Place affects architecture, affecting how we recall a particular “place.” Images of Jaipur, Faizabad, Mumbai, Jaunpur or any other heritage and historic location, for that matter, inspire very different types of architectural memories. Memorable architecture derives its form and space from the location it occupies, interacts naturally with its surroundings, and then permanently imprints itself on the “genius loci” of that location in our minds. When one thinks of Delhi, the first image of its architecture that comes to mind is a haphazard collection of home styles, from the opulent bungalows of Lutyens‘ Delhi to the highly traditional bazaar-based complex settlements of East Delhi. One wonders what role Delhi’s architecture has played and will likely continue to play in determining the layout of this dynamic metropolis. One can feel by visiting Delhi that the forts and many cities that make up Delhi are its most significant pillars. Delhi is a city constructed on the rocks of its history. Mehrauli is the oldest of the seven cities that make up Delhi. As a result, it has significantly impacted the architectural styles of neighbouring Delhi neighbourhoods.
Mehrauli at a Glance
The ideal spot to recreate the legends of the Delhi Sultanate, from Qutubuddin Aibak, the first, through Ibrahim Lodi, the last, is Mehrauli. Even though Mehrauli is a typical neighbourhood today, its distinctive architecture comes from its past. It is famed for the Qutub Minar complex, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the venue for the annual Qutub Festival. The site and its hypnotic architecture take one to the intriguing past with the stories of slaves who rose to form the Mamluk Empire that dominated most of the subcontinent. This area is located in Delhi’s South West District, bordered to the north by Hauz Khas, to the west by Vasant Kunj, and to the south by the Tughlakabad neighbourhood. Mehrauli surrounds localities, including Khanpur, Malviya Nagar, and Saket. It has easy road access and readily available public transportation options like buses, taxi cabs, and auto rickshaws. One of the prominent places of Mehrauli is the Dargah of Hazrat Khawaja Qutbuddin Bakhtiar Kaki (R.A) and a village called Mehrauli Sharif due to its association with this Sunni-Sufi Saint.
History of Mehrauli
Numerous dynasties worked for many years to construct Mehrauli. Mehrauli, one of the early settlements that later developed into the metropolis of Delhi, was first settled in the seventh century. On the outskirts of Delhi, it was founded and given its name in honour of King Mihir Bhoja of the Gurjara-Pratihara Dynasty. It remained the capital of the ruling Dynasties till 1290 AD. Later, the capital was shifted to Siri Fort during the Khilji Dynasty. Historically, the first ancient city at Mehrauli, Lal Kot Fort, was constructed by Anangpal I, a Gurjar Tanwar Chief, around 731 AD Anangpal II later expanded during the 11th Century A.D. During the 12th Century A.D., Prithvi Raj Chauhan further expanded Lal Kot Fort after defeating the Gurjar Tanwars Clan and taking control of the city. After the dramatic defeat of Prithviraj Chauhan, the Hindu dynasty’s rule over Delhi ended in 1191 A.D. The conqueror Mohammed Ghori handed over the administrative charge of the city to his General, Qutb-ud-din Aibak, and then returned to Afghanistan. Many of the present structures, like Qutub Minar, were built by him. The citadel wall, observation towers, numerous tombs, and other lofty structures of Mehrauli dominate its hilly landscape. During the Sultanate era, Mehrauli was one of the most magnificent and thriving capital cities.
Prominent Architectural Sites of Mehrauli
The historical significance of Mehrauli is evident in the beautiful structures and insightful architecture on display. Following are the architectural sites of Mehrauli.
Dargah of Hazrat Kwaja Qutbuddin Bakhtiyar Kaki (R.A)
Near the Qutub Minar Complex, the Mausoleum or Dargah of Khwaja Qutbuddin Bakhtiar Kaki, a 13th-century Sufi Saint and Chishti Order scholar, also serves as the location for the annual “Phoolwalon-Ki-Sair” Festival.
The most well-known and noticeable monument in Mehrauli is this one. The Qutb Complex’s Qutb Minar, also known as the triumph tower, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site under protection. It is the earliest illustration of the fusion of conventional Islamic architecture and Southwestern Asian design, constructed in the early 13th century. The Qutb Minar is the tallest brick-built minaret in the world, 72.5 meters tall. An overall spiral staircase of 379 steps may be seen in the tower. Because a different architect and builder built each portion of the Qutb Minar, the stories vary in size, design, and material.
