Red Fort Delhi History Timings Stories and Secrets of Kings and Begums

Red Fort Delhi is a treasure chest of tales if only, you and I cared to stop and listened to its stones. As a frequent traveler to this fort, I have paused at its gates, and in its rooms and wondered about the enchanting history of this monument.

 

Red Fort Delhi
After centuries of rule by the Mughals over this Fort, our national flag flutters proudly atop the Lahore Gate

The Red Fort Delhi stories

 

I do not want this post to be a travel guide; this post will be more about the history of Red Fort and its most famous inhabitants-the Mughals.

While I will introduce you to the various monuments of Red Fort Delhi, I shall also tell you the various events associated with them.

I hope you enjoy these stories.

Veil of the Bride

 

Visitors enter the Red Fort Delhi via the Lahore Gate. This gate faces the city of Lahore in Pakistan.

Now you will wonder about the nomenclature of this gate. No? Well, in the earlier days, Lahore was very much a part of Mughal India and was an important city. Lahore was also the springboard for any military campaigns directed at Afghanistan. At that time, Afghanistan was called Kandhar. Invaders headed to India had to conquer Kandhar first.

Well, in the earlier days, Lahore was very much a part of Mughal India and was an important city. It was also the springboard for any military campaigns directed at Afghanistan. At that time, Afghanistan was called Kandahar and invaders headed to India had to conquer Kandhar first.

Read Exciting events in Delhi this week you must not miss at any cost

When the Red Fort first came up in 1648, the Lahore Gate used to face Chandni Chowk. But, when Aurangzeb assumed power in 1659, he changed the direction of this Gate by 90 degrees. The new Emperor wanted to twist the approach to the Fort.

 

Upon hearing this change in alignment, Shahjehan, the father of Aurangzeb, wrote a moving letter to Aurangzeb. He was in the captivity of his son at that time. Among other things, Shahjehan lamented that this change was like a putting a veil on the face of a bride.

Red Fort Delhi Fact #1

 

Did you know that Shahjahan was imprisoned by his third son Aurangzeb after the latter defeated Dara Shukoh in a battle?  Dara was the elder son of Shahjahan and was next in line to become the Emperor. Aurangzeb kept his captive father in the Agra Red Fort.

Meant for bows and arrows, not guns

 

The Red Fort walls are bows and arrows based defensive structures. These battlements were not adapted for guns and canons. This is surprising because the Mughals had introduced the artillery in India way back in 1526. In that year, the Mughals had defeated the Lodhis in the first battle of Panipat.

Watch this excellent video to appreciate the history of the Mughals:

https://youtu.be/fileKe_ydRs

I think that when Shahjahan built this Fort in 1648, he thought that there won’t be any attacks to his palace for a long time. He was clever and industrious and had brought a large part of India under his control. During Shahjahan’s time, the Mughal Empire was quite secure from external attacks.

Red Fort Delhi
Clearly, the walls are not meant for guns and canons

When Aurangzeb came to power in 1659, initially he faced very little opposition from his enemies. However, after 15 years of his rule, Aurangzeb realized that he was not secure from external attacks. Tearing down the fort walls was impossible so he decided to change the direction of the gate.

Call Now at 9810840763 for your trip to Red Fort

Meena Bazaar- the Mall of Lust

 

Just as you enter the Red Fort Delhi, you are greeted by two rows of shops. This is a medieval era bazaar and has survived more than 360 years of turmoil. The name of this market is Chhatta Bazaar and has a very interesting history behind it.

Chhatta Bazaar
In the good old days, this bazaar was the pride of the Mughal Empire

Unconfirmed reports say that this roofed market in the Red Fort came into being after Shahjahan saw a market like this in Peshawar.

Red Fort Delhi
Avenue de’ luxury

The Chhatta Bazaar was also called Meena Bazaar in the earlier days. Do you know why? It is said that during the 9 days of Nauroz, only the ladies belonging to the elite of the Mughal Empire could set up their stalls here. The only male who could come here and shop was the Emperor himself. The Emperor used to haggle a lot with the beautiful ladies in this bazaar. It also was a good opportunity for him to entice some of them to his harem.

Forbes says that Shahjahan gifted his wife one of the most expensive gifts of all time.

Much more than a mere mall

 

The Meena Bazaar or the Chhatta Bazaar was much more than a small time market. The Mughals used this mall to impress the visiting envoys with their opulence. On display in this market were some of the finest materials that the world had seen- perfume, spices, bullion, textiles, muslin etc.

Bangles
The Chhatta Bazaar is no longer a luxury mall now. Shops sell trinkets here now such as these bangles

From Agra to Delhi


One thing has always puzzled me; why did the Mughals shift their capital from Agra to Delhi? They were quite settled in Agra which gave them strategic space to fan out in the rebellious Deccan and Rajputana. Shahjahan did not face any significant threat from his enemies for most of his rule so what made him go 250 kilometers up north?

Shahjahan’s dad, Jahangir

 

Our Red Fort Delhi story begins with Jahangir. I could have started with Akbar and Humayun but their connection with this monument is very indirect. I would dwell on them some other day in this post.

Image result for images of jahangir
Salim, also known as Jahangir, was an unworthy successor to Akbar. Image Creds: Forbes

Jahangir was an indolent man. Probably, Salim (Jahangir) in his later years, did not want to come to this world at all. Mughal records say that his mother, could not conceive him for many years until she was pressed into the service of Salim Chishti. We do not know about the nature of service that she performed but, her child was duly named after the Sufi saint.

Read “The Fall of the Mughal Empire by Jadunath Sarkar

Salim grew up to be an indolent man. He was an opiate and a heavy drunkard. God knows how he picked up these bad habits. Salim had a weak spirit and a weaker mind and was quite unlike his father in many respects.

The affair of Khusro- Part 1

 

Akbar preferred Khusro over Salim as his successor. But, who was Khusro?

Khusro was one of the sons of Salim. The latter had other sons as well and one of them was Khurram, but right now we will talk only about Khusro.

Image result for images of Khusro
Khusro lies buried in this garden tomb at Allahabad, India Image Creds: Wikipedia

When Akbar fell sick, he thought of anointing Khusro as his successor. To Akbar, Khusro was an ideal successor. He was handsome, industrious, clever and clever. Akbar thought that Khusro would manage the Mughal Empire well. Akbar;s close confidantes did not think that way, however.

Would you like to take a guided tour of Red Fort Delhi?

This is the event link- http://go.eventshigh.com/32dd

For making payments, please clickk here- https://ticketing.eventshigh.com/checkout.jsp?src=fbTicketWidget&eid=031d7dd548286a84edb2198883d36a40

However, things did not go the way as Akbar had planned. Akbar’s close relatives forced him to change his mind and ultimately, Salim succeeded Akbar upon the latter’s death in 1605.

The affair of Khusro- Part 2

 

Khusro had a Hindu mother and a Muslim father. His mother was a Rajput and belonged to Amber. His father, Jahangir was, of course, the son of Akbar.

This extraordinary man was handsome, well-spoken and tactful. He had several followers but none of them gave him sound advice.

Read Fort India
One of the pillars supporting the terrace of Diwan-e-Aam, or Hall of Public Audience

When Jahangir ascended the throne after his father’s death, the latter decided to keep a close watch on Khusro. One day, the son came up to Jahangir and asked for permission to visit Akbar’s tomb. Jahangir agreed readily to his son’s request but decided to keep an eye on him. Khusro left the Agra Fort accompanied by 300 soldiers and reached Sikandra, where his grandfather was buried. After praying at the grave of Akbar, Khusro left for Mathura which is 50 kilometers from Agra.

The spies duly informed Jahangir of Khusro’s moves.

After spending some time at Mathura, Khusro left for Delhi, 200 kilometers from Mathura. From Delhi, Khusro and his train departed for Punjab, where he met Guru Arjan Dev.

Clearly, Khusro had something in his mind.

Jahangir-Khusro faceoff

 

All this while, Jahangir was tracing Khusro. He finally cornered his wayward son in Lahore. Khusro, at that time, was trying to capture the Lahore Fort.

A battle ensued between the father and son and ultimately Jahangir defeated Khusro.

Khusro was imprisoned and brought to Delhi along with his supporters. They were lined up on both sides of the main street in Delhi and later impaled alive. Khusro was made to watch this spectacle.

Manbai’s dilemma

 

All this while, Manbai, the mother of Khusro was confused. She could not decide whether her husband, Jahangir was right or whether Khusro needed to be supported by her.

One fine day, she consumed a lot of opium and committed suicide. Manbai was sad at the turn of events unfolding in the Mughal household.

The Noorjahan saga

 

The story of Red Fort Delhi would be incomplete without Noorjehan or Noorjahan who was Jehangir’s wife.

Salim or Jehangir was a prisoner of her charms and did all that what was told to him by her. He was her virtual prisoner, so the records say.

Noorjehan was the only Mughal empress to have coinage struck in her name.[5] She was often present when the Emperor held court, and even held court independently when the Emperor was unwell. The Empress was given charge of his imperial seal, implying that her perusal and consent were necessary before any document or order received legal validity. The Emperor sought her views on most matters before issuing orders.(Creds- Wikipedia)

Noorjehan was already in her 30’s when she married the Mughal Emperor, Jahangir. He was her second husband; her first husband, Sher Afghan, was killed in a duel.

Some people say that he was killed on the orders of Jahangir, who was jealous of Sher Afghan.

Read here about Noorjehan

Noorjehan already had a child, Ladli Begum who was fathered by Sher Afghan, when she entered the harem of Jahangir.

The Conspiracy

 

Sometime after her marriage, Noorjehan and Jahangir ran into opposition by some old Akbar faithful courtiers like Mahabat Khan. The old noble had served Akbar well but thought that Jahangir was unworthy of the Mughal throne.

You will be surprised to know that the Khan was once the Commander-in-Chief of the Mughal Army during Jehangir’s rule. So why did Mahabat revolt against his Emperor?

It is said that many Mughal nobles in Jehangir’s court felt insecure at seeing the rapid rise of this man from Persia.And you know what happens in these cases. Some of the jealous nobles told the Queen that Mahabat Khan was acting pricey and did not respect the royal family.

What do you think, Noorjehan did to counter Mahabat Khan?

(To be continued)

How to reach Red Fort Delhi– Delhi Metro offers excellent connectivity to this place. You can take a Metro from Rajiv Chowk or any other station in Gurgaon. Get off at the Chandni Chowk Metro Station and take a rickshaw.

You can also take a Metro from Mandi House and get down at the Red Fort Metro station.

Red Fort Delhi Timings– Open on all days, except Mondays. Timings- 9.30 am -6 pm.

 

 

 

 

 

Delhi travel-Begums,Concubines,Maids and their affairs-Red Fort Stories

This Delhi travel post is all about storytelling. If you want to know more about the Great Mughals, then join me on this tour.

Red Fort Delhi

Are you planning to travel to Delhi? Then let me make your Delhi travel experience a little more memorable with this post.

Interested? Read on…

Venue
Red  Fort, Delhi
Delhi travel
With a few of my guests at Red Fort, Delhi
What’s on offer?

Listen to the untold stories of the Mughal emperors, their princes, princesses and other members of their family. You won’t find these stories in the various guide books such as Lonely Planet etc.

Delhi travel
That’s yours truly in one of the storytelling sessions

Still interested?Wow, this means I have captured your attention. Read on to know more about the offer in this Delhi travel package…

Do you know that there was a Mughal king who had more than 700 wives and concubines and wanted a fresh girl every day to satisfy his lust? Ummm..is not that interesting?

