Monday, 16 January 2017

Feroz Shah Kotla

Feroz Shah Kotla; kotla being a fort or citadel, therefore Feroz Shahs Fort, but this is believed to be a palace rather than citadel. No remains of a city or fortress are in evidence, with no real defensive constructions or other tell tale signs. History tells that Feroz Shah Tughlaq built the city of Firozabad (5th City of Delhi) but no remains can be found to give any hint to where the city was once situated although its believed to have covered an extensive area covering much of North and South Delhi.

Feroz Shah Kotla was built, as was Purana Quila and Red Fort, along side the banks of the Yamuna, although that has moved eastwards over the centuries. The complex as you see it today is in a poor ruinous state, although the mosque, Baoli and pyramid building, built to showcase the ashokan pillar, have been somewhat renovated. Remains of the palaces are now in ruins. The rest of the vast sprawling complex is reminiscent of the ancient castle ruins found in the UK. This is because subsequent rulers robbed building materials from the kotla for their own magnificent constructions. 

Feroz (Firoz) Shah Tughlaq (1351-88) ruled for a short but relatively peaceful time, dying at the grand old age of 88. Historically taxes levied would have been spent on the army and the many wars waged, during Tughlaqs reign he lowered taxes and the monies from them went instead on many building works. He invested in irrigation systems and he built many many mosques. He also authorized many renovation works, including Qutub Minar and Hauz Khas. He is known for bringing the 2 Ashokan pillars to Delhi, one that is situated here at the kotla and the other on the North Delhi Ridge (all locked up when I took a visit a few months ago šŸ˜”)

Ashoka Pillar on Delhi Ridge 


Built in 1354. This step well is unusual to the others I have seen in Delhi for the fact that its round. Sadly it was locked up just 3 years ago and no access is possible any more. Although I walked around the outside, nothing is visible of the interior. The best view therefore, albeit from a far, is on top of the pyramidal building.

Best view from a top the pyramidal building 
peeking through

Pyramidal building and Ashokan Pillar

The Ashokan pillar is made of polished sandstone and stands 13 metres in height, it dates from the 3rd century BC. Written in Brahmi script there are inscriptions on the pillar that no-one could understand until they were translated by Englishman James Prinsep. He translated the writings after the pillar was damaged in an explosion, in 1838 Raja Hindu Rao had the 5 pieces repaired. It is thought that on top of the pillar there may have sat a creature, but what is known is that Feroz Shah added a small cupola. 

The inscription on the 3rd century pillar describe King Devanampiya Piyadasi's[10] policies and appeal to the people and future generations of the kingdom in matters of dharma (just, virtuous life), moral precepts and freedoms. Some extracts of the translation, per James Prinsep, are as follows:[1]
Among high roads, I have caused fig trees to be planted that they may be for shade to animals and men...
...And let these and others the most skillful in the sacred offices discreetly and respectfully use their most persuasive efforts, acting on the heart and eyes of the children, for the purposes of imparting enthusiasm and instruction in dharma (religion).
And whatsoever benevolent acts have been done by me, the same shall be prescribed as duties to the people who follow after me, and in this manner shall their influence and increase be manifest - by service to father and mother, by service to spiritual pastors, by respectful demeanor to the aged and full of years, by kindness to learned, to the orphan and destitute and servants and minstrel tribe.
And religion increaseth among men by two separate processes - by performance of religious offices, and by security against persecution. (...) And that religion may be free from the persecution of men, that it may increase through the absolute prohibition to put to death (any) living beings or sacrifice aught that draweth breath. For such an object is all this done, that it may endure to my sons and sons' sons - as long the sun and the moon shall last.
Let stone pillars be prepared and let this edict of dharma (religion) be engraven thereon, that it may endure unto the remotest ages.
— -Inscription on Ashoka Pillar, Translated by James Prinsep in 1837[1]         (from Wikipedia)

Feroz Shah brought the pillar to Delhi from Ambala in the Punjab. Its believed he had the pyramidal building constructed in 1356 purely to house it. The building contains many tiny rooms that have no obvious usage. 

A causeway links the building to the mosque at its side....


Constructed in 1354 much of the mosque above ground lies in ruins, although the large courtyard remains with some cloisters around the courtyard that are in a relatively good state. The female prayer hall is in ruins. Descend the stairs from the mosque courtyard and you come to a labyrinth of underground chambers. I was fortunate to visit on a Thursday and saw many people following the tradition of appeasing the djinns. However it felt too intrusive to take photos, especially as that would have required a flash, in the almost pitch black darkness. Djinns are genies, demons, spirits and bringers of good and bad luck which are believed to visit the earth on a Thursday and will accept requests from devotees. According to the Qu'ran, the djinn were created by Allah from a smokeless fire. In many of these underground chambers were people giving offerings, lighting candles, incense and offerings of milk and grain to appease the djinns and make requests. Apparently though this really only became popular as relatively recently ago as the 1970s. 

For whatever reason Feroz Shah Kotla remains a relatively quiet place, with few visitors compared to others, including the close by Red and Purana Forts. It really only becomes busy on a Thursday. In fact its also slightly hidden, sitting back from the main road. It can be found along Bahadur Shah Zafar Marg, next to the more famous Feroz Shah Kotla Sports ground!!!!

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