03 January 2012

Khooni Darwaza, New Delhi

The most macabre of all gates of Delhi is the notorious Khooni Darwaza. Its name itself means "gate of blood", & throughout its history the structure has seen enough bloodshed & violence to even paint its tears red & thus we have its second name "Lal Darwaza" (Red Gate). Situated opposite the entrance to the fifth city of Delhi, Feroz Shah Kotla, in the middle of a traffic divider, the gate is an impressive structure. Unlike the other gates, this gate has never been a victim of encroachment nor has a hand ever been laid on it. Thus it stands, preserved almost in its original condition, except for the grilles that prevent entry to its insides or to the upper floors. The majestic double-storied gate was once part of the several gates that Sher Shah Suri built into the wall he built for the protection of his city Shergarh. Shergarh had its headquarters at the Old Fort of Delhi - after defeating & chasing away the Mughal emperor Humayun, Sher Shah began ruling from Humayun's seat in Old Fort & added several layers of defenses to the city to protect it from a rebuttal from the disgraced Humayun (refer Pixelated Memories - Old Fort). A mighty wall enclosed the entire city, & though no traces of the wall have ever been discovered, its size & girth could be imagined by the majestic gates that punctuated it. During Sher Shah's time, the gates were known by the names of the cities they faced & the given name of the Khooni Darwaza was Kabuli Darwaza since caravans bound for Afghanistan passed in & out through this gate.

The gate is 15.5 m high & the construction materials used are strictly local and the prominent among those is Delhi quartzite stone, the frames of the windows are made up of red sandstone. There exist three separate flights of stairs leading to different levels of the gate.

Hidden amidst the foliage

The structure got its name because of the various bloodbaths committed in its premises. In the early decades of the 16th century AD, Emperor Jahangir ordered the killing of the two sons of Abdur Rahim Khan-i-Khanan here on the charges of being traitors. Their bodies were left here to rot & be eaten by birds of prey. Khan-i-Khanan himself was a noble in Jahangir's father Akbar's court & went by his name "Rahim" when composing couplets ("Rahim ke Dohe" are still taught in schools in India). He himself was opposed to the idea of Jahangir's ascension to the throne of Delhi, but perhaps later reconciled with the new emperor since his other sons have been known to be powerful generals in Jahangir's army & assisted him in various military campaigns.

In AD 1658, Aurangzeb hanged the head of his elder brother Dara Shikoh at this gate after he ousted his father Shahjahan from the throne of Delhi.

The gate is supposed to have seen bloodshed in 1739 when Delhi was ransacked by Nadir Shah of Persia. However, this is disputed - according to some sources, this massacre occurred at another gate of the same name located in the Dariba locality of Chandni Chowk (which is more likely since much of the killing was concentrated around Old Delhi, Nadir Shah himself commanding from the Red Fort & the Sunehri Masjid in Chandni Chowk).

On September 22, 1857, as a retaliation to the Sepoy Mutiny against the practices of the British East India "trading" Company, Major Hudson murdered outside this gate Mirza Mughal, Mirza Khizr & Mirza Abu Bakr, the sons & grandson of the last Mughal emperor Bahadur Shah "Zafar". The princes fought vehemently along with the mutineers but were over powered. The Khooni Darwaza was an archway during the revolt of 1857 and not a gate in its traditional sense.

The Khooni Darwaza saw bloodshed again during the riots of 1947. Many refugees were murdered here while they were proceeding towards the camp established in Old Fort.

A few stories also refer to the place being used as an execution site by Sher Shah since it was on the outskirts of the city. The heads of those executed were displayed here as a fair warning to future criminals & traitors & the gate came to be known as Khooni Darwaza since then. There is no record that mentions if Sher Shah executed people over here, nor is the gate ever mentioned by its present name before the events of 1857.

The plaque installed by A.S.I

The Khooni Darwaza is said to be haunted because of the gory incidents connected with it. Folklore says it's in the realm of spirits and djinns and blood stains can still be seen on its walls. The spirits of the slain Mughal princes are said to appear as an apparition regularly. Legend also has that blood drips from the ceiling during monsoons. Hence the name Lal Darwaza, though there are at least two other gateways known by that name - one opposite the Delhi Zoo built by Sher Shah and the other opposite Bazar Sita Ram in the Walled City built by Mirza Mughal Beg Khan as the gateway to his house during the decadent years of the Mughal Empire in the early 19th or late 18th Century.

Found in the undergrowth

Khooni Darwaza is today a protected monument under the aegis of the Archaeological Survey of India. It lies hidden among the trees with a lone watchman sitting guard. It remains closed to visitors now. Entry is prohibited by means of grilles & iron gates. You would not want to be there anyway, what if the blood starts dripping when you look up to take in the ceiling??

Location: Bahadur Shah Zafar Marg, about 2 km from Daryaganj Market.
Nearest Metro Station: New Delhi Station
How to Reach: Local buses are available for going to Purani Delhi (Old Delhi)/Red Fort. One can ply a auto from the Red Fort to reach Feroz Shah Kotla. The metro station is quite a walk from the Darwaza too & one has to take an auto from there too.
Entrance Fee: Entry prohibited
Photography/Video Charges : Nil
Relevant Links -
  1. Pixelated Memories - Delhi Zoo
  2. Pixelated Memories - Feroz Shah Kotla
  3. Pixelated Memories - Old Fort
  4. Pixelated Memories - Red Fort
  5. Pixelated Memories - Sunehri Masjid

1 comment:

  1. This is one Darwaza that has lot of stories to tell. Great work, as I started reading your one post, I could not resist myself from looking into other posts categorized under different year & months. I believe you have done extensive research, and have roots back in WB. If so, you have the natural gift of writing & narrating. – Naina Siingh