Places to visit in Delhi -Purana Qila

by admin on March 31, 2012

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Purana Qila

Purana Qila in Delhi

My first visit to Delhi was in 1981 to attend a cousin sister’s marriage. As I stepped off the Rajdhani Express, I was frantically looking for relatives to find me, being a hillbilly I felt a little claustrophobic, with a quarter of a zillion people surrounding me. 1981 was just a year before the Asian Games were about to begin. Somehow my cousin brother found me perhaps due to my tardy attire. We both boarded an Autorickshsaw and set off. Lines of semi finished over bridges greeted us on the journey while my cousin began to talk of the history of Delhi and its five thousand year old history.  He began with the epic mytho-religious scriptures of the Mahabharata wherein Delhi finds mention as the capital of the Pandavas based in a place called Indraprastha dated around 2800 BC. Though some archeological artifacts exist in the nearby Purana Qila(or Old Fort) especially in the excavations of ancient pottery, concrete evidence to link this is still missing as  seven centuries of Islamic rule coupled with British colonial rule thereafter has obliterated most of the tangible evidence. I was impressed- Delhi was five thousand years old I thought. Soon after the marriage ceremonies were over I thought I would look into Purana Qila myself.

Overcrowded Bus

An Overcrowded Bus in Delhi

So I took off on an overcrowded bus to Indraprastha and got crushed like how they crush cane juice in almost every corner of Delhi.  I found out that the legendary place was considered the first city of Delhi and how the Mahabharata mentions it with palatial mansions and numerous gates turrets and wide streets and named after Indra, the King of Gods and the Lord of War and Weather. Thus, Indraprastha was considered as a second heaven. I took a walk to Purana Quila since I didn’t want to get crushed again. It didn’t take long.  Walking on the ramparts I spoke to some people who had gathered there, I was told that the Archeological Survey of India had unearthed some Painted Grey Ware dating back to 1000BC and various other artifacts from the Mauyrian, Sunga, Kushana, Gupta, Rajput, the Delhi Sultanate and Mughal periods.

However, concrete evidence exists that it was renovated by Sher Shah Suri the first Afghan emperor in India. In stark contrast Samrat Hem Chandra Vikrmaditya the last Hindu emperor was coroneted here after he defeated Emperor Akbar’s forces   in Delhi on October 7, 1556.

I was astonished to note that it housed almost 200,000 Muslim refugees who wanted to migrate to Pakistan during the partition of India in 1947-1948.  Once inside, I found a single domed Mosque the Quila-i-Kuna, made by Sher Shah Suri in 1541, with horseshoe shaped arches. Inside the prayer hall, there were five elegant arches.   Red and white marble along with slate were used with fantastic calligraphy in the central iwan. The second floor of the Mosque was primarily used for prayers by female courtiers.

Another unique site was the Sher Mandal, built by Sher Shah Suri. Later on it was used by Humayun after he recaptured the fort. It was primarily used by Humayun as his personal observatory and library. This was also place where Humayun fell from the second storey and died on January 24, 1556. On the outer periphery is a Mosque built by Akbar’s foster mother, which was used as a madarsa later on.

Today, the fort holds a daily sound light show towards the evenings, describing the enthralling story of seven cities of Delhi which began from Indraprastha. I made up my mind. My next stop I thought, will be the Qutub Minar.

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  • Jonas Jacobsen

    Very nice… India Tours

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