December 28, 2012

Rectangular Canopy, Mehrauli Archaeological Park, Delhi

Seated ungracefully and asymmetrically adjacent the monumental mausoleum of Prince Muhammad “Khan Shahid” (refer Pixelated Memories - Khan Shahid's Tomb) which unarguably overshadows its mere presence, a rectangular pavilion structure, an unusual kind of “Barakhamba” (“twelve-pillared construction”), composed thoroughly of unmalleable grey Delhi quartzite stone and surmounted by a pyramidal roof, exists within the beautifully desolate Mehrauli Archaeological Park which overlooks the massive Qutb complex where are located some of the foremost specimens of early Indo-Islamic architectural and artistic heritage (refer Pixelated Memories - Qutb Complex). Perennially ignored and subjected to a state of forgotten existence underneath a canopy of enormous trees with gnarled branches and lush foliage, the structure, itself not very different from a canopy, could have originally functioned as a mausoleum or a guardhouse or a resting pavilion – it is no longer known why it was constructed nor who commissioned it or when – while some historians classify it as Mughal-era (AD 1526-1857), others conjecture it to be the tomb of Maulana Majduddin Haji (died AD 1233), a 13th-century Islamic cleric who was a disciple of the famed Sufi mendicant-saint Sheikh Shihabuddin Suharwardy and held religious discourses and imparted judicial instructions during the reign of Sultan Iltutmish (ruled AD 1211-36).

The Heart of Darkness

Impressed by the Maulana's command over jurisprudence and religious decrees, the Sultan conferred upon him the position of "Wazir" (Prime Minister) from which however he subsequently requested to be relieved of following two diligent years in office. He was renowned far and wide for the several pilgrimages he undertook to Mecca (believed to be no less than a dozen in number!), but is said to have stayed aloof from his contemporary Hazrat Qutbuddin Bakhtiyar Kaki (regarded as the foremost in line of the Chishti sect of Sufi saints who graced Delhi with their hallowed presence, refer Pixelated Memories - Hazrat Kaki's Dargah) since he possessed little regard for musical assemblies and congregations as a mean of divine reverence which the latter however was extremely passionate about.

The structure must have indeed been evocatively spellbinding in its former elegant state when it still possessed in its entirety the considerably beautiful calligraphy inscriptions and geometric patterned artwork painted on the undersurface of its diminutive roof. In stark contrast to the unornamented, unchiseled pillars, the obstinately well-preserved patterns, envisaged within plasterwork framework embossments, are some of the most astonishingly splendid that exist in Delhi and yet few visitors, if any, stop by to explore and observe them. The sad state of affairs is that even the archaeological authorities have come to accept that when a city is literally littered with over a thousand monuments and relics from its ancient civilizational history, why bother with a single, inconsequential structure, and thus while the larger, historically important monuments nearby are being restored and chemically treated, it has been forgotten once more. One can only hope the status quo won’t be for long.

Delhi's best kept secret

Location: Mehrauli Archaeological Park
Nearest Metro station: Qutb Minar
Nearest Bus stop: Lado Serai
How to reach: The Archaeological Park's entrance is immediately opposite Lado Serai bus stop at the intersection of Mehrauli-Badarpur and Badarpur-Gurgaon roads. Walk/avail an auto from Qutb Minar metro station or avail a bus from Saket metro station. Sandstone markers indicate the routes to different monuments inside the park.
Photography/Video charges: Nil
Time required for sightseeing: Approx. 20 min
Note – There are no facilities (toilets, food or drinking water) available within the Archaeological Park. While you can avail food & refreshments at one of the restaurants at Lado Serai, you can only find toilets at the shopping malls close to Saket Metro Station, almost a kilometre away. The park remains deserted in the evenings and is best avoided then by female enthusiasts.
Other monuments within the Archaeological Park premises –
  1. Pixelated Memories - Balban's Tomb 
  2. Pixelated Memories - Chaumukh Darwaza 
  3. Pixelated Memories - Gandhak ki Baoli 
  4. Pixelated Memories - Jamali Kamali Complex 
  5. Pixelated Memories - Khan Shahid's Tomb 
  6. Pixelated Memories - Lodi-era Canopy Tomb 
  7. Pixelated Memories - Lodi-era Tomb 
  8. Pixelated Memories - Metcalfe's Chattri  
  9. Pixelated Memories - Metcalfe's Ziggurats 
  10. Pixelated Memories - Mughal Tombs and Choti Masjid Bagh wali  
  11. Pixelated Memories - Rajon ki Baoli  
  12. Pixelated Memories - Settlement ruins  
  13. Pixelated Memories - Quli Khan's Tomb
Other monuments/landmarks located nearby - 
  1. Pixelated Memories - Ahinsa Sthal 
  2. Pixelated Memories - Azim Khan's Tomb
  3. Pixelated Memories - Hazrat Kaki's Dargah
  4. Pixelated Memories - Moti Masjid
  5. Pixelated Memories - Qutb Complex
  6. Pixelated Memories - Unmarked Ruins

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