January 15, 2014

Kali Gumti, Deer Park, New Delhi

Diminutive & weather-beaten, Kali Gumti is an orphan – no one knows when this thick-walled structure was built or what purpose it served – its origins are unclear, but so is its present – it stands vulnerable to vandals & its walls bear testimony to the uncouth city youth who left it disfigured with their graffiti & multi-colored sketch messages. Literally “small black-domed building”, the Gumti is probably referred as such because of its dark dome – a result of the microbial growth on the plaster layer coated with organic mortar (cow dung, fenugreek, yoghurt, lentils) – a traditional method that allow air exposure to the mortar in order to prolong building life against natural elements.

Flanked on one side by a children’s park & on another by a qibla (wall indicating the direction of Mecca, faced by Muslims when offering Namaz) that almost hugs it, the structure sits snugly atop a low, but large, plinth. The building is pierced by arched entrances on all sides except the western which serves as a mihrab (same as qibla, except that it has a roof over it) – it has been claimed that the structure served as a tomb, however there is no trace of a grave within, nor any signs of ornamentation (except for double arched niches along the mihrab & the corners) or inscription.

A little Gumti hidden in a forest

Most of the plaster coating the interiors is long gone & the walls are stripped to the rubble underneath; even the dome is threadbare with its bricks peeping out all over. On the outside, the roof of the Gumti & the top of the qibla are adorned with a line of kanguras (battlement-like ornamentation) – the overall look is sparse, militaristic – thereby conferring a 14th-15th century time frame for the Gumti’s construction (Saiyyid era (1414-51 AD)/Lodi reign(1451-1526 AD)). On the outside, the whole structure is plain except for a slight rectangular embossment around the entrances & scribbles that are just slightly older than this post. Similar embossment exists around the central (larger) niche of the qibla – the side niches are embedded within rectangles embedded in the wall. Towards its back, the qibla boasts of a tapering turret along each of its corners & another two flanking the central niche. Given its appearance, one can certainly imagine the Gumti being used as a fodder store – a fate it was subjected to till some years back when the Government finally woke up to its plight & had it cleaned up!!

Given the thick vegetation & the ground size that make Deer Park a delight for joggers & nature enthusiasts, it is no wonder that the few guards entrusted with safeguarding the monuments within the park grounds have an unenviable job – several spots within the park would have resembled forest lands were it not for un/paved paths weaving in & out of them – it is difficult to keep an eye on so many visitors entering from different gateways, many of them with the sole objective to color the monuments with their love letters, tirades & messages. I had a run in with a couple of guys writing a letter with sketch pens on the walls of the Gumti - the idiots did not even bother when informed that this is a State monument & they can’t spoil it.

Weather-beaten yet strong 

Colorful swings painted brilliant violet & vibrant orange keep the Gumti company; the place resonates with the cheerful shouts of children & the buzz of insects - the colors & merriment further add a sharp twang of contrast to this melancholy, silent corner. Visitors might shun it on account of its bone-bare condition, but the Gumti’s raw beauty lies in its rough, exposed walls, flaking plaster & the lack of any adornments. Ensconced within its close-set canopy of comforting foliage & strong trees, the Gumti espouses a tender relationship with this wilderness of whose part it has so intimately become – in fact, it is difficult to contemplate this little structure’s existence in a surrounding other than this mass of gnarled branches & tangled vines that is Deer Park.
Another piece of Delhi's history off my list; about a thousand more to go!!

Location: Deer Park
Nearest Metro Station: Hauz Khas
How to reach: One can walk from the metro station; availing a autorickshaw is advisable since the distance between the two is roughly 2 kilometers.
Entrance fees: Nil
Photography/Video charges: Nil
Time required for sightseeing: 20 min


  1. Hey Sahil.. man you are doing a great job. I myself being a history-fanatic appreciate your work and passion. Frankly speaking there are so many facets you expose of a building which leaves me with a wow feeling. You are excelled the craftsmanship of archaeology May be sometime our path could cross. Would suggest you to explore Agra, which is a super mine for people like us.

  2. Thanks a lot Premjit! Its always heartening to know that people appreciate what I'm trying to do here; and it's an ever bigger pleasure to meet fellow travellers & history-lovers. We can catch up if you are in Delhi sometime - for the coming few months I will be confined to Delhi only because of the multiple fractures I suffered a few months back.

    Agra is on my to-do list - I aim to travel throughout India and see as much as I can.
    Thank you again for stopping by. Keep reading & commenting. Cheers!