Delhi travel
Sonia from Chicago, found the Spice market absolutely riveting

Who was that Mughal prince who gave up his life for the love of his wife? He did not want to marry again and was steadfast in his loyalty to his only wife.

The strange case of the Mughal princess who had had her own poetry sessions in the lawns of the Delhi Red Fort. She was later imprisoned by her father and died a lonely death in the imperial jail. Who was she?

 

O breakfast of the Emperor, look at me

The Mughal Emperor Shahjahan who built this magnificent building more than 350 years ago, had a glad eye towards women. Who was that woman who was titled, ” Breakfast of the Emperor” and what fate had befallen upon her in the harem?

Jamali Kamali tomb
The Sufi and his lover sleep here; Jamali Kamali tomb in Mehrauli

 

Malls of lust…

Hear me share delightful and untold stories about the Mughal harem. Do you know what a harem means? It was a big place that housed the begums, concubines, princesses and of course the maids.

Delhi travel
A trader sells “jalebis” in Old Delhi, it is yummy
The story of the dog and the ass

Wow, you won’t believe that in the 18th century, there lived a begum ( wife of the king) who had had a secret affair with a eunuch! Now how can that be possible, ladies and gentlemen? Well, these are the stories my Delhi travel package is all about.

There are more stories on the anvil and all this is just a fraction of them.

Package includes
  • Trip to Red Fort, Delhi
  • A cycle rickshaw ride in the bye-lanes of Old Delhi
  • We also walk through the biggest spice market of Asia, the Khari Baoli market
  • If your constitution permits, we shall have some street food as well.
Price

Rs. 1,500 per person. Children below 12 years come free.Payment can be made in cash, at the end of the trip.

Ticket Price does not include
  • Your conveyance to the point of assembly (Red Fort Ticket Counter)
  • Entry ticket to the Red Fort
  • Any curios that you might want to buy
  • Cycle rickshaw ride cost
  • Any object that you may want to buy in the market
Ticket Price INCLUDES
  • Snacks ( Tea/ coffee plus samosas/ sandwiches etc.)
Timings

10 a.m. The duration will exceed 5 hours.

Delhi travel
This temple in Chandni Chowk has an interesting story behind it, what is that?

You may contact me at 9810840763 if you are interested in this package. Alternately, please send me an email at swayamt@gmail.com and I will be happy to connect.

Please note that Red Fort is closed on Mondays and a few government holidays.

Kindly give me an advance notice ( 24 hours or before) so that we can stitch things up nicely.

Thanks and bye.

 

 

Surajkund Mela

Surajkund Mela – A Photoblog for travelers visiting Delhi

The Surajkund Mela 2017 for you in pictures. For foreign  travelers visiting India around this time , this is the place to go to and take pictures. You will find a riot of colors, some out of the world folk music and dance and a lot of happy people.

Colors galore at Surajkund Mela 2017
Surajkund Mela
You will immerse  yourself in a sea of colors in this Mela

 

 

Surajkund Mela
Click me, please
Surajkund 2017
We could not resist a cuppa

We just could not resist starting our tour of the Surajkund Mela with a cup of chai. Ha, I am sure even you too would do the same which we did!

Surajkund Mela
This Panditji is prescribing something for his bhakts.

“Be pure, buy pure’, is the message of this jolly Panditji here.  I agree with him. Do you?

Surajkund Mela
Up in the sky….

You can’t help looking in amazement at the gateway to this fair. This image represents the traditional icons of Chhattisgarh, one of the states  participating in the Surajkund Mela.

Surajkund Mela
India is the land of music

If you try to escape music, it will find you somewhere. And , we have lots of music. Why don’t you check out the Surajkund Mela to find out the kind of music these people are playing?

The amazing life of the Banjaras

We found a group of nomads, called Banjaras, in this fair. They have lived in bullock carts for more than 450 years now.

Surajkund Mela
These are the Banjaras or nomads from Rajasthan

These people are also called Gadia Lohars, meaning iron smiths who live in their caravans. I have written a post on them elsewhere in this blog.

Surajkund Mela
Trifle disappointed to see this child in just whites!

Us Indians have this crazy habit of smiling at any random stranger and this child is no stranger to this phenomenon.

Surajkund Mela
Close by, Lord Ganesha enjoys the show!

 Lord Ganesha rides a mouse and is one of the most lovable gods in India and we invoke his blessings before very initiative.

Surajkund Mela
Isn’t he handsome?

 Our artisans and craftsmen work really very hard and use a lot of creativity to bring such statues to life!

Surajkund Mela
Are they gambling?

I thought of joining these well dressed village folk but realized, I did not have enough money…Ha ha ha

Surajkund Mela
Aha, the joys of dancing!

You have time till February 15 to be a part of this spectacle. Don’t miss this show.

Surajkund Mela
Would you want to join them?

These lovely women are from the Indian state of Jharkhand.

Surajkund Mela
Thanks for clicking me! Musicians from Jharkhand

If you are planning to travel to offbeat destinations in India, then Jharkhand is the place to be in.

Surajkund Mela
That’s me with Mr. Ravan

This gentleman is one Mr. Mohammad and  plays the role of Ravan in Ramleelas. Thank you Sir, for posing with me.

Surajkund Mela
Ha Ha Ha

I have never had a photo of myself like this….

Surajkund Mela
That’s a lot of colors, really
Surajkund Mela
Enjoy the cup of life!
Surajkund Mela
Some selfies are mandatory

No, I don’t like myself as I am all puffed up!

That’s it all folks, thank you.

Delhi photoblog

Delhi photoblog-the city comes to life

My mobile camera encouraged me to do a Delhi photoblog  while coming back from the Red Fort last Sunday. Since a large number of my readers live outside India ( I hate the term ‘foreigners’) , a photoblog like this one would be in order for them. Many of them see Delhi through the eyes of tourist places and hotels and they do not get to see how people in India actually live their lives.

Let me know if you like this Delhi photoblog. It would be better if you suggested improvements. Some pics are crappy, but I am not  a professional photographer, you see.

Delhi photoblog
The Lodhi  Colony Art District

The staid government colony, Lodhi colony, is undergoing an image makeover these days. Graffiti is making this habitat an interesting place for the backpackers.

Whomsoever has planned and executed this project deserves my kudos.

Speaking of doors, I found this one..isn’t it pretty?

Delhi photoblog
Can you imagine the age of this beautiful door? My guess is it is more than 220 years old.
Delhi photoblog
Is she a goddess or is she a beautiful girl?

Can you guess who she is? I think she is a working woman. Carrying her child on her back, she is seen flitting from home to school to back to home. She can be found in places as diverse as New York, Nigeria, Japan or Delhi.No?

Delhi photoblog
This lady reminds me of the American Indians

What is the grandmother saying? Can you guess? Perhaps, she is pleading to save the environment. “Save trees.”

Delhi photoblog
Delhi has never looked this beautiful

Yes, the ladies need to be fearless. Whether young or old, they should look the world into its eye.

Mornings=Tea Time

Delhi Photoblog
Chai, Chai

Delhi photoblog would be incomplete without this picture. Our mornings begin with chai. This chaiwalla uncle is preparing tea for his guests. I am calling this gentleman an uncle because he is  a little younger than my dad.

The most famous chaiwalla ( tea-seller) of India is our Prime Minister, Narendra Modi. He used to sell tea in the trains and railway stations in his teens.

Delhi photoblog
A chaiwalla brews up some excellent tea

This is paradise my friends, paradise. If you like this photo, the credit goes to my Gionee camera.

Bliss!

Delhi photoblog
She too is a mother. Don’t you dare touch my kids, she is saying

My kids would have hijacked some of these pups had they been around ;)))

Morning News !

Elsewhere, a gent is catching up on some morning news.

Delhi photoblog
The printed word still is still trusted by many when it comes to news.

Setting up shop

Delhi photoblog
A panoply of colors

Can you imagine India without color? I took this snap when a shopkeeper had just opened up his stall to sell bangles. Gods and bangles jostle for space in this stall.

Delhi photoblog
The spice seller at Chandni Chowk

India has always been known as the land of spices. I read in my history classes that the Romans and Egyptians used to trade their bullion for our spices which is not a bad deal after all!

Sharing is caring

Delhi photoblog
Many Indians start their morning by sharing their foods with animals

We share our spaces, roads, homes and even food with animals and I hope you like this photo from the Delhi photoblog.

Color my skies

Elsewhere, our skies were getting ready to welcome their guests- the kites.

Delhi photoblog
This was the first time Delhi played host to an international kite flying festival

People in Delhi fly kites on January 26th and August 15 but this was the first time that kite flying  was promoted on an international scale in the city. Good effort but a lot of distance to cover.

If you were around, you could have bought a few puppets as well  in the festival.

Delhi photoblog
Puppets have their own tales to tell

Kathputlis or puppets are dying in Delhi. When I was young, I could see many puppeteers around and telling stories about folk heroes through the kathputlis. Video  and mobile games have replaced this popular form of entertainment and alas, our kids don’t know much about this craft. Puppeteers use their hands and voice skilfully to recount ancient tales of folk heroes and heroines.

Delhi photoblog
This joker was balancing dominoes as part of his entertainment duties

A jeep hauls up a heavy kite!

Delhi photoblog

I have flown kites when I was in teens  but never knew that some of them need to be hauled up by jeeps!

Have you ever flown kites?

Madame Tussauds

Madame Tussauds- Shortly at Regal Cinema in Delhi

Madame Tussauds
Credits- Youtube

Madame Tussauds, the eponymous wax museum in London that celebrates success by installing wax figurines of celebrities  comes to India in 2017, April. In India, it will be Delhi that will have the privilege to host the museum. It is interesting to note that one of the oldest buildings in New Delhi, the Regal Cinema will house the museum. India Travel Blog takes you through the history of Madame Tussauds  and Regal Cinema in this post.

History of Regal Cinema

The Regal Cinema building in Delhi is an apt place for Madame Tussaud’s for the simple reason that both the  two institutions are eminently British in origin and heritage.

Madam Tussauds
Regal Cinema, Delhi ,credits- India.com

The Regal cinema building came up in Delhi in 1931, a few years after the Connaught Place was set up by the English architects. The designer/ architect of Regal Cinema was Sir Sobha Singh. This Singh was once described as “adhi Dilli ka Malik” or owner of half of Delhi. Do you know that this cinema came up  right after the introduction of talking movies in the early 1930s?

Sobha Singh was quite a an influential person in his heydays. Besides being the creator of the Regal Cinema , he also made some parts of The Rashtrapati Bhawan, South Block, India Gate , Modern School, Dyal Singh College and the National Museum. Madame Tussauds has no less an impressive history. The originator of this world famous wax museum, Marie Tussaud  was born in 1761 in Strasbourg, France . The lady has the honour of making the wax figurines of people like Voltaire , Benjamin Franklin and Rousseau.

The history of Connaught Place, now Rajiv Chowk is no less interesting. The site of this famous Delhi landmark was earlier occupied by jungles and villages. It was only after several rounds of persuasion and force that the villagers left their homes and settled elsewhere. Today, the site is covered with colonial styled buildings and stores. Connaught Place is ranked as the fifth most expensive market in the world.

Not surprising that Madame Tussauds is coming to Delhi and occupying a piece of the bygone British era architecture.

 

 

 

Uber Diaries- The Girl With The Wedding Cards

Is Uber safe for women passengers in India?Hope, my travel blog answers this question.

As a  foreign  woman traveller coming to India, you would be wondering whether Uber in India is a safe and convenient mode of travel, isn’t it? Well, let me share some of my experiences with you as a Uber business partner.

I became a Uber Business Partner several months ago when a friend of mine suggested me to become one. And , since then, it has been one hell of an experience.

