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 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 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.
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.