Friday, 19 August 2016

Wazipur monument complex

Well, well, well, so 2 days ago a talk and tour popped up on Facebook, it jumped out at me as its just across the road as you leave Vasant Vihar. To my great surprise I saw there was a baoli just 1 mile away from where I live and apparently a cluster of lodi era tombs. Now I pass by the area everytime I leave the house, how did I not know this was here. Of course I had to go and investigate! In my defense you would have never known there was anything here, hidden behind RK Puram flats and a small well kept park, we even missed the turning off and reversed a short distance backwards along the main road, yes...I shrivelled in embarrassment ....again!

Nestled in amongst the area and sandwiched between the sikh temple, Gurudwara Sri Guru Nanak Sabha and the Hindu temple, Sri Doothnath Mahadev Mandir, you enter through iron gates next to the Gurudwara. The area opens up into a small grassy, well kept park, home to 5 lodi era tombs (1451-1526) 2 wall mosques, a stepwell and a grave platform, quite a lot to keep hidden! Sadly though all unnamed and with no knowledge of who they were built for.

To the left sits the 5 tombs and a large walled mosque 'qibla' and to the right you come immediately upon a well preserved, albeit small baoli/stepwell. Just 2 tiers in height, with 2 towers/turrets at one end and steps down to the bottom at the other. My vertigo behaved itself today and I was able to walk along the ledge to the end and look down into the well at the far end, now home to numerous well fed pigeons, no smell of bats though which made a pleasant change to many explorings. Stretching out from the left hand turret is a drainage rill. To the right of the baoli, butted right up against its walls, is a small slum area and what, by the signs and noise of much chatter, appeared to be a school.

Sitting just behind the baoli and in the corner of the site is a small walled mosque/qibla. This has much decoration adorning it (as well sadly as modern day graffiti) This qibla has 5 mihrabs (niches) and appears to be in a good state of repair.

Moving anti clockwise there is then a raised grave platform, with an unknown grave atop and next to that a simple round well, thankfully covered by a grill and a meeting point for the many pigeons it seemed.

Back up across the grass to where we started, sitting behind the gurudwara, is quite a large rubble masonary walled mosque, with many mihrabs but very little decoration.

In front of this mosque sits the 5 unknown tombs. The first sitting slightly to the rear is a small tomb sitting on ground level with arabic inscriptions and motifs. Next are a cluster of 3 domed tombs, 2 large and one small sitting in front all sharing the same plinth. and finally a smaller tomb which sits on its own plinth. This has a grave inside which appears to be in use for some form of worship. In researching I read that this tomb was home to a family as late as 2014. However today, apart from the signs of worship and a couple of chairs and litter, it didn't appear to be habitated, although there were a few locals sitting around outside of it, so who knows!

The ASI have spent some time and effort on the restoration of this site and much concrete is visible, however the tombs are still showing signs of large cracks, but after more than 500 years we can't be surprised.

Since reading and researching about this complex I have found that in 2014 the baoli was adopted by a nearby school, thanks to the research into Delhis baolis by one of their students, who has also written a book on them The area in South Delhi is home to numerous grand tombs from the lodi period was, until quite recently, covered with a few scattered villages and scrubland, now however with new colonies, villages and slum areas being built in modern times, the tombs and mosques and Lodi history has been swallowed by the urbanization, no wonder you miss them. I am so pleased to have heard about these this week and of course after much research I've found another 8 nearby to investigate.....

Wednesday, 17 August 2016

Najaf Khans Tomb. The Last Mughal General

Just 1km south of Safdarjungs magnificent mausoleum, hidden away sits the simple tomb of the last Mughal General. Its so hidden that when we first tried to find it my driver stopped in the middle of 4 lanes of traffic to ask directions! - cue, hands over eyes in embarrassment!

Mirza Najaf Khan lived 1723 - 26 April 1782, known as the Last Mughal General he was also known as..... His Excellency Bakshi ul-Mamilkat, Vakil-i-Mutlaq, Amir ul-Umara, Rustam-i-Hind, Zulfiqar ud-Daula, Nawab Mirza Najaf Khan Bahadur and Ghalib Jang!!!! Phew.....He was born in Persia of royal lineage, tracing his family back to Prince Safavi, a royal line that would be overthrown by Nader Shah in 1735, during the Caucasus Campaign of the Ottoman - Persian war. 

During his time as general he made sweeping changes to the military, bringing in wages, new ways of fighting, modern weapons and revolutionised the army and ways of warfare. Much is written about this but, to be honest, I have very little interest in military strategies etc, but feel free to delve deeper if interested. Although the Mughal empire was in its decline, whilst the army was under his control the city of Shahjahanabad (Old Delhi in essence) was secure, but following his death the empire soon fell and came under Sikh rule.