The Girl With The Wedding Cards

She was sure an attractive lady when I first saw her get into my car. Thank you lord, I murmured in anticipation of a good day ahead.
I was driving back to my home after work and had set my Uber app online.She had hailed me through the app and after a couple of minutes' drive, I had found her waiting at the exit of her office.

You do not seem to be a regular driver, she said to me . No, I am not.., I replied, I am a regular employee like you. The words came in English and sure, she was impressed.Trust, as they say, comes packaged in English.

Let us call the lady, Madam X. I will further shorten her nomenclature to X, for simplicity sake.

X was carrying a large plastic bag, apart from her laptop case. I offered to help her lift it up. No, thanks, she said, all the bag carries is wedding cards.

Wedding cards, I wondered aloud, are you a printer of cards? No, I am getting married next month, so I am going to my friends to personally invite them for my shadi.

Shadi is Hindi for wedding.

But, you could have sent them cards electronically or could have whatsapped them, I gently asked as we navigated through the super lousy Gurgaon traffic.

Yes, I could have, she replied patiently. But, you see wedding invitations require a bit of personal attention and I want all my friends to feel special about it !

So, how many cards are you carrying in your bag?

100.

So, you will be going all these 100 people. I asked incredulously.

Yes, why not, all these guys are people whom I value! 

In the meantime, she fished out a phone and started calling up her friends to check on them.

I balked. So, here she was, a modern young  woman working as an HR Manager in a global beverages company and still sticking to some time honoured Indian traditions.I could only marvel at the contradictions in our society.

We talked. I was full of questions and she answered each one of them patiently.

Do you find Uber safe in the evenings?

Yes, why not, she replied, I often take it when I have to go to multiple places.

The amorphous Gurgaon traffic melted away as we conversed. 



Uber had just helped me understand the world from another angle.

 

 

 

Visit Delhi

Visit Delhi- Mehrauli is much more than just Qutub Minar

Visit Delhi and you will be surprised to discover some hidden gems as travel destinations. In this post, I shall take you through the lanes of Mehrauli- one of the oldest villages of Delhi.

Visit Delhi
Qutub Minar

How to reach Mehrauli village?

Wondering about the unknown travel destinations of Delhi? Today, I take you to the back lanes of Mehrauli. I went walking to this amazing but secret part of Delhi and look, what I found? People interested in the history and culture of Delhi would definitely like this post.

You need to get down at the Qutub Minar Metro Station. Ensure that you have adequate water with you as walking around Mehrauli is quite a laborious affair. You also need to have a sturdy pair of boots.Don’t worry- the roads aren’t uneven. It is just that the monsoon slush does not dampen your feet.

To get into Mehrauli village, take the road that veers right from the entrance of the Qutub Complex. This way, the famous tower of Qutub will fall towards your left.

Visit Delhi
The Qutub stands tall and casts its gaze over this ancient village
Visit Delhi
Once upon a time, these streets carried the palkis and carriages of kings.

Why Mehrauli is a must on your itinerary when you visit Delhi

Since, it was a rainy day I did not feel the heat in the air- it was quite cool while walking.

But, let me tell you this- walking on this road gave me goosebumps! I wonder how many generations of people, kings, commoners etc  would have walked upon this ancient street.

Do you know that Mehrauli is one of the oldest settlements in the human history? Some people say it is more than 1000 years old!

Temple of Lord Krishna’s sister

A few metres ahead is the ancient temple of Yogmaya. She is the sister of Lord Krishna, one of the heroes of the mankind.I did not feel like taking the photograph of the temple. But, here is a snap of the two golden lions that guard the temple.

Visit Delhi
This golden lion guards the Yogmaya Temple

This temple is one of the most ancient temples of Delhi- it is more than 5000 years old! When, the Turks captured Delhi more than 800 years ago, they demolished it. The temple was renovated by King Hemu in the 16th century. The modern look of the temple is ascribed to its renovation in the `19th century.In fact, all the ancient temples in Delhi wear a modern look.

So, you see, Mehrauli is littered with monuments that are as old as 5000 years! Where else in the world can you such exciting monuments, where else?isn’t Mehrauli a backpacker’s paradise? Now, I hope you realize why this place is a must for all travellers planning to visit Delhi.

As you walk further down the road, you encounter an imposing monument towards your right. It is a grave and this one is dedicated to a noble who was killed by a medieval king, Akbar.

Interesting stat about this tomb- It was used as a party hall by the British officers!

Visit Delhi
Adham Khan’s Tomb

No full stops in Mehrauli!

Though, Mehrauli was overrun by so many invaders over the past 1000 years, the it  still has  retained its life and colour. People in Delhi are generally lovers of life and energy and there are no full stops in Mehrauli too!

This is Shehzad who sells home made remedies to the locals here. All his “medicines” are stocked in a gunny bag. There is a speaker that belts out his message exhorting the passers by of the virtues of his drugs.

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Mehrauli is a melting pot of cultures

Shehzad is from Bengal which is more than 1500 kilometres from Delhi and there are many more such Bengalis working here. Over the years, Delhi has become a melting pot of many kinds of people, such is the allure of Delhi.

But,dear lovers of Delhi, do you know that there is a small memorial to the fallen soldiers of the British Indian Army who fought in the First World War (1914-1919)? Tell this to your friends when they are planning to visit Delhi after reading this.

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Memorial to the First World War

Arches and much more!

But,Mehrauli is still all colour after all these centuries of turmoil.And, if you have a keen pair of eyes, you can behold some fantastic looking arches and doorways.

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Arches, gateways, arches ! My heart aches!

In another part of Mehrauli, you see a lady selling rakhis or sacred threads that are supposed to ward off evil from brothers.

167The festival of rakhis is round the corner and the friendly lady is ready with her wares.

And in case you may want to buy gigantic cigarettes or hookahs, my dear friends , here is the shop.

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I am a non smoker, though!

Meanwhile, as I continue walking onward, I stumble upon yet another “ancient” temple. This one is dedicated to Lord Shiva , the God of Death. The temple is located on the Maharaja Agrasen Chowk. Maharaja Agrasen is the founding father of the trading community of North India and has a stepwell or “baoli” named after him in Central Delhi.

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And what dis we find here? A Jahaz! A Ship!

More surprises on the way…the next stop is this Jahaz Mahal whose origin is unknown.No one knows who constructed it but its architecture and form is appealing. Have a look.

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Jahaz Mahal, Mehrauli

The word “Jahaz” means ship. Does this structure give you a feeling that you are looking at a ship?

I spotted a pillar bearing some words in Sanskrit.It was inverted and was supporting one of the canopies of the Jahaz Mahal. Is it possible that this structure was made by the demolished pillars of a pre existing Hindu temple or palace?

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Why was the pillar put up in such a manner? Any answers?

The words suggest that the pillar was erected in 1508 AD, more than 500 years back.

And, if you care to turn your head backwards, you will see an exquisite pond- Hauz Shamsi.

Monuments of Delhi
Hauz Shamsi

The legend says that the pond came into being after the hoof of the horse of Sultan Shamsuddin Iltutmish hit the ground.

Do you believe in this story?

Some trivia

Let us hit the road again and here is what we see- three dogs sleeping in a row.Wow! Such bliss and carelessness !

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Ok, let us cast our gaze on some ancient doors, please.

MehrauliYou can’t do away with these wires, they take the show away!

170And , can Mehrauli escape the traffic jams? Can it really? A three wheeler struggles to negotiate with the clogged Mehrauli streets.

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You will find cars and autos everywhere when you visit Delhi?

Cars..yes cars also try to make their way into Mehrauli! Why can’t the people understand these small things that these streets are far too narrow for vehicles?

Many people who visit Delhi for the first time notice far too many cars on Delhi roads.

So, that takes me to the end of this post my friends. I wanted  to introduce you the little known monuments of Mehrauli and Delhi as I believe that travel destinations such as these have a soul of their own.

I hope you like this post.


Places to Visit in Delhi-Hauz Khas Village

HKV or Hauz Khas Village has something for everyone who is interested in the history,culture,cuisine,art or craft of Delhi.An amazing destination or the Delhi traveller, this quaint place is a bohemian’s paradise.

Located just off the  Aurobindo Marg in Delhi,Hauz Khas Village is a secret waiting to be unveiled. 

Since, I am a history and heritage lover, I shall take you through some amazing spots of this place.

Firoz Shah is credited with the construction of this place. Many experts of history ever that Hauz Khas Village was the site of a medieval Islamic madarsa.A madarsa is a school of Islamic concepts and principles.However,there is nothing to prove this version till now.Foreign travellers are largely unaware of this 14 th century monument.

The main centre of attraction in this complex is the tomb of Firoz or Firuz Shah, a Sultan of Delhi.He was more than 40 years of age when he was persuaded to become the Sultan upon his cousin’s death.Firoz’s cousin, Mohammad was an enigmatic Sultan and had died hairless.

Firoz a credited with building several monuments in Delhi-some of them are covered in this blog.

Adjacent to the complex of Firoz is a mediavel water tank, Hauz Khas.This water body was was excavated by an earlier Sultan,Alauddin.

So,you can see that this place crawls with history.

But,on any day, you will find this place teeming with young romantics.There is not one corner that you will see unoccupied with them.

I like this place for the various shades of architecture and open spaces here.

You will like the green lawns here to unwind.

But,Hauz Khas Village is much more than just a mediavel complex.Look what I found here:a live music coffee shop that overlooks this complex.

As the clouds gathered in the skies,the monuments took in a haunted look!

Inside the cafe,the music added to the seductiveness of the ambience.

So,while Delhi experiences the joy of monsoons, head over to this beautiful place.

You will get lots of interesting places at Hauz Khas Village to indulge yourself.

I came across another interesting place to hang out.Except that there was nothing in there!

Places To Visit in Delhi- Azim Khan Tomb

Places to Visit in Delhi
Azim Khan Tomb, Mehrauli

One of the lesser known stopovers for the travellers in Delhi, the Azim Khan Tomb sits astride the Mehrauli Gurgaon Road. You can see it easily from the Mehrauli Gurgaon/Mehrauli Badarpur intersection.What is the story behind this place?

Ever since I landed up in Delhi more than 16 years ago, I had made a mental note to go and explore this forlorn and hauntingly beautiful structure but, time constraints were the main culprits.

This “tomb” is located behind the Jain Ahimsa Sthal and the traveller will have to find for directions to reach it. There are no markings or directions and so, you will have to ask the passers by or the roadside vendors for directions.

The path leading to this structure is narrow and in my case, I had to make way for some donkeys which were being led for grazing. I found them cute. Donkeys in Delhi!

DSC01943Please note that you will have to either walk or ride a bike in this alley. Don’t expect to drive a car here.

The man who lies  “buried” here seems to have been an influential man- he had such a big place for himself ! The Government of India has this to say about this man,

Places to Visit in Delhi
Azim Khan’s Tomb

However, there is nothing about this “Azim Khan” in the available history of Delhi. I tried researching about him on the internet but found nothing.Some people say that he was an important general in Akbar’s army. Tired of fighting numerous wars, one day he decided to quit his profession and lead the life of a simpleton.

This place gives the traveller a great vantage point. On a cloudy day, you can simply sit here with your friends and gaze at the spread of greenery below the hillock. You can have a great view of the Qutub Minar and the serene statue of Lord Mahavira, one of the greatest philosophers the world has known.

Places to Visit in Delhi
View of the Qutub Minar

A word of advice to the curious traveller- the terrain is rocky here so make sure you put on your sneakers or hiking boots. No slippers, flats or heels, please- else you risk getting a sprain.

