Dilli Darshan: Firoz Shah Tughlaq’s Delhi

In the post previous to this one I had said that I’m not doing my Dilli Darshaning chronologically any more because most of the sites I’m visiting from this point on are very layered, in that they contain structures from various historical periods and architectural styles. So of course, the very next post (i.e. this one) has to be about sites with buildings from a very specific time in history and very specific architectural style, and which are much older than Purana Qila and Dilli Sher Shahi from the previous post! What to do? Nonetheless, here goes. :)

I’m hopping back to the Tughlaq period, specifically the second half of the 14th century, when Firoz Shah reigned in Delhi. In a previous post I had mentioned that mature Tughlaq architecture was my favorite in Delhi, and Firoz Shah was one of the most prolific proponents of that style. His most important buildings lie at two main sites – Firoz Shah Kotla and Hauz Khas, while many others are spread all over Delhi. Apart from these, he also undertook a lot of reconstruction and renovation projects, which I do not delve into much here.

The structures in this post include buildings commissioned by Firoz Shah, as well as those commissioned by others during his reign. Some of the structures built during this time have already been covered in the Jahanpanah and Nizamuddin posts (Kalu Serai and Khirki mosques in Jahanpanah, Kali Masjid and Tilangani’s tomb in Nizamuddin), and some others will be covered in upcoming posts as per their location in Delhi (such as Kalan Masjid in Shahjahanabad).

Firozabad or Firoz Shah Kotla

This was Firoz Shah’s new capital, away from Jahanpanah (built by his predecessor Muhammad bin Tughlaq) and on the banks of the river Yamuna. The Kotla was Firoz Shah’s palace, and Firozabad included the walled city that grew around it. Firozabad, like Jahanpanah as well as Purana Qila/Dinpanah from the previous post, was one of the numerous historical cities that lie within Delhi.

The Kotla is mostly in ruins, and there are basically three buildings that are intact enough to discern their original shape. These are the mosque, the baoli, and the structure with the Ashokan pillar on it. The Ashokan pillar is a polished stone pillar with inscriptions on it, dating back to the 3rd century BC. Firoz Shah brought this pillar (and another similar one placed in the Delhi ridge, mentioned later in this post) from areas adjoining Delhi, and placed them atop his buildings. Apart from these three structures, a lot of smaller buildings, possibly residential in nature, remain around the Kotla grounds.

Like the Begampur mosque, the defining aspect of these structures (especially the Kotla mosque and the smaller buildings) is their stark and battered walls and lack of ornament compared to structures before and after them. Again the Central Asian influence is easily discernible in these buildings.

Mosque inside Firoz Shah Kotla

View of mosque and adjoining areas from the Ashokan pillar building

Mosque entrance

Mosque courtyard. The arcades, including the main western arcade have vanished, leaving behind just the outer walls

Mosque exterior from the Kotla grounds. The bold massing and stark lines of the structure are evident here

Ashokan pillar building with the pillar on top

The various chambers of the pillar building (as well as the chambers under the mosque) are used for ritualistic gatherings and prayers on Thursdays

The 3rd c. BC Ashokan pillar with inscriptions


Other structures around the Kotla

Hauz Khas

Hauz Khas was a tank and serai built during Alauddin Khalji’s time (early 14th c.), which Firoz Shah improved upon, and was also where he built a madrasa and his own tomb. The tomb is not very interesting (to me – though the interiors are quite nice), but the madrasa buildings are beautiful examples of Tughlaq architecture.

Another of Delhi’s urban villages grew around the madrasa buildings, though the madrasa itself is walled off and maintained by the ASI. However, much of Hauz Khas village has been taken up by wealthy owners and tenants and converted to hip (or at least once-hip) boutique stores and restaurants. As is evident from these photographs, the lack of propriety when it comes to maintaining a respectable distance from these ancient structures runs vertically through Delhi’s social strata.

Tughlaq era pavilion-tombs near the madrasa

Tomb complex entrance and grounds, with the adjacent Hauz Khas village

Firoz Shah’s tomb

Firoz Shah’s tomb at the junction of the two arms of the madrasa buildings

Tomb entrance

Tomb interior

Narrow passages from wall niches connect the tomb to both arms of the madrasa

Madrasa buildings

Madrasa buildings from the Hauz Khas tank

Madrasa buildings from the tank, with the Hauz Khas “village” buildings behind

Giving the word “adjacent” a whole new meaning

Madrasa buildings

The madrasa and tomb complex from across the now much smaller Hauz Khas tank

Other Firoz Shah buildings

It was an exploration to travel around Delhi and find these structures, some of which are pretty far off from the usual South Delhi circuit that most of the Dilli Darshan sites are at.

Tomb and mosque of Shah Alam, at Wazirabad in North Delhi

Mosque facade

Mosque interior, renovated

Mosque interior with private mezzanine prayer room

Tomb and mosque enclosure from outside

Interesting arch in the entrance gateway building, with projecting/cantilevered springers

Mosque dome

Contemporaneous bridge adjacent to the tomb and mosque enclosure

Pir Ghaib, in the northern ridge area near Hindu Rao hospital. This is variously considered to be a hunting lodge, an astronomical observatory, the chillah of a saint, and all of the above

Upper floor exterior

Aligned holes in the bottom floor ceiling, top floor roof as well as capping chattri, giving support to the theory that the building was used for astronomical/astrological purposes

Ritualistic offerings in the upper floor rooms

Upper floor rooms with mihrabs

The second Ashokan pillar, currently placed in Delhi’s northern ridge near Pir Ghaib

Ashokan pillar inscriptions

Entrance to Bhuli Bhatiyari, in the southern ridge near Karol Bagh

The arch in the entrance gateway is very similar to the one in the gateway of Shah Alam’s tomb and mosque enclosure

Bhuli Bhatiyari enclosure walls

Khushak Shikargah, within the grounds of Teen Murti Bhawan in central Delhi, adjacent to the Nehru planetarium

Khushak Shikargah interior

Taking a Khushak break

Nehru planetarium building from the Shikargah

Chausath Khamba in central Delhi. This is a view of the entrance (eastern) side of the mosque. The western side is entirely tiled up and “modernized” in the interior

The neighborhood outside Chausath Khamba

7 thoughts on “Dilli Darshan: Firoz Shah Tughlaq’s Delhi

  1. Fantastic photos and brilliant post! I've lived in Delhi all my life and yet it's rather surprising to know how much history is nearly lost within the city. In fact, I happen to live just a few meters from Chor Minar (and I have done, for nearly five years) and I still haven't actually walked to it, read that board on the side and taken a picture. For all the time I have left before I leave Delhi, this certainly gives me something more to do!Thanks for this~ http://fuelcalledlove.wordpress.com/


  2. Hey there….I went to the Tughlaqabad Fort today and was browsing on internet to find somnething regarding it and I bumped into your blog and flickr stream…IT'S AMAZING! great work..Couldn't stop myself to give you a compliment for the detailed and beautiful pictures and also for the in-depth analysis ofthese monuments ( I particularly liked the one where you have compared Humayun's Tomb with that Of Nizammudin) I love Delhi's History..and all of those monuments which you have covered in Dilli Darshan are my favourite..and I revisited them once again with a different perspective through your blog and camera..Thanks! Keep up the great work!


  3. Hi Varun, liked ur Blog. Though am not a reasercher or historian like u, am an ardent lover of Delhi and thus suggest u to visit my blog 'dillitodelhi.com.I would like ur view, comments and suggestions.In ur blog, u hv taken many pics which quite beutiful.


  4. Pingback: Seven Delhi Mosques Built by Khan Jahan Junan Shah | Sarson ke Khet

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