The tomb of Najaf Khan was meant to be the last garden tomb or 'Charbagh' but it was never completed, although it is up for discussion as to whether it was indeed never completed or whether it was intentionally left as just a single simple platform with the graves below.  The platform sits within the centre of the geometric garden (recently replanted and designed) surrounded by solid walls. The area shows signs of ruination but the ASI (Archaeological Society of India) have worked on the site and have halted the decay and now it lends itself to a quiet place to visit, or indeed play cricket if you notice the chalk graffiti stumps etched onto the walls of the tomb! There is no grand mausoleum or highly decorated dome that we have become used to seeing throughout the environs of Delhi. It is just simple and plain with arches and niches and a few flower motifs. Built from red sandstone and a small amount of marble. Although the cenotaphs sit above ground level the tombs of Najaf khan lies beneath and that of his daughter Fatima who died in 1820. Khan did have an adopted son Najaf Quli Khan who later converted to Hinduism. 

The entrance gateway to the garden and tomb has long since collapsed and just ruins remain, although steps up to the next level are still visible and have been restored.

I think it is well worth visiting here just for the simple reason that it is different, unique. Nothing ostentatious, grand, highly decorated, just a simple single storey platform, home to The Last Mughal General. 

Map of Najaf Khan's Tomb, Lodi Estate, Block G, Police Colony, Lodi Colony, New Delhi, Delhi (state) 110003

Najaf Khan's Tomb, Lodi Estate, Block G, Police Colony, Lodi Colony, New Delhi, Delhi (state) 110003

Tuesday, 16 August 2016

Safdarjungs Tomb

This has to be one of my favourite places to spend a quiet couple of mid week hours. I cant vouch for weekends, but each time I've paid a morning visit it has always been relatively quiet with few tourists, although it is high on the tourist list of places to visit.

This monumental garden tomb was built for Safdarjung who lived from 1708 - 5 Oct 1754. Born Mirza Muqim Abul Mansur Khan he was given the name Safdarjung by the Mughal Emperor Muhammad Shah. For many years he had ruled Avadh/Oudh under Muhammad Shah before relocating to Delhi after the emperors death. Here he became chief minister, Vizier (Wazir ul-Mamalk-i-Hindustan) The king was weak and Safdarjung ruled in all but name, until he became too powerful and there was an uprising instigated by the kings family and followers. He was driven out of Delhi in 1753 before subsequently dying in 1754. His son Nawab Shujaud Daula had the tomb built in 1754 by an Abyssinian architect, robbing much of the sandstone and marble from Khan-i-khana tomb, Nizamuddin, which I visited a few months ago and is currently undergoing vast restoration works!

It is the last tomb built in the design of the much larger Humayuns tomb design, which sits some 3 kms to the East of Safdarjungs along Lodhi road. Like that of its grander cousin, the central mausoleum sits in the centre surrounded by the traditional geometric walled gardens. The main entrance is very grand, imposing and highly decorated in itself. The 2 storey building contains many rooms including a library, with a mosque to the right of the entrance, with several domes atop its roof. 

The tomb measures 28 metres square and has a high central dome with 4 towers in each corner, heavily decorated with several arches and niches, surrounding the slightly off square building. Unlike Humayuns tomb and the Taj Mahal, which was modelled upon Humayuns, the 4 minarets/towers at each corner are still attached to the tomb, whereas with both the Taj Mahal and Humayun, they sit away at a distance in each of the 4 corners. Although stunning and in my mind perfectly formed, it is apparently derided by some as it is in fact not geometrical or square, reportedly poorly designed with no symmetry and lack of proportion! personally it still gets a WOW from me! As mentioned before this is one of my favourites, the Taj Mahal is grand and awe inspiring and vast, Humayuns is equally stunning but smaller and made from sandstone as well as marble but sits on a large complex which can be very busy. Safdarjungs feels like its quieter cousin, serene and beautiful but happy and content to take the quieter back seat :) 

The garden is encompassed by a 280 metre wall on each of its 4 sides with rills/streams and tanks/ponds dividing the garden into squares, the regularity appeals to my sense of equality and perfection! The rills lead to the main entrance gateway and to 3 pavilions in the centre of the 4 walls. In the West sits Jangli mahal (Palace of the forest) in the North, Moti Mahal (Pearl palace) and in the South sits Badshah Pasand (Kings favourite) for many years these were home to Safdarjungs extended family. 

Well worth a visit and to perhaps bring a book to read and sit under one of the many mature trees within the garden. From here its just a short 5-10 minute walk into the nearby Lodi Gardens and a visit to the tombs this pretty park contains.