As I said earlier, unlike the other monuments of Delhi, this place doesn’t have a story behind it. So, my post here is more of an image gallery rather than a detailed account.

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Greenery all around! A month back, the same place was all brown and dusty-this is what monsoons do to Delhi.

 

The 'kangooras" of the tomb
The ‘kangooras” of the tomb
Places to visit in Delhi
Can you see the Qutub?
Places To Visit in Delhi
The imposing building

Surprisingly, the building does not have any grave! It is said that the British rulers had removed the grave to make way for a party hall here!

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There are a couple of graves outside the structure and this is one of them. Can you understand what is written here in Farsi/Arabic lettering?

Places to Visit in Delhi
Juxtaposed

On my way back, I wandered into a dense forest that lay next to the path. And, this is what I discovered!

Places to visit in Delhi
A haunted building!
Places to visit in Delhi
A milestone?

 

 

DSC01969And you certainly cannot escape the declarations of love such as this one!

Safety and Security- It is advisable to visit this place in groups of two or three.Azim Khan’s tomb is normally not visited by many people so better to take an extra precaution.



Monuments of Delhi

What is the secret of this Delhi temple?

I am about to share a secret of Delhi.Very few people know about it.Visitors to Delhi do not know about it all and the various tour guides and operators don’t tell about it.Can you guess this secret?Let us explore this secret place then…

Have you heard about Dada Dev temple? I am sure, you haven’t.Travellers to Delhi are so much burdened by information on monuments (read tombs) of Delhi, that they know little about other equally fascinating structures.My travel blog takes you to the unknown and mysterious parts of Delhi.

Close to the Sector 8 Metro Station of Delhi Metro is the ancient Dada Dev Mandir.History of Delhi would be incomplete without knowing the background of this fascinating structure.It is located in the Palam area of Delhi

Secrets of Delhi
The main hall of Dada Dev Mandir

Unlike other dreary looking monuments of Delhi, this one is lively and resplendent.There is no air of moroseness here, no sense of death and the place absolutely rocks.You see, Dada Dev Mandir is more than 1200 years old- it is perhaps one of the oldest monuments of Delhi.

Who was Dada Dev?

Legends say, that in the early ninth century AD, a holy man from Tonk,Ram Dev,  was visited upon by his deity in his dreams.The deity commanded Ram Dev to relocate himself northward. Woken up by this dream, he shared it with his family members and asked their advice.Everyone agreed to moving to a northerly direction and so, a small party was made .This party placed the holy stone of the deity on a bullock cart and started their journey.

The party was at Palam village when an interesting event happened.One night, the holy stone fell off the bullock cart and got stuck in the mud.Thinking that the deity did not wish to advance further, the party ceased their journey at Palam and within a few days, constructed a small temple at the spot where the holy stone had fallen down.And, this is how the temple of Ram Dev came up at Palam.

Monuments of Delhi
The approach to Dada Dev Temple

Over the next few years, the saint Ram Dev acquired the name of Dada Dev. Legends grew around him.People started associating this holy man with Shesh Nag or the celestial serpent.

Today, Dada Dev- who has a memorial built for him in the temple premises- has acquired the status of gram devta for 12 adjoining villages . Gram devta is the presiding deity of a village- he/she protects the village from evil influences.It is a pulsating place with several devotees from adjoining villages coming here to seek the blessings of Dada Dev.



The temple has idols of other Hindu gods as well- Shiva, Lord Rama, Lord Krishna – all have their temples here in this complex.Indeed, this place radiates energy.So, next time if you are travelling to Delhi, make it a point to visit this hauntingly beautiful place.

How to reach; Take the Delhi Metro for Sector 21 from the Rajiv Chowk Metro station.Get down at Sector 8 and take a rickshaw.

Thank you for reading this.

 

 

 

 

 

Around Delhi; The vanishing Pyaoos,Our dying Heritage

It is a sweltering 45 degrees celsius here in Delhi and the roads are smoldering hot.There is a not a soul in sight and my throat is parched with thirst.Travelling in Delhi , particularly during the summers, is quite a challenge of keeping an everlasting supply of drinking water.Would I collapse of thirst?O God, where is water?Water, dear water, where are thou!

Help is at hand in such situations and it comes in the form of modestly shaped and built water huts or “pyaoos” Fast yielding ground to the bottled water available in PET bottles, Pyaoos define the selfless helping nature of us Indians.Yes, these structures , often built of thatch, are very little seen these days. A typical traveller on the road has a backpack that contains 2 or 3 water bottles , so who actually needs a pyaoo!

 

Cut to 30 years ago, pyaoos were a familar sight in the town that I grew up in-Jaipur.As we returned home after a long day at school, we had our customary drink of cool (not cold) water in at least 3 pyaoos in a 2 kilometer area.Most often, these pyaoos were serviced by elederly ladies from the ‘not so well off backgrounds’ .In their late fifties, these ladies had a grizzled look and spoke the rural dialect.As you, the thirsty traveller, approached the pyaoo, the lady of the hut would silently fill up the stainless steel glasses with water and offer one of them to you.No words were exchanged but, the lady would secretly get a deposit of good wishes in her spiritual bank account.

And , if you thought that water could be wasted by spilling it while drinking, you were in for a mild verbal spanking in chaste Marwari.

Often , there were no steel glasses at all.All you had were a couple of earthen pitchers upon whom rested steel made “dongas” or long handled spoons.All you needed to do was ask for one “donga”, dip it in the pitcher, take out some water and take that in your mouth “without your lips touching the donga”.It was a delicate exercise, I must say.

The ladies and the old men hardly asked for money but some good souls indeed left a few coins as a matter of gratitude.

In Delhi, you are hardly left with any piaoos. There is one in the famous Chandni Chowk , in the Shiva temple premises.Pink in colour, the piaoo is managed by an elderly gentleman who is probably in his eighties.This one is made of stone, though.

Another piaoo in Delhi can be seen in the Mehrauli area.This one is an abandoned  structure and is located roughly diagonally opposite to the Mehrauli Bus Stand.I am sure there would be some other piaoos as well in Delhi.At least Dwarka doesn’t have any.I would surmise that East and North Delhi still would have some piaoos left. There is some tradition left in those ancient parts of Delhi.

In Jaipur, where I grew up, there was one particular piaoo that was housed in the premises of a wealthy businessman.The man who serviced this piaoo was blind and sang the verses of Ramcharitmanas while serving water to the visitors.He sang so soulfully! And, his water was laden with kewara, a herbal product that has a lingering aroma and has antioxidant properties. A stroll after our dinner to this good soul was a must every evening.

But, why do ordinary people open up piaoos? The answer is simple- to improve their after lives.In India, there is this custom to offer a glass of water to each and every visitor to our homes , whether he or she is thirsty or not. And the culture to offer free and pure drinking water to travellers is not just limited to ordinary folk, even the rich and wealthy people do it.. So, this practice is all pervading.

Though the piaoo culture is fast disappearing in Delhi, there are occasions in the year when free water is dispensed to the traveller on the road by devout Sikhs.You will  see such  see sights during the birthdays of their Gurus.The devotees will actually stop the traveller and request him to take the cooling fluid.It is such a graceful and delightful sight!

A few days ago, I was in a suburb of Delhi and the ambient temperature was a mind boggling 45 degrees. While I was looking for a shade to stand in, a young man came to me and offered a glass of cool water.Sir, why don’t you have some water, he asked. Thank you, I said, what is your name, Mister, I enquired. Sir, he replied, I have no name and my work is just to ask passersby for water.

 

Thanks you for reading this, my friends.

 

 

Places to see in Delhi

Around Delhi-The Slope of Power;Raisina Hills

The Raisina Hills in Delhi is home to some of the most powerful institutions of power in The world.The Hills also host the Commander in Chief of the fourth largest armed forces of the world.He is also the President of India.

One of the most beautiful and eagerly awaited events in Delhi is the change of guards of the President of India..The Presidential Palace is thrown open to visitors to witness this breathtaking ceremony.Man and beast come together to offer to Delhi a spellbinding spectacle.

IMG_3600

Every fortnight, the Presidential Palace opens its vast gates to its visitors for them to witness a military tradition-the change of guards of the President’s Bodyguards.If you are in  Delhi, you ought not to miss this event.The President of India is also the Commander in Chief of her Armed Forces, so, the privilege of giving a ceremonial guard of honour to him is invariably of the Forces.

The Presidential Bodyguard comprises men drawn from the Indian Army and you will be surprised to know that horses form an integral part of this unit.There are cavalry men and there are the regular infantry men forming this elite group of soldiers.The cavalry men are invariably 6 feet plus in height and are smartly turned out on all occasions.

The Presidential Palace is an imposing piece of architecture.Sprawling on a ridge , the Palace oversees the Rajpath -King’s Carriageway- that leads to the India Gate.This Gate, constructed by the Britishers to commemorate the fallen British Indian soldiers in the First World War, is one of the most recognized monuments of India.The ridge is called the Raisina Hill.

More than a hundred years back, the Raisina Hill was a village.After the announcement of Delhi as the new imperial capital by the reigning British monarch, at the start of the last century, work got underway to establish a new centre of British power.The villagers of Raisina Hill were coerced and later forced to vacate their land and hand it over to the colonial government.They had to shift to newer and strange places like Kotla Mubarakpur and Begumpur.In the next few years, the Presidential Palace came up which we now we know as the Rashtrapati Bhawan.

The announcement of Delhi as the new capital of imperial India was done in the famous Delhi Durbar of 1911 by the then British Emperor.

Won’t you be interested in watching the video of this 100 year old event?Here goes;

But, we have digressed, haven’t we? We were talking about the change of guard of the President’s Bodyguard. Have a look.

Monuments of Delhi

Though, the Presidential Palace is out of bounds for the ordinary citizens, there re some areas which are accessible to the lay visitors.It is a well appointed property and during March and April, the lawns come to life with greenery and colour.

Places to visit in Delhi
Guns and Roses!

Did you see this tall handsome column?Ever wondered about its origin and story?

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The construction of Jaipur Column was sponsored by the Raja of Jaipur, Madho Singh as a gift to his British masters.It is a magnificent structure and is made of sandstone.An inscription on this pillar prays for the greatness of India.

The massive gates of the Rashtrapati Bhavan lead to the majestic India Gate and lining this path are the seats of the Government of India where key decisions are taken.

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Elephants were a source of amazement to the British and you can find a lot of figurines of this animal in the campus.

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The Raisina Hill embodies the power of the Indian Republic.The Parliament House , which enacts laws for our nation is situated next door to the Palace.

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While, the Hill is diffused with sights and sounds of power, the surrounding lawns have a human touch to them.On a a quiet Saturday morning, you can even see youngsters enjoying a game of football amongst themselves, unmolested by the tight security around them.

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All this gives hope to the citizens that the Indian State is not far removed from them.

But, while we marvel at the well kept lawns , have we spared thought for the men who make all this possible?

India Gate Lawns
Men At Work

It is they who keep the India Gate Lawns eternally beautiful.

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That is it friends.Hope, you enjoyed this post.

Monuments of Delhi

Sensuous Delhi-Garden of Five Senses-A photoblog

Early this March, I thought I will make a short journey to a wonderful place in Delhi,The Garden of Five Senses.For travellers planning  to visit India, this Garden is a terrific place to relax and enjoy Sundays and holidays.

badge
This garden is located in the village of Saidulajab.The village is located next to the Saket Metro Station and is within a shouting distance of the famous Qutab Minar.

This garden comes to bloom in late February and early March and is the centre of attraction for Delhiites and outsiders as well.When I visited this pretty place,much of the bloom was gone but, its prettiness was very much there.

Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you a photoblog of the Garden of Five Senses;

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Colors Galore

The Garden is not your typical garden, it is more like a work of art and architecture.The elements inside it have been borrowed from sculptures and  other art forms from across the world.

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Flowers galore

One of the striking features of this Garden is a gate designed on the lines of West Asian architecture.Have a look.

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A “West Asian Gate”

All these images have been taken by my iPhone.

More of such interesting sculptures are here in this post.

Monuments of Delhi
A spiral stare case?
Monuments of Delhi
Awash in Gold

But, gardens are meant for flowers and colour, isn’t it?So, let us return to color.

Best places to visit in Delhi
Colors provide meaning to our lives

And, what a delightful piece of creation is this?Hola!

Monuments of Delhi
Class in progress

There is some more amazing stuff to be seen here.

Monuments of Delhi
Quack Quack

Hidden corridors and doorways lend an element of mystery to the Garden of Five Senses.

Monuments of Delhi
Camouflaged doors provide sanctuary to lovelorn souls

The majestic Qutub Minar looms in the horizon.

Monuments of Delhi
Looming in the Horizon-Qutab Minar

And a lazy day in the Garden of Five Senses closes with this last image of mine.

Thanks for dropping by.Please let me know whether you liked this photoblog.

India in Pictures

No text , just pictures. Enjoy some of my clicks , my friends!

Monuments of India
Jain Temple at Mehrauli
Monuments of India
The historic gurudwara at Chandni Chowk
This dude is a lawyer!Comic Con 2015
This dude is a lawyer!Comic Con 2015
selfie time!
selfie time!

 

Festivals of India
A happy salesman always sells more
alt="Sweets of Vrindavan"
Yumminess infinity- at Vrindavan
Monuments of Delhi
This was one of my first clicks when I started my blog-The Library at Purana Qila, Delhi
Transported back in time-With a couple of historical characters of India
Transported back in time-With a couple of historical characters of India
alt="Flavours of Vrindavan"
You cannot avoid the lassi of Vrindavan
Monuments of India
One of my favourite clicks-Humayun’s Tomb, Delhi
Monuments of India

Humayun’s Tomb-Amazing Destinations of India;What is the Story?

One of the most beautiful buildings of the world hides a sordid past.Presenting the hauntingly beautiful story of Humayun’s Tomb.

 

Delhi has one of the most beautiful travel destinations of the world but, do you know, it hides a sordid past-a past that would horrify you.Read one..

Humayun’s Tomb is a World Heritage Site and is home to the grave of one of the earlier Mughal Emperors. He had  a chequered history and could not settle in the throne.Buffeted by armed rebellion in his territories, he was constantly on the run.And, one fine day, he fell down the stairs of his library and passed away. His manner of death resembled the pattern of his life-uncertain and wavering.The building that housed the library still exists in an old fort in Delhi, The Purana Qila.

Sher mandal, Purana Qila
Sher Mandal- The Library of Humayun

His grieving wife built a mausoleum for him in Delhi and is located south of the Purana Qila.This mausoleum is called Humayun’s Tomb and its design is quite similar to that of Taj Mahal.

I am sharing with you some Humayun’s Tomb images, hope you like them.

Humayun's Tomb-Palace of the Dead
Humayun’s Tomb-Palace of the Dead

Humayun would not have imagined that his tomb would hide so many secrets of so many deaths of members of his family.His tomb has graves of not less than 100 members of his family and some of them indicate that even infants have been buried there.

You may also read http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/232

But, there was one unfortunate prince of Mughals who died a premature death and is ‘apparently” buried there.I say ‘apparently’ because, nothing definite can be said about his burial there.His name was Dara and he was the son of Shahjehan, the maker of Taj Mahal.

Dara_Shukoh
The unfortunate prince-Dara Shikoh (courtesy-Wikipedia)

Shahjehan had 4 sons of whom Dara was the eldest.But, Dara had a running feud with his youngest brother , Aurangzeb.And , the cause was the Mughal throne.A fierce battle ensued and Dara lost the battle.He was taken prisoner by Aurangzeb and taken around Delhi on the bare back of an elephant.Insults were heaped at Dara and finally, he was despatched to a prison by his victorious brother.

What mystery does this grave hold?
What mystery does this grave hold?

Dara was forced to consume opium by his captors-as was the custom in that day and age- so that the prisoner became senseless and oblivious to his surroundings.One fine day, the unfortunate Dara was beheaded by the hired assassins of his brother.Poor guy Dara..

He was “supposedly’ taken to Humayun’s Tomb and buried there.But, historians are not sure whether Aurangzeb permitted this place for the burial of his brother.He was bitter towards the now dead Dara and perhaps wanted him to be moved far far away from his capital to prevent unrest.

A peek into the tomb of Humayun
A peek into the tomb of Humayun

This event happened around 350 years ago.

Cut to 1857, when India was ablaze with war cries against the British for independence.The Mughal Emperor at that time was the old Bahadur Shah Zafar.The rebels considered him to be their figurative head and he was their rallying point.He had at least two sons who were quite headstrong.

These young princes , during the siege of Delhi by the rebels in 1857, had committed terrible acts against the unarmed British women and children and were on the radar of the British soldiers.As things happened, the British forces reoccupied the city of Delhi and spread far and wide to capture the Mughal princes.Of course, the princes were no where to be found.

Rare pics of Bahadur Shah's sons
Rare pics of Bahadur Shah’s sons

Some one informed the British that the princes- Mirza Mughal and Mirza Khizr- were hiding inside the Humayun;s Tomb.Well, without wasting a minute a British contingent rushed to the Tomb and surrounded it. After a siege of a few days, the furtive princes were ferreted out and were promptly arrested.The two Mirzas were marched toward Old Delhi and as the party approached a notorious gate, Khooni Darwaza, in Central Delhi, the princes were shot dead in cold blood by the British commander.

Also read https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mirza_Mughal

The stories are many but, I have little time to relate all those about Humayun’s Tomb.But, next time when you visit this building, do remember its gory past.

Same building, different colours, different angle
Same building, different colours, different angle

 

Reaching Humayun’s Tomb is easy- the nearest Metro Station is at Jorbagh from where one can take an auto rickshaw or a cab.

The timings for the Tomb start from 7 am to 6 pm in the evenings.

Thank you for reading it.

 

 

 

 

Delhi-7 lesser known getaways in December

Delhi has at least 7 unknown getaways that you will like to visit this December. The city of Delhi abounds with surprises and this post will share some of them with you.

A temple devoted to an avatar of Lord Shiva, a 5000 year old temple associated with the sister of Lord Krishna…read on…

I had been thinking of answering through this post a top of the mind question of travellers and backpackers headed to Delhi- what are the best lesser known secret getaways in Delhi this December?

1.Chor Minar or The Tower of Thieves 

Located in the tony neighbourhood of Hauz Khas in New Delhi, the claim to fame of this tower is the haunting story behind it.This is one getaway that has a fantastic dose of history, mystery and thrills.

You can also find chor minar in Uzbekistan and Bukhara.

About Chor Minar; Nearly 800 years ago, the then Delhi Sultan, Alauddin Khilji had this tower built to string up the heads of the invading hordes of the Mongols..These guys had been attacking the kingdom of Delhi for many years till, one fine day, the Sultan decided that enough is enough.

chor-minar

He chased away the attackers and the few that were captured by him were executed and later their heads were hung up in the little crevices of the tower. It sure scared the wits out of any potential attackers!

3.Hauz Shamsi

Located in the Mehrauli Archaeological Park of Delhi, this Hauz or a “pool of water” is said to be constructed by a Sultan of Delhi, Iltutmish. This guy was a slave in his earlier life but rose in life due to his hard work and fortitude.

Hauz Shamsi

One night, in his dreams appeared Prophet Mohammed who commanded him to build a reservoir of water with a small pavilion in its centre. The pavilion, Mohammed told the Sultan, would provide a cover to  the footprints of the Prophet’s horse!I am not sure about the veracity of this story, but, this Hauz is indeed a fantastic place worth visiting.

Hauz Shamsi is quite near to Qutub Minar and the closest Metro Station is the one at Mehrauli.

4.Yogmaya Mandir

And, while we are visiting some of the most interesting but lesser known places in Delhi, let me also take you to the Yogmaya Mandir.

This Mandir or temple is dedicated to the sister of Lord Krishna, one of the avatars of Lord Vishnu.

yogmaya-temple

Why is it so special? Well, it is said that the parents of  Lord Krishna were imprisoned by his uncle , the king of Mathura, before the birth of the Lord. Kamsa-the king- was terrified that Krishna would be the harbinger of his death and so, the parents would be better off by being put up in a jail.

Kamsa wanted to kill all the children of Devaki, the mother of Krishna, in the fond hope of removing the danger.He largely succeeded in his efforts. One day, his officers told him that Devaki had given birth to yet another child. Kamsa rushed to the prison , entered her cell , and snatched away the newborn from her arms.

Kamsa then flung the child towards the floor, but, surprise, surprise!The child, which was a baby girl, ascended to the sky and mockingly told the king of his impending death! Krishna had already taken birth , she told him, and was safe and sound , away from the Mathura prison.

This baby girl, named Yogmaya, has a temple dedicated to her in Mehrauli.

By the way, did you know that the Yogmaya temple is more than 5000 years old, according to legends? This is a must visit place for backpackers visiting the Qutb Minar.At lest for me, this is one Delhi destination that I would never want to miss.

I know guys, you would like to know a little more of the hauntingly beautiful history of Delhi, but, let me also share something wonderful with you.

5.Pul Mithai, or the Bridge of Sweets

Heard this name? I am sure, very few of you would have heard of it.

This Pul or Bridge of Sweets was the outcome of giving away of sweets to labourers engaged in the construction of Sikh temples. The labourers were employed by a Sikh general, Baghel Singh in the year 1783.The place where the general was stationed is today known by the name Pul Mithai.

6.Bhairon Mandir (Kilkarinath Temple) Purana Qila

Ever heard of a temple where devotees offer liquor to the deity?

Welcome to Bhairon Mandir whose origin is traced to at least 5000 years back.This Mandir or temple is devoted to Bhairon, one of the chief incarnations. of Lord Shiva.He is supposed to be fond of liquor so devotees offer it in limit less quantities to him!But, it is not necessary that one can only liquor, you can offer fruit or milk too.

bhaironath-temple

Legends say that Lord Bhairon was requested by the Pandavas to come and visit them in their penance and protect them from the demons who were hell bent on disrupting it,

Do you know, the Lord here is moved by shouts of joy and happiness by his colleagues? Hence, the word, kilkari in his name.

Isn’t it amusing?

7.Baba Batuknath Bhairon Mandir, Chanakyapuri

Ok, so this temple is also dedicated to Lord Bhairon and the histories of both these Bhairon temples are related.

When Lord Bhairon agreed to accompany Bhima Pandava to Indraprastha (now Delhi) from Kashi, he put one condition- that Bhima can place him on only one place and take rest.The idea was to carry Bhairon to the Purana Qila and install him.

batuk-bhairav-nath-temple

However, Bhima grew tired at a place, now called Chanakyapuri, and placed Lord Bhairon there. The Lord reminded Bhima about his condition and directed to make a temple at the same location.Bhima pleaded with the Lord to accompany him to Purana Qila but the Lord would have none of it. But, moved by Bhima’s insistence, the Lord gave him a tuft of his hair and asked Bhima to install it at the Purana Qila site.

Meaning of Batuk– Batuk means “young boy” so, the idol installed here of Lord Bhairon is in the form of a young, bachelor boy.

And, so, we have now two temples devoted to Lord Bhairon.

Thank you for reading this blogpost, my friends.

