Monday, June 13, 2011

Delhi – The Forts Part 3 Feroz Shah Kotla and Tughluqabad

Feroz Shah was the third of the Tughluq rulers reigning from 1351 to 1388. His citadel stood until 1398 when Timur (or Tamburlaine) sacked what was then the fifth incarnation of the city of Delhi.
The citadel stands next to the cricket ground of the same name and is entered through a main gate on its western side flanked by two large bastions.

Most of the stonework was removed in the 17th Century for the construction of Shahjahanabad although the foundation works remain as a layout particularly in the gatehouse and barrack areas inside the main gate.

The citadel is said to have included palaces, pillared halls, mosques, a pigeon tower and a baoli (stepped well) although most of the site is now in ruins.

There had been some considerable progress in preserving the site between my visits in 2001 and 2004, not least to the outer walls to help preserve the integrity of the site.

Although reputedly a weak ruler Feroz Shah was known as a great builder, intellectual and “antique” collector who encouraged a great deal of translation work of Sanskrit texts into Arabic and Persian. In typical Mughal style the grounds include a large walled garden area that was undergoing a lot of work in 2004 to improve the site.

The main palace that remains is built pyramid style in three tiers with an Ashoka pillar placed on top. Feroz acquired two Ashoka pillars (carved between 273 and 236 BC) at Meerut and Topla that were floated down the Yumana to Delhi. One he placed on the North Ridge above the City while the other tops his pyramid style palace at his citadel.

The Ashoka pillar sits on top and is thought to have been surrounded by ornamental friezes with a stone balustrade around it. It also reputedly had a canopy of gilded copper. Only some very small segments of the balustrade remain.

This is the Topla pillar and in addition to the Ashoka edicts it records the 12th Century conquests of the Chauhan Prince Visala Deva.
Despite all his other translation works the Ashoka edicts could not be translated by Feroz’s scholars and so he is reputed to have been told that they were magical charms used in ancient religious rituals.
The mosque was built in 1354 and was the largest of a total of seven mosques that were built in Delhi during Feroz Shah’s reign. The entrance is on the northern side as the wall at the Eastern end of the courtyard was next to the Yumana when it was built.

The rear of the West wall is the only one now standing and in a poor state of repair. It is said that the courtyard had a sunken octagonal feature in the centre in the walls of which was carved a record of Feroz Shah’s public works.
The mosque is thought to have been visited by Timur in 1398 and he took a number of the artisans with him to build a mosque on the same pattern at Samarkand.
The baoli (stepped well) is the other remaining building although in poor condition and is fenced off for safety reasons.
Fortunately the gates are not very secure and it was interesting to see that it still had (very unhealthy looking) water inside.

Feroz Shah Kotla photo collection:

More on the Feroz Shah Kotla:

The site of Tughluqabad (the third city of Delhi) is on a rocky outcrop to improve its defences and has a perimeter of approximately 6.5q km on an octagonal pattern.  The walls are rubble built and pierced by loopholes and it is crowned with stone battlements. There are thirteen outer gates that are all very small and protected by large bastions and just three inner gates to the citadel.
The fort is in ruins with excavations still going on but it is easy to see the stone block over rubble, over earthwork wall construction. Curiously the wall slope inwards at an angle of approx 25 degrees.
Entering from the south the citadel lies to the right with the palace buildings to the left with the town beyond in a grid pattern. There was very little left of the Palace building on my visits in 2001 and 2004.

Ghiyas-ud-din Tughluq was the first of the Tughluq dynasty ruling from 1320 to 1325 before being murdered by his son Muhammad. In marked contrast to my visit in 2001 by 2004 there was extensive renovation work under way on the palace area.
The Citadel is extensively ruined with the exception being the underground market, a stagnant and very smelly (but also very large) well, and a modest mosque that stood in the harem quarter.

The underground market could be entered although it didn’t appear very safe with rubble having fallen into the space below ground and access by the steps being a little awkward.
The central passageway was in decent condition with the recesses for lamps clearly spaced out. The “shops” are arranged on each side and many of them are however now “caving in”, although on my visit in 2001 I was more concerned about how many times I disturbed the bats who were in residence!

The Zenana (or harem) mosque is very small but remains in place with a small courtyard to its front.

Tughluq’s tomb stands to the south across a causeway that ran across the reservoir, although dry today it is separated from Tughluqabad by the Mehrauli-Badarpur Road.  The mausoleum is in a pentagonal enclosure in the style of a small fortress complete with battlements and bastions.

The entrance is via a large red sandstone gatehouse at the head of a large flight of steps from the causeway.

The mausoleum is a large square red sandstone structure of sloping walls topped by battlements and a large marble dome.

There are three graves in the main tomb chamber, being Tughluq, his main wife and his son and successor Muhammad (who reigned from 1325 to 1351).

In the lower level of one of the bastions is the tomb of Zafar Khan and this is thought to have been the first construction on the site prior to Tughluq deciding to also build his tomb here.

Tughluqabad photo collection:

More on Tughluqabad:

More on the Tuqhluq tomb:

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