaq. It is a red stone edifice with sloping walls and a marble dome enclosed within a mini fortress, with bastions and battlements.

On his way back from Tughlaqabad a visitor may see within the ruined Jahanpanah some notable Tughlaq buildings like Khirki Mosque modelled like a tiny fortress, Begampuri Mosque with its extensive facade and the damaged mansion called the Bijay Mahal.


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