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Unknown Secrets of Delhi- The Fun, Frolic and Festive Destinations of a Hauntingly Beautiful City

There is a Delhi that is largely unknown to the inbound and domestic visitors to the city- A Delhi of limitless fun and frolic!

Come winter and Delhi becomes a bride- and a blushing one at that!Ah, my hauntingly beautiful Delhi!

This November and December, I couldn’t  help but put on my hiking shoes , grab my Samsung Tab and with my iPhone secure in my pocket, I set out for the hottest festival spots in Delhi.Excuse me ,if my English is patchy at places. 

By the way, your travel operator will not let you in to these secret places, I assure you!;))

And this is what I captured with my cellphone and Samsung tab.Hope you  too enjoy these pictures!

Do you know that 2015 has been declared Visit India year by the Indian government?

The Trade Fair at Pragati Maidan has been a regular fixture in Delhi for now more than 30 years. Though, the ostensible reason behind holding this Fair is encouraging trade at the company to company level, much of it happens between the companies and individual customers.

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Gateway to Rajasthan Pavilion

But, it is much more than trade and business here. The hidden gems of India’s art and craft are displayed here and so is the cuisine. India as a nation is made up of more than 28 states and each one of them puts up its pavilion and puts its best foot forward. This year, too, most of the states displayed their best offerings.Please have a look.

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Bengal Pavilion
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Visit Madhya Pradesh- Next year the state hosts the Kumbh Mela

These pavilions also give an idea about the action plans regarding development of the respective states .

Spoilt for choice!
Spoilt for choice!

If you happen to be in Delhi during November, do make it a point to spend a day here- you will return with a camera load of memories, as I did.

Reaching Pragati Maidan- The best way to reach this place is taking the Delhi Metro.It is fun, fast and convenient.

H happy salesman always sells more
H happy salesman always sells more

 But, the Pragati Maidan experience only whetted my appetite for more colour, more music and more culture.

Haryana is known for iwrestling
Haryana is known for wrestling
Bihar pavilion
Bihar pavilion
some seriously goof furniture on sale
some seriously good furniture on sale
Isn't she beautiful?
Isn’t she beautiful?

 

So, I headed to the Indira Gandhi National Centre of Arts- IGNCA in short- located on Janpath. Though, it is close to Rajiv Chowk, I had to drive my car to this place. The closest Metro station is Vijay Chowk , so , again, for travellers to Delhi, it is easily accessible.

Folk Artistes from Rajasthan
Folk Artistes from Rajasthan

And, what a riot of colours I witnessed! The IGNCA grounds were host to the National Cultural Festival , with dance and music troupes from most of the states present there in full force.As an Indian, I felt proud of my heritage and the unity in diversity in my people.Backpackers,take note!

selfie time!
selfie time!

Festivals like these bring the far flung states like Arunachal Pradesh or Sikkim closer to the people of Delhi, who, otherwise would have little chance of visiting these places. 

He isn't a ghost!
He isn’t a ghost!

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From IGNCA to  the Comic Con grounds  was a short journey to revisit my childhood. Comic Con, as the discerning readers are aware is an event that brings together publishers of comics and the potential business partners.

It was the second time that Delhi was hosting Comic Con in two years and the kids and teens of Delhi were gaga over it.Young men and women dressed themselves up as cartoon characters and were having a whale of a time.

Isn't he cute?
Isn’t he cute?

I even met a lawyer who was dressed as a character straight out of the Flintstones!

He is a lawyer!
He is a lawyer!
Karna and Arjuna from Legends of Vyas- a comic series
Karna and Arjuna from Legends of Vyas– a comic series

This year, the venue of Comic Con was at National Small Industries Corporation grounds in Okhla.The entry tickets were priced at Rs. 350/- or a little more than $5, which a little expensive by Indian standards.But, for the people young at heart, the money mattered little!

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Chandni Chowk- A town square colored by blood

Delhi, the capital of India , has had a gory past but quite a lively present. But, today as the world mourns #ParisAttacks , I would like to share some grisly attacks on Delhi in the past.

When you visit India, the first place that you land up in India is Delhi but your India travel plans are incomplete without Chandni Chowk.

The bustling malls, the Metro shuttle service, the young that throng the public places of Delhi and the wide, open avenues that house the various foreign embassies don’t give a clue at all if the murder and mayhem that the city has witnessed.

The famous town square of the Old Delhi also called as Chandni Chowk is one of the most bustling places in the city. Cloth merchants jostle for space with shops selling sweets and old gramophones.

When the weather is more favorable, one can see European and American travellers exploring this place.

But do you know, this place is witness to some of the most horrific massacres of the world?

The Gurudwara Sisganj (picture below) was the site where one of the Gurus of Sikhs and Hindus was tortured to death by the Mughal emperor, Aurangzeb

Close by, there is a fountain, that supposedly was the site where three of his followers were also tortured to death for refusing to accept Islam.

And, sitting cheek by jowl, with the Gurudwara is a mosque, Sunehari Masjid. Way back in the 1700s, an Iranian invader Nadir Shah  had ransacked Delhi and sitting inside this mosque had given orders for a general massacre of its citizens.

Reportedly, more than 30,000 people had been murdered!

Sometimes I wonder, what makes people murder each other? I get no answers.

Meanwhile, life goes on.

Top Picture; Sunehri Masjid

Bottom Picture; Gurudwara Sisganj

swayamt.wordpress.com
Sunehri Masjid, Chandni Chowk

The Sunehri Masjid (Golden Mosque) was constructed by Roshan-ud-Dawla Zafar Khan in the year 1721.It is so named because of its golden coloured domes.History tells us that the invader, Nader Shah had camped himself in this mosque and given orders for the general massacre of the people of Delhi.The killings lasted the entire day.Not many visitors are aware of the grisly past of this mosque.

This mosque was constructed during the reign of the Mughal Emperor, Mohammad Shah “Rangila”. The epithet “Rangila” refers to the colourful life of the lecherous king.

In his book on Nader Shah, noted British author Michael Axworthy describes the murderous event as such;  “On the morning of 22 March, Nader mounted his horse and rode from the palace to the Roshan-od-Dowala mosque (the former name of Sunehri Masjid). As he arrived there with his men about him, some people threw stones from balconies and windows around the mosque, and a shot was fired, killing an officer beside him. He had already made up his mind, but this final insult may have added fury to Nader’s frustration. He went to the roof of the mosque and stood by the golden domes, looking out over the houses, shops and roof of the Chandni Chowk district. He ordered that no one should be left alive in any part where any of his soldiers had been killed, and then drew his sword as a signal that the massacre should begin.”

This mosque was repaired by the last Mughal Emperor, Bahadur Shah Zafar.By the way, celebrated British author cum historian William Dalrymple has written an interesting book on the Last Mughal.

swayamt.wordpress.com
Gurudwara Sisganj

Now we come to Gurudwara Sisganj.

Guru Tegh Bahadur, was one of the last Gurus of the Sikhs. He resisted the cruel acts of the Mughal Emperor, Aurangzeb , who had him imprisoned and brought before the Emperor in Red Fort, Delhi.

The Emperor demanded that the Guru embrace Islam but, the Guru flatly refused.For this refusal, he along with his three disciples was sentenced to death.One of his followers, Bhai Mati Das was sawn alive, the second and the third ones were boiled in hot oil and set on fire, respectively.The Guru was beheaded on the orders of the Emperor.

Three centuries later, as you soak in the exuberance and the energy of Chandni Chowk, it would be impossible for you to accept the savage history of this place.

You may also like to read;  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bhai_Mati_Das

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sunehri_Masjid_(Red_Fort)

Top 4 Haunted Travel Destinations in Delhi

The City of Delhi has a lot of  hidden secrets but, some of them are spine chilling!

  1. Nicholson’s Cemetery

They say in hushed tones about a headless corpse often wandering on his horse back in the dead of the night in the eerie graveyard of Nicholson’s Cemetery.

Nicholson was a British officer serving the British Army in the 19th century in Delhi when Indians erupted in a mutiny against the East India Company.

Delhi was under the control of the British but after the initial few days of the start of the revolt, the British Army had to abandon the city till reinforcements came.

When the British gained their strength, they attacked the city once again and besieged it.It was during one of those days of heavy fighting that a young British officer, Captain Nicholson was hit with a shell and he died.Death was instantaneous.

Local residents say , his ghost still roams the graveyard on a horseback in the dead of the night.

Nicholson’s Cemetery

The graveyard lies in the old section of Delhi and if you want to see this intriguing place, do let me know.

2.Khooni Darwaza

Do you know what Khooni Darwaza means? It stands for a Gate colored in Blood.

This beauty stands bang in front of a cricket stadium in Delhi. Close by is the office of the world’s largest English newspaper-The Times of India.

Do you know why it is so called? In the 19th century, the British troops had murdered three sons of the Mughal Emperor , Bahadur Shah Zafar.The three sons were first imprisoned, stripped down and later shot dead by the British.

Why?

Apparently, because these chaps had encouraged their Mughal soldiers to massacre the British citizens during the Great War of Independence in 1857 in Delhi.It was a pure case of revenge.

Khooni Darwaza was one of the gates to have been constructed by Sher Shah Suri more than 500 years ago. He was then the King of Delhi.

  1. Firoz Shah Kotla

Right next to the infamous Khooni Darwaza is an ancient citadel, Firoz Shah Kotla.

Built by Firoz Shah in the mid 14 th century in Delhi, this citadel is considered by many to be haunted by ghosts or djinns.

People from nearby houses and colonies, primarily Muslims , come to this place to make these ghosts happy by giving them sweet meats, biryani and other delicacies.They also light up candles to make the atmosphere even more weird.

No body has seen the ghosts, but many die hard believers says that the djinns often manifest themselves in forms of dogs, cats etc.

The citadel is closed to the public after dusk.There is an ancient water reservoir inside the citadel where several people have committed suicides.

Hair raising experience!

Know what? The adjoining cricket stadium has been lucky for the Indian cricket team!

4.Sanjay Van

This artificially created forest in the south of Delhi never ceases to amaze me.It is truly a haunted place.

Located close to the famous Qutub Minar, this forest also houses the ancient walls of Qila Rai Pithora, or the Fort of Rai Pithora.

Within the forest are several graves of Muslim sufis and the popular legend says that the sould of these saints wander in these forests.

I was once attempting to cross this forest when a local resident stopped me saying that, there would be some weird things happening to me if I went further.A long dead sufi saint had gone for his ablutions and till the time he came back, nobody would be allowed any further!

Unbelievable!

Does it give you the shivers?

I sure do get when I pass these places.Delhi, after all is more than 3000 years old.

Hauntingly beautiful, this city is, isn’t it?

Top 5 Places You Must Visit in Delhi

Planning your India Trip and wondering which places to visit?For a lot of you,India Travel would be an Adventure Travel of sorts..You would be checking up on a lot of travel guides for help.Some of you would also be checking up on the packages India stores in terms of stories and offerings.

There are places and places in Delhi for a traveller to visit and it is hard for her to choose the best 5 places to visit in a tightly packed schedule.

Oh, by the way, this is the” Visit India” Year being celebrated in China!

Delhi has a vast size and is a state, much like New York in the United States.So, planning in advance about your travel itinerary in Delhi is desirable.

So, here goes my bucket list.I am assuming you are a young couple, with no kids and generally wanting to soak in the good times of Delhi.

1.Chandni Chowk 

This is the central avenue of the old section of the city and was built by the Mughal Emperor, Shahjehan, more than 400 years ago. The name , Chandni Chowk means , Moonlit Square.Why it was so named is a mystery.However, the place retains its old world charm, housing shops selling sarees, sweets, old gramophone players, perfumes and spices. If you are a fan of Indian spices, head over to Khari Baoli, a just a mile away from the Gouri Shankar Mandir. The Baoli has umpteen stalls selling various kinds of spices that India was known about nearly 100 years ago.