Rajon ki Baoli
This is the largest and most ornate of the three baolis in Mehrauli and has a rectangular form. It is a well-known stepwell in Delhi’s Mehrauli Archaeological Park. A mosque and a mausoleum are also included in the Rajon Ki Baoli enclosure.
Mehrauli Pillar or Iron Pillar
It is still free of rust despite being made of 99% iron and existing for around 1600 years. Due to the pillar’s high corrosion resistance, archaeologists and material scientists are interested in it. The extraordinary level of competence attained by the ancient Indian iron smiths in the extraction and processing of iron has been referred to as a “testimony” by some.
Mehrauli Archaeological Park
The complex, which covers an area of more than 200 acres, showcases India‘s rich legacy, from the Pre-Islamic to the Colonial eras. Several historically significant sites may be found at the Mehrauli Archaeological Park, including the remnants of Delhi’s first city, which served as the Tomar kings’ capital in the eleventh century. There are more than 100 important historical monuments there. Balban’s Tomb, Rajon ki Baoli, Gandak ki Baoli, Qutubdin Bakhtiyar’s Dargah, and Bagichi ki Masjid are a few noteworthy landmarks. It is the only location in Delhi with a history of occupation dating back a thousand years.
Jamali Kamali Mosque and Tomb
Another unique structure in Mehrauli is the Jamali Kamali Masjid, constructed in 1528 AD in memory of the dervish Shaikh Jamali Kamboh Dihlawi and Sufi Saint Shaikh Hamid Bin Fazlullah, also known as Jalal Khan or Jamali Kamboh. Saint and poet Shaikh Fazlullah, also known as Jalal Khan or Jamali, lived in the area between the reigns of Sikandar Lodhi and Humayun. There are two tombs in the tomb, one for Jamali and the other for Kamali, whose identity is unknown.
Delhi’s Mehrauli is a significant ancient “urban village”. Since the Master plan was created, Mehrauli has expanded and seen significant development. Planning and development initiatives start a chain of changes with long-term effects. Similar to this, many of the issues in Mehrauli are attributable to unintended consequences of the various agencies’ official planning and development measures. Recent development decisions, such as the location of the new bus terminal, which has harmed Mehrauli’s physical environment and landscape, have negatively impacted the city’s historic fabric. Due to the high cost of the property, lack of land availability, and the big size of plots in Mehrauli, it makes sense to sell, which damages the area’s traditional architecture. Historic buildings consequently perish. On the other hand, the buildings, despite having a high cultural value, are out of date financially, and their problematic ownership and occupancy features all further contribute to their bad state and decay.
Blog, P.C.B. to (n.d.). Delhi Architecture: Weaving the Past with Present. [online] Morphogenesis. Available at: https://www.morphogenesis.org/media/delhi-architecture-weaving-the-past-with-present/ [Accessed 6 Dec. 2022].
www.delhiinformation.in. (2021). The Perfect Guide to Mehrauli – Monuments, Markets & more. [online] Available at: https://www.delhiinformation.in/delhi/areas/mehrauli.html [Accessed 6 Dec. 2022].
Rabindra J. Vasavada (1991). Integrated Conservation of Mehrauli Heritage Zone – A Summary prepared by Nalini Thakur. Integrated Conservation of Mehrauli Heritage Zone, [online] 48. Available at: https://architexturez.net/doc/az-cf-21192.
Tripadvisor. (n.d.). Top Architectural Buildings in Mehrauli/Qutub Minar (New Delhi). [online] Available at: https://www.tripadvisor.in/Attractions-g304551-Activities-c47-t3-zfn13087835-New_Delhi_National_Capital_Territory_of_Delhi.html [Accessed 6 Dec. 2022].
- Entry of Mehrauli, MohdAfzalKhan 2022
- Qutub Minar Icon of Mehrauli MohdAfzalKhan 2022
- Dargah of Hazrat Khawaja Qutbudddin Bakhtiar Kaki (R.A), MohdAfzalKhan 2022
- Mehrauli Piller or Iron Piller, MohdAfzalKhan 2022
- Mehrauli Archaelogical Park, https://planetofhotels.com/guide/en/india/new-delhi/mehrauli-archaeological-park
- Jamali Kamali Tomb, MohdAfzalKhan2019