Wonders of Muslim Architecture in Delhi -Khadiza Binte Mostafiz
Delhi is the capital of India, and it is home to over 11 million people. Hundreds of tourists from around the world flock over Delhi to enjoy its magnificent historical sites, culture and flavours. Similar to the other parts of India, most of its inhabitants are Hindu. This large Hindu dominated area was once ruled by Muslim rulers for many, many years. Those Muslim rulers didn’t force their religion upon their subjects but only ruled the land justly. Because of those Muslim rulers, India flourished greatly and had attracted foreign colonizers. Even though the British Empire caused the downfall of Muslim rulers in India, many marvelous mosques, monuments, tombs etc., built by those Muslim rulers, are still standing high throughout India and the subcontinent. Today, I would like to take the readers on a tour to explore the majestic monuments of Delhi built by the Muslim rulers of India, and along the way, I will also share some of its rich history and glory.
In 1192 Muhammad Ghori defeated king Prithviraj Chauhan in the second battle of Tarain, and that was the start of Muslim ruling in India. Muhammad Ghori’s deputy, the founder of Delhi Sultanate, Qutub Uddin Aibak started building Qutub Minar in 1199, and it was completed in 1220 by his son-in-law Iltutmish. At present, it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site in the Mehrauli area of New Delhi, India. The height of Qutub Minar is 72.5 meters, making it the tallest minaret in the world built of bricks.
Qutub Minar also has many other charms. Quwwat-us-Islam Mosque, the first mosque built in India, is situated there. At the south main entrance of Quwwat-us-Islam mosque, the Alai Darwaza was built by Allaudin Khilji in 1311. It is a marvelous site decorated with white marbles and is made of red sandstone. Near the Alai Darwaza, a small tomb was built with sandstone on an octagonal base. It is called The Tomb of Imam Zamin. He was the Imam of the Quwwat-us-Islam Mosque. He came to Delhi from Turkmenistan in the 15th century and lived in the Qutub Complex premises during the rule of Sikandar Lodi.
In 1321, the founder of the Tughlaq Dynasty, Ghiyasuddin Tughlaq built the Tughlaqabad fort. The fort is a gigantic stone structure, with walls that are 10-15 metres high. It was supposed to have 52 gates, out of which only 13 remain at present. This fort is also called the Ruined Fort. There’s an interesting legend behind this fort. This fort is said to be the Sultan’s dream even before he was the ruler. He wanted to build a city where his people could live in harmony and feel protected by the presence of the fort. It is believed that Tughlaq wanted every laborer in the area to build the city-fort. This led to the fury of one of the labourers, Nizamuddin Auliya, who cursed the fort saying “Ya rahey hissar, ya bassey gujjar”, which means, may the fort remain unoccupied, or else may herdsmen live here. Following this curse, it is believed that the Empire could not prosper, and the fort-city was soon abandoned. Well, cursed or not, this place will not fail to amuse you as it is one of the most beautiful specimens of pure Islamic architecture.
Lodhi Garden is a 90 acres park situated on the Lodhi road. It contains Mohammed Shah’s Tomb, Tomb of Sikandar Lodi, Shisha Gumbad and Bara Gumbad and some architectural works of the 15th century by Lodhis – who ruled parts of northern India, Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province of modern-day Pakistan, from 1451 to 1526. This divine garden is a good example of a combination of the Hindu and Islamic styles of architecture.
Purana Qilla (Old Fort)
In 1526, Babor invaded India and defeated the last Lodhi sultan in the First Battle of Panipat and founded the Mughal Empire that ruled from Delhi and Agra. The arrival of the Mughals was a turning point in Indian history, more so in its architecture. It is a known fact that Delhi owes much of its cultural glory and grandeur to the Mughals. 2nd Mughal emperor Humayun, Babor’s son, started the construction of Purana Qilla or the old fort near the banks of river Yamuna. But the construction finally ended in the regime of Sher Shah. Since then, it is formally called Shergarh or Sher fort. Some say it is built upon the ancient site of Indraprastha, the capital of the kingdoms of the Pandavas from the Mahabharata. Purana Qila is the oldest fort in India, and undoubtedly it is a fine example of history, heritage, and old-world charm.
When Humayun, the second Mughal Emperor, died in 1556, his first wife, Empress Haji Begum, was so heartbroken that she dedicated her life to building a memorial for his late husband. Thus near the Yamuna River in Delhi, the most magnificent mausoleum in the Empire was built. This monument narrates a timeless saga of love and longing. It is said that Humayun’s tomb is perhaps one of the grandest historical sites in India.
In 1540, Sher Shah Suri, the founder of the Suri Empire in India, took control over the Mughal Empire. During his reign, there was a noble person named Isa Khan. Isa Khan’s Tomb is located in the same compound as the Humayun’s. This tomb is beautifully decorated with varnished tiles, ornate canopies and many verandas around. It is one of the oldest sunken garden style tombs in Delhi.
Red Fort (Lal Qilla)
In 1638, the 5th Mughal Emperor Shahjahan decided to move his capital from Agra to Shahjahanabad in Delhi. Along with the construction of this new city, he laid the foundations of his palace, the Red Fort or Lal Qilla. This massive walled citadel with red sandstone walls took nearly a decade to complete. This fort was the seat of the Mughal empire for around 200 years until the British took control.
Inside the Red Fort, a grand hall named the Diwan-i-Am is located. It is a place where the Emperor would meet and address the common people. The hall is adorned with stucco work, and it contains golden columns.
Masjid-i Jehan Numa
Masjid i Jehan Numa means “World- reflecting Mosque” or “Mosque of the Celestial Sphere”. It is a fitting name for this grand mosque. Locals usually call it Delhi Jama Masjid. This mosque can accommodate more than 25000 people. The 5th Mughal Emperor Shahjahan started its construction in 1650. The mosque was completed in 1656 with three great gates and two 40 metres high minarets constructed with strips of red sandstone and white marble. It was inaugurated by Imam Syed Abdul Ghafoor Shah Bukhari from Bukhara. At present, it is one of the largest mosques in India.
During the reign of the 13th Mughal Emperor Ahmad Shah Bahadur, there was a statesman named Safdarjung. He was the wazir-ul-Hindustan or the prime minister of India. After his death, Nawab Shujaud Daula, Safdarjung’s son, built this marvelous tomb for his father. It is located at the junction of Safdarjung Road and Aurobindo Marg (Road) in New Delhi. Locals call it ‘Safdarjung Ka Maqbara’. An Ethiopian architect designed this garden tomb, and it marks the last colossal garden tomb of the Mughals. A translated version of an Arabic inscription etched on its surface reads, “When the hero of plain bravery departs from the transitory, may he become a resident of God’s paradise”. Safdarjung’s tomb also has several small awnings, like the Moti Mahal, Jangli Mahal and Badsha Pasand. The compound of the tomb also contains a library and a Madrasa that is being maintained by the Archaeological Survey of India. n