Some of the friendliest people in the world can be found here and you can make friends here.Till a few years back, horse drawn carriages used to ply here but, they have given way to battery powered rickshaws.

It is said that Jahanara, the elder daughter of the Mughal Emperor, Shahjehan designed the square.

Chandni Chowk is steeped in history. Almost every alley, nook and corner has some story to tell.For example, one of the holiest gurudwaras or temples of Sikhs, Gurudwara Sisganj is located here. The bloodthirsty dictator that Aurangzeb was, he had a Sikh Guru decapitated here.The site of the Guru’s martyrdom was converted into a temple.

Another interesting place is Ghantawaley ki Dukan or the shop with a bell. It is said that this shop was visited upon frequently by one of the Mughal emperors and as his elephant made way to the shop, the bell hung around the neck of the animal used to alert the shop owner who would quickly get on to preparing the choicest delicacies for the Emperor!

Then, you can also visit the Gaurishankar temple built by a captain of the Maratha army .the captain had vowed to himself that upon the destruction of the Mughal dynasty, he would build a grand temple devoted to Lord Shiva.

How to reach; Take the Delhi Metro from the New Delhi Railway Station for a hassle free , air conditioned ride.Chandni Chowk is just 3 stops away from New Delhi Railway Station.027

2. Red Fort

Once you are done with Chandni Chowk, head over to the imposing fort of Delhi called Red Fort.Built by the Mughal Emperor Shahjehan 400 years ago, it is considered an imposing piece of Indian architecture.Most of the Fort premises was taken over by the British army after the 1857 Struggle for Independence and a large number of Mughal palaces was  demolished.There still remain a few Mughal palaces that will give you goose bumps when you read about the events associated with them in my other blog posts.

The Archaeological Survey of India has recently uncovered a buried garden that used to be the favourite place of the various princesses of the Mughal empire.

There is also an ancient stepwell or a baoli within the fort that housed the freedom fighters of Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose’s Indian National Army, after their imprisonment by the Britishers.

North of the Red Fort is an ancient castle of Salimgarh that was the royal prison for rebellious princes and princesses.It is said that the fort is haunted by a long dead Mughal princess!

The Prime Minister of India hosts the Indian Flag each year on the Independence Day which falls on August 15.

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How to reach Red Fort You can either walk to this place or of you are tired, hop on to any cycle rickshaw.It is quite close to Chandni Chowk.

You can get audio guides for detailed description of the Fort at the ticket counter.

3. India Gate

Built by the British government after the  First World War, India Gate commemorates the British Indian soldiers who perished defending their Imperial masters.The names of all those soldiers are inscribed on the stones forming the majestic India Gate.

Today, it serves as a War Memorial of the Indian defence forces.A wide and huge lawn adds to its grandeur.

If you are lucky and visiting Delhi in September, you might see an Army band belting out some great battle tunes.

How to reach; India Gate is very near to Rajiv Chowk or Connaught Place. You can take an auto rickshaw or a cab.Ensure that the auto rickshaw driver agrees to charge you by the meter.

A better way is to take a Ho Ho bus ride.

4.Purana Qila

Purana Qila is interesting for two reasons-one , it is the site of ancient Delhi.Legends say that this Old Fort or Purana Qila stands at the site of Indraprastha-the capital of the Pandavas.

Have you heard about the Mahabharata, Bhagwad Gita and Lord Krishna?Well, the Pandavas are from that period- more than 5000 years old.As time passed over the centuries, newer kingdoms and dynasties occupied the place and finally the Mughals made the site as their stronghold in Delhi.If you want to soak in the ancientness of Delhi, this is the place to be in.

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Featured above is the image of the library of a Mughal Emperor, Humayun.

How to reach; You can get off at the Pragati Maidan Metro station and the place is just 200 metres away.If you have kids, you may also like to visit the Delhi Zoo which is located alongside the Purana Qila.

5. Humayun’s Tomb

A few miles away from the Old Fort or Purana Qila lies the Humayun’s Tomb- which is considered to be the precursor of Taj Mahal in design and layout.It is a beautiful monument and is a world heritage monument.Within this tomb lie the remains of the Mughal Emperor, Humayun and his descendants.

Who was Humayun? He was one of the earlier Mughal Emperors and a descendant of the infamous Ghenghis Khan of Mongolia.His grandson, Shahjehan is credited with the building of Taj Mahal in Agra and the old city of Delhi, also known as Shahjehanabad.

There is a sad story behind Humayun’s Tomb.During the 1857 Struggle for Independence, three sons of the last Mughal Emperor, Bahadur Shah Zafar had taken refuge here. They were found out by the British Army Captain,captured them and later executed the princes in cold blood!

How to reach; Humayun’s Tomb is located a couple of miles from the Purana Qila. You may have to take a cab to reach here.Cycle rickshaws are not available in this part of Delhi.

Where to stay in Delhi?

While there are several lodges, hotels and resorts in Delhi, for the solitary traveller to Delhi, there is no other better option than the two sites of airbnb.com and couchsurfing.com where you can find friends who can offer bed and breakfast.

Then there are several government owned hotels like ITDC or the private hotels like Taj Hotels or Maurya Sheraton where you can simply plonk .

Best way to commute in Delhi;

Take the HOHO bus service of the Delhi government.It is available near Rajiv Chowk , earlier known as Connaught Place.

www.hohodelhi.com  It is fun, safe and reliable.

Did you find this post interesting? Do you want me to help you in planning your Delhi or India trip?

You may write to me at swayamt@gmail.com and I will be happy to help you.

Thanks

Ghost Walks; The Ghosts of Delhi

Are there djinns and ghosts in some of Delhi’s best known monuments?A lot of people think so.But, what is the real story?

Delhi is an amazing city, a city of contrasts. So, are the other world capitals like New York and London.

I say contrasts because modern technology rests cheek and jowl with legends and folklore.

In the heart of Delhi is a mediavel citadel, Firoz Shah Kotla. This is in ruinous state and is nestled between the magnificent building of The Times of India and a cricket stadium where cricket matches worth millions of US dollars are played. There is also a Metro track currently being laid in the vicinity.If you are planning to visit India, this is one place that you would not like to miss.

This haunted citadel was constructed some 400 years ago by a Muslim King. This place used to be on the banks of river Yamuna. But, over the centuries, the river has shifted course and now flows 2 kilometres away from the citadel now.

The citadel is haunted by ghosts, according to people who live close by.

These ghosts are called “djinns” in Arabic and are pleased by the devout by lighting incense sticks and reading holy verses.

How, these djinns came to this god forsaken place is a mystery but you can see the believers worshipping them and making them happy by offering sweet meats , pieces of meat and cooked food.


In the evenings, the place indeed gives a haunted feeling, as if you are not welcome there.

There are good djinns and there are the bad ones too.

Generally, people come here for asking for help in begetting children, getting jobs, regaining health and sexual prowess, how to get rich quick, etc.

But, God forbid, if the malevolent ones get agitated then the life  of the worshipper is doomed, they say.

God knows if these wishes get fulfilled.

The youngsters are hardly bothered about these ghosts. When I last visited the ruined castle, I saw some kids playing cricket !

Several people claim to have seen ghosts appear in the form of cats, dogs etc.


This castle also houses a tower , called Ashoka’s Tower that bears the inscriptions of that famous Indian emperor who made Buddhism famous all over the world.

Close by is an abandoned water tank, known as Baoli , which is now closed to the public.

 

Just adjacent to the Tower is an old masjid or a mosque that was witness to the massacre of 100,000 Indians in Delhi on the orders of Tamerlame or Timur.

Delhi is such a marvellous place, is’nt it?

An 800 year long story!Finished by Sher Singh

An 800 year long story;A jailbreak that led to the Kings’ return

Prithviraj Chauhan– the King of Delhi and Ajmer
                         Prithviraj Chauhan– the King of Delhi and Ajmer

Ok folks, let me admit one thing;I am not a historian!I am just a teller of tales, I glean what I have heard, read or seen and then regurgitate all that in a manner that is open to all kinds of interpretation.

Delhi is often called an unfaithful bride. It has never wed any one single dynasty, figuratively speaking.What I mean to say is the Capital of India , Delhi has had several suitors and the affair with each of them lasted not more than a 100 years. !

In the 12 th century, Delhi came under the control of the Chauhans, though it is a debatable point.

It is said that King Anangpal Tomar bequeathed his kingdom of Delhi to his grandson, Prithviraj, who was then ruling Ajmer, a town in present day Rajasthan. Ajmer is a mere 100 kilometres away from Jaipur, the capital of present day Rajasthan.

For travellers coming to India, Jaipur holds an important position as a city for tourism.Ajmer, which is west of Jaipur , is the gateway to the paths of two important cities, Udaipur and Jodhpur.

Anangpal had grown old and did not have any sons.The elder son used to be the natural heir in the ancient days of Indian nobility.So, Anangpal was naturally worried about the fate of Delhi!

One day, his minister suggested to the king , why does’nt he adopt his grandson, Prithviraj and give him the responsibilities of Delhi?It was an attractive idea and Prithviraj had all the qualities to manage another kingdom.He was young, brave and ambitious, he came from the Chauhan dynasty and was of royal blood.Anangpal was a Tomar, though.

Tomars are Rajputs and trace their lineage from Lord Rama, the Hero of Ramayana and considered by millions of Indians as an incarnation of Lord Vishnu.The Chauhans, like Tomars too, trace their lineage from the same origin.

In due course, Prithviraj ascended the throne of Delhi and his grandfather retired to the forests and became a hermit.

By the close of the 12th century, India had become a favourite target for the Mongols and the Turks for invasions.The first Muslim invasion  had happened in the 8th century A.D.

Delhi was ripe for another invasion now and it happened in the year 1191 AD.The aggressor was Mohammed Ghori and he was from Afghanistan.

The two armies of Chauhan and Ghori met at Tarain , near Delhi and the aggressor was roundly defeated by the young Prithviraj and even captured. Ghori was later released by the large hearted Prithviraj.

Ghori never digested this defeat and the next year, he again attacked India.Tarain was witness to another battle but this time, Prithviraj was defeated , captured and transported to Ghur in Afghanistan as a war prisoner.

Popular legends say that at Ghur, Prithviraj was blinded by his foe and subjected to numerous insults.But, Prithviraj was endowed with a special skill that enabled him to shoot down a target on just hearing a sound from it.He need’nt see the target but the sound was enough.One fine day, the prisoner shot down an unsuspecting Ghori with his arrow , guided by the sound of Ghori’s speech.

To avoid a painful death, it is said that Prithviraj then stabbed himself to death.He is said to have been buried at the spot by the angry courtiers of Ghori .This event happened nearly 800 years back.

Cut to 2004

A jailbreak happens in Delhi and a convict, Sher Singh Rana escapes in disguise to Afghanistan.

Nothing extraordinary, except that Sher Singh was jailed on charges of killing a lawmaker or a Member of Parliament.The lawmaker was a lady and in her younger years was a bandit.

She had shot to fame because she had gunned down a few Rajputs-Sher Singh was a Rajput too- angered by their torture and humiliation of her.She had served her prison term and was now a lawmaker but Sher Singh was filled with revenge.

One fine day, he got his chance and the lady lawmaker fell to his bullets.Singh surrendered to the police and was imprisoned.

He got his chance to escape the prison one fine day and left for Afghanistan on a mission.This mission was hidden deep down his bosom and he would never ever reveal what his mission was-not to his family, not to his friends!

