Delhi diary (Sep 07) – 4

Purana-Qila – a.k.a Old Fort…A place of great archeological importance. Believed to be a part of the Indraprastha area, where ruled the Pandavas, once upon a time. And then later, much later, the Mughal Shahjehan and the lion – Sher Shah…Now in ruins…It is right next to the “house of birds” – chidiya garh – a.k.a the Delhi Zoo…

A princely sum of Rs 2/- was the entry fee to the fort, and another Rs 2/- for the museum inside the fort. Had this been anywhere else in the ‘developed world’ they would have charged something in the range of USD 40 each, I guess.

Ravi bought two bottles of cold mineral water…Why two, I asked…He was clear that he wanted labor to be equally distributed….And so we lugged one each as we walked in through the majestic portal of the fort….It was a huge double storeyed arch-gate, built of red sandstone…High up on the gateway wall, there were delicately carved flower reliefs set in the middle of a shatkona (hexagram) design. This design was seen in other monuments inside as well…

On the right, as soon as one enters the Qila complex, is the museum. The museum housed a fascinating assortment of history. The Purana Qila, as we see it now, was built during the times of Humayun and Sher Shah Suri in 16th century AD. But ASI excavations have thrown up a whole lot of stuff much older. Pottery dating to maybe 1000 BC have been unearthed. It was absorbing to see a few thousand years of history on display… Gupta period coins (4th – 5th Century AD)… There were a couple of stone tablets, of 11th or 12th century, with long inscriptions in Sanskrit. Very readable. I asked the officials there whether they had a translation of that. The man there told me in Hindi that there was no translation. ‘Stuff is in Sanskrit’, he told me, as if to say – ‘now, who can translate that!’…

From what I could make of it, the tablet contained a list of kings who ruled in the Delhi area from the time of the Tomars (7th or 8th century AD) to the time the tablet was inscribed…The word “Hariyana” could be seen clearly…I didn’t know that the name was that old…

btw, I understand that it was one of the Tomar kings who installed the famous ‘Iron Pillar’, that is now seen near Qutb Minar. Web sources say that a Sanskrit inscription on the pillar dates it to 4th Century AD. This is that famous iron pillar – the one that hasn’t been affected by rust in all these centuries…

The afternoon was very warm when we walked out of the museum. The Qila complex was landscaped well – lots of green… Quite a few couples were ensconced on the Qila lawns and in the thickets, making the best of the timeless ambience and afternoon sun.

We spent some time looking at the few monuments that are inside the fort…

The first monument that we saw was the Qila-i-kuhna masjid, the mosque built by Sher Shah Suri. Nice dome, nice prayer niches…Some marble, lots of red sandstone…I looked for and located a staircase that was tucked away unseen. The view from the second storey is said to be spectacular. But the entrance to the staircase was grill-doored and chain-locked…

Tourist literature talks of an inscription on this monument that says “As long as there are people on this earth, may this edifice be frequented, and people be happy in it.”..

Sher Shah’s wish is running true. Looking around, one could see quite a few people. Happy tourists. Taking photographs…A small kid with special shoes that shrieked “Queek-queek” with every step, was a one man band, striding all over the place.

We then went to the Sher-mandal, an octagonal monument, used by  Humayun as his library. And then one day he tripped down the staircase here, and sustained grievous injuries that led to his death. It is said that the Mughals then abandoned this fort, and later went on to build Lal Qila (Red Fort) as their Delhi bastion.

After resting a while on one of the edge-ledges of the octagon, we made a move, and explored the campus…To the boundary walls, where flowed the Yamuna, all those years ago…Down below, on one side of the boundary wall, we saw a bus terminus of sorts…From another boundary wall, we were overlooking the Delhi zoo…

I had a sudden memory from my school times, of seeing a whole lot of monkeys on the Purana Qila ramparts. Couldn’t see any now. I asked Ravi about it. He told me that the monkeys have moved on to the current seats of power, at North Block and South Block – the great houses of the Indian Government, that stand by the side of the great Indian parliament. (Check out http://www.telegraphindia.com/1041226/asp/nation/story_4175512.asp or http://www.indianexpress.com/res/web/pIe/ie/daily/19990123/02351855.html or  better still, see http://monkeydaynews.blogspot.com/2005/08/delhi-goes-ape-over-monkey-menace.html )

Ravi had a fine story to tell of an enterprising entrepreneur who had a roaring business driving away the monkeys from the Government offices.  That chap brought along a trained Langur which would single out the male-leads of the encroaching monkey tribes and roar at them and scare them away. The tribes would follow their leader. The entrepreneur gets his payment. But the relief would be temporary, as the monkeys would come right back a few days later. Leading to repeat business. A fine business model.

We asked around for  ‘digs’ – excavations – that we saw in the museum pictures. Seems that the places have been taken over by weeds and waters.

“Isn’t this were US Prez George Bush addressed the Indian nation, last year?” I ask Ravi as we sit on the Purana Qila lawns….

(See http://www.whitehouse.gov/infocus/india-pakistan/photoessays/india-visit032006-p2/17.html)

Ravi doesn’t answer. He prefers to softly voice some chants from the Vedas, logging in to the atmosphere that was once Indraprastha…

Next stop…..Gimme Red….Lal Qila….

2 Responses to “Delhi diary (Sep 07) – 4”

  1. ramji Says:

    Did you see the Kunti Devi mandir,where the Pandava matriarch used to pray?

  2. gkamesh Says:

    Ramji

    Now that u mention it, it rings a bell in my memory. Do remember that from my school days. But somehow, I quite completely missed that this time.

    One thing I saw but forgot to mention in the post was a “Bauli” – a “water tank”…lots of steps leading underground to a pond of water…

    Regards

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