What followed was truly a story out of the countless fiction books! He went to Afghanistan, located the grave of Prithviraj Chauhan, exhumed the bones of the long dead king and came back to India with those remains!

He wanted to give a dignified a cremation to his childhood hero, the King of Delhi and Ajmer and there was nothing that he would not do to achieve his goal. Sher Singh wanted to finish the unfinished story of 800 years!

When he came back to India, he made his way to his ancestral village in the State of Uttar Pradesh and with great courtesy, gave the King a solemn cremation, as per Hindu rites.

The King had returned to India after 800 years!

Hauntingly Beautiful-Red Fort in Delhi- Part  1

Last Sunday, I fulfilled a promise that I had made to myself- bringing alive , through images, the chequered history of the Red Fort of Delhi, India. 

It is a hauntingly beautiful fort and unlike many such old castles spread throughout the world and India, is always bustling with tourists. Many travellers from United States, United Kingdom , continental Europe , Korea and Japan make this fort a part of their itinerary. 

Red Fort is a traveller’s paradise.  

Have a look at this bazaar, perhaps one of the oldest surviving bazaars of India. It is called Chhatta Bazaar, or a bazaar of beehives  

   Constructed in the middle of the 17th century by the Mughal Emperor, Shahjehan, this bazaar was also called Meena Bazaar, so called, because wives of his nobles used to sell their wares to the Emperor himself.  

If a particular lady caught  his fancy, well, she was endowed with good luck!

Have a look at the gold or brass coloured ancient door to the Fort.  

   Dear traveller, a word of advice: have a  kullad of lassi or sweet buttermilk before you start onward. It is quite a long distance to cover. 
  It is yummy and full of energy!
As we go further, an ancient inscription in Persian  welcomes us , hello, can someone decipher?  

 Tomorrow: Steeped in luxury: the apartments of the Emperor

Friday Feature- Just Pictures

So, here we go checking out the sights and sounds of Delhi.

 Start off with a kulladh of lassi. Yummy!
 Temptation looms large! And we are falling for it
 Don’t disturb us please
 The grain for pigeons

 Cheek and jowl

 The old yieldeth to the new

 Sadar Bazar: everything so inexpensive

 The humble Indian pyaoo

 Everything sells: in Khari Baoli

 Happy faces

 Beautiful!!!!

 Time for a cuppa

Hauntingly Beautiful India Red Fort in Delhi-Part 2:Murder, he ordered! 

Bathrooms are for bathing and not for ordering executions, is’nt it?

You are seeing a hamam , a mediavel era bathroom within the Red Fort in Delhi. Travelers to Delhi can’t miss the Red Fort but, what they do miss is the ghastly and at times, sensuous stories about hamams.


The Red Fort was built by the Mughal Emperor Shah Jehan in the middle of the 17th century. He is also credited with the construction of Taj Mahal in Agra.

He was succeeded by his son Aurangzeb who came to power after killing and driving away his brothers. This gentleman imprisoned his father, Shahjehan away in Agra so he could rule in peace , from Delhi.

Coming back to this hamam- the Emperor did more than just take a bath here: he consulted his aides on matters of administration and military campaigns.

And he also gave orders for execution of his rivals from the hamam. It was a well guarded place and very few trusted people could come inside.

It was a rainy day in July, 1657,that the Emperor, semi clad in his bathing robes and pouring perfumed water over his body, took a decision- Finish Dara! Dara was his eldest brother and had lost out in the bitter battle of succession to the throne.

Such, were the uses of this hamam that you see above.

The Sensuous Affairs 

Let’s now move to the more sensuous happenings of another hamam.

Back in the 1200s , the then Delhi Sultan, who was a successor to Iltutmish, was a licentious guy.

He used to make his harem women compete with each other for his affections: who would share the royal bed with him for the next few days!

Beautiful women, dressed to the minimum and each holding a lighted candle, used to cavort in the heavily perfumed waters of his harem. Those whose candles remained lighted after the orgies were over, were declared the winners and the Royal Bed was theirs!


Amazing lives these hedonistic guys led, is’nt it?

No trace of this particular hamam is left today. It was most probably located in the southern part of Delhi, near Humayun,s Tomb.There used to be a village called Kilokri or Kilokhri near the river Yamuna that housed that hamam. Not much is known of the history Kilokri or Kilokhri .

What do you think of this post, friends? Was it enjoyable? Can it be further improved?

India Travel;The King with 700 wives

He had more than 700 ladies in his harem, but his lust was insatiable.They called him, “Emperor Colourful”.What is the story?

Jahandar

 

Delhi, the capital of India was the seat of power of the Mughals for for more than 150 years.

This powerful dynasty,which sprung from the genes of the Great Mongol, Ghenghis Khan and Tamerlame, had battled the ancient kingdoms of India, uprooted them, constructed the marvellous buildings like the Taj Mahal and Shahjahanabad, was now staring at decay during  the beginning of the 18th century.

Relentless attacks by the Hindu armies belonging to Rajput,Jat,Maratha and Sikh groups over much of the 17th century had corroded away the vital innards of the Mughal empire. Aurangzeb, the son of Shahjahan had passed away in 1707 AD and was succeeded by his aged son, Bahadur Shah.This king passed away in 1712 AD.

The Marathas, Jats and Rajputs used to strike at will and the Mughal emperors could do nothing but compromise with the attackers.

It was more or less a tottering empire and this post is about the doddering emperors of that time.

It was under these circumstances that Jahandar Shah ascended the throne in Delhi on March 29, 1712 He  was 51 years at that time.and was a lech in every sense of the term.His day started with endless pegs of liquor and expensive wine and ended with orgies with the countless beautiful ladies of his harem.It is estimated that there were more than 700 maids in his harem.The annual budget for the upkeep of these desirable beauties was more than  2 crore Indian Rupees!

The king wanted a new, virgin maiden every night for his carnal pleasures.His trusted men used to fan out in the nights and kidnap  unsuspecting girls.It was terrifying for the common Delhi citizen to step out in the night with his wife or daughter.Such was Delhi, then, more than 300 years back.

One day, Jahandar called his minister and told him he was bored with his existing harem of women and wanted a fresh, virgin maiden.”One who has not been spoilt by either glance or touch by any man”, Jahandar explained.

The minister was filled with consternation as it was becoming difficult by the day to find such beauties.But,this was an order and had to be carried out else, the minister ran the risk of severe punishment.Where can I find such a woman of incomparable beauty, he wondered?He spread his spies all over Delhi a and very soon found success.

He found Lalkunwar, a courtesan and  what a very beautiful woman she was!The lady, when told about the king’s intentions, was filled with ambition and thanked her stars for this golden opportunity.Of course, the minister was relieved.

Jahandar received his latest prized possession with a great show of pomp and the lady was accommodated in the best apartment of his harem.It is needless to say that his wives and other concubines were filled with misery on the arrival of Lalkunwar.

Lalkunwar was indeed the most beautiful of the king’s ladies.She had a sense of humour,sang well, had a good voice and could sense the mood of the king with an intuition that very few of us possess.Over a period of time,the king used to consult her on matters related to his “kingdom”.It was indeed a great promotion for an ordinary courtesan to being the confidante’ of the Mughal emperor of Delhi and India!

It was the month of July, the month when rain clouds come over Delhi and give respite to its people from the terrific heat, and the king and his girlfriend were cavorting.Countless pegs of the choicest wines over, the king rolled over his soft bed and soon enough was in a deep sleep.Lalkunwar too followed suit.Outside their apartment, a gentle moist breeze that wafted over from Yamuna created a sensual ambience.

As the clock struck 2 am, Lalkunwar woke up with a cold sweat.She was shivering and her breath was shallow.The king, too woke up after hearing this disturbance, and saw his beloved in a disturbed state.

“What is the matter, sweetheart?”, he enquired.

“Your majesty, I dreamt that a young handsome child was calling me Mama, and he was seated on your throne!I am pregnant, my lord!”

Jahandar gazed at her for a minute , collected himself and then said, “That is indeed good news, my lady, I have been longing to hear it! Let us go the mausoleum of the Saint Nasiruddin in Chirag and pay our obeisance there.”

Chirag is a suburb of Delhi and the mausoleum here was constructed in the year 1373 by another king, Firozshah.

My lord, we have not wed each other, how will the young one become the king, she asked.

Do not worry, we shall get married within no time , my love, but let us first go to the mausoleum of the saint.We will also take a bath in the pond, just you and me, and later, get married, the king said.

You may also read this post on the murderous Mughal emperor, Aurangzeb;

https://swayamt.wordpress.com/2015/06/06/aurangzeb-a-tragedya-bloodthirsty-brother-and-a-poet/

Lalkunwar, greatly relieved with the king’s intention, embraced her lover and the two naked bodies again went into a lovemaking session.

Next morning, the king and his lover prepared themselves for the short trip and the bath that was to follow it.A handsome elephant was brought to the palace courtyard bedecked in gold sequinned textiles, its howdah was made of gold and its chains glimmered in the sunlight.Both the lovers climbed over the royal elephant and thus began a short journey to the mausoleum of the saint.

Jahandar and his girlfriend made their obeisance to the long dead saint and gave away alms and money to the assembled beggars there.The beggars showered their blessings to the couple and left.Gradually, the day drew to a close.

As it became dark, the amorous duo made way to the pond adjoining the tomb.Filled with anticipation and lust, they became tearing away each other’s expensive clothes;clothes that were encrusted with ruby and emeralds and diamonds..

Completely disrobed, the two lovers entwined each other.Jahandar, carried his lover in his arms, showering her face and breasts with passionate kisses.She returned the affection promptly and the full moon covered itself with the monsoon laden dark clouds , too embarrassed to see this orgy.

The Mughal slowly and with great care led Lalkunwar to the deeper part of the pond.She was engrossed in the affections of the Mughal- the descendant of Akbar and the other great Mughals- so did not care.The king’s smiling face was all that she cared about.The frolics continued.

Suddenly, and without any warning, the Mughal grabbed her head and plunged it under water.Lalkunwar was caught completely offguard.Arms thrashing, she wanted to break free.What has happened to my lover, she wondered.The king did not give any quarter, his pressure on her head grew even more and more.She sank deeper and deeper, she wanted to cry out but could’nt.Her mouth gulped a lot of water and the lungs wanted to explode.She knew she was dying.

Lalkunwar, the chief girlfriend of the Mughal emperor of Delhi and India was now dead and there was no inheritor to the throne that could pose a threat to the royal heritage of the Mughals.An illegitimate child could not be tolerated as the Mughal emperor of India!

credits;Internet
Lalkunwar

Meandering in Delhi-Mr. Jain and his 150 year old tea stall

Mr Jain runs a tea shop that he claims is more than 150 years old. 

This shop is tucked away in a corner on the main thoroughfare of Chandni Chowk, Delhi.

He also dispenses medicines , free of cost, to diabetics. They are home remedies actually.

    

When he is a bit free from his business, he regales his customers with stories of the past of Delhi.

You can even note down his telephone number on the photograph.

He is a good soul.When I visited him last month, he answered my questions with supreme patience.

Mr. Jain told me that there was a canal that ran right in the middle of the main avenue of Chandni Chowk.And yes, there were trams too for transport till the beginning of the 20th century.

Mr. Jain belongs to one of the most affluent communities of India and is an adherent to Jainism. This is a sect that is contemporary to Buddhism.

Delhi is home to a lot of Jains and Dariyaganj suburb has a good number of Jain residents.

Jains have lived in Delhi for more than 1000 years and are the greatest champions of non violence, also known as ahimsa.

It is people like Mr. Jain that have maintained the ancient character of Delhi.