Revisiting Jahanpanah

There’s no doubt about the fact as to how many times the city of Delhi kept changing. With new rulers came new Delhi and the Delhi we see now is proof to all that change, slowly fading away in modern infrastructure, while some of it still survives, standing as a sad reminder of how time passes and changes.

Jahanpanah – the fourth city of Delhi came into existence under the rule of Mohammad bin Tughlaq and Delhi Karavan’s walk leader Aditya Pathak took us through it.

Now, entering the citadel and assuming from the way the structures were, it seemed that this part of the palace was meant for public gatherings and events.

A very interesting fact about this citadel was that it used to have a thousand pillars. Upon observation, one would notice stones placed at close proximity with each other having circular holes in them, probably for wooden planks to be fitted in them to create a cover of some sort. The arched gates, domed ceilings and a tomb tells one right away about the Indo-Persian architecture of the 13th century. The beauty of these structures is something else but the architecture in the time of Tughlaqs was still quite simple yet strongly built. It was the Mughals who later brought intricacy to Indo-Persian architecture.

A heavily laden tree (of its own leaves) stands, as if bowing down, in the middle of a graveyard with a praying area nearby is actually the shrine of a Sufi saint who came here in the times of Lodhis. Locals of all religions visit here and take care of these graves, decorating them with roses and incense sticks.

The word Jahanpanah stands for refuge for the whole world and it also means a monarch who provides refuge to the world, the idea behind this city was indeed meaningful.

Walking towards the fort, one crosses a very differently shaped tomb which is quite different from the other tombs of the Indo-Persian era. It is called the Curiously Domed building, which is interesting to observe as its dome is differently shaped and constructed.

Reaching the court area of the citadel, everyone found comfortable spots on the stones, soaking up the winters sun, all ears to the stories of Ibn e Batuta who mentioned Jahanpanah in the second chapter of Rihla – his travelogue. Other interesting stories of the rich traveler – the routes he took, the gifts he received in his many trips, the memorabilia he collected, his culinary experiences, court experiences would make anyone give up their job and just start travelling.

About fifty metres from the citadel, the Begumpur mosque is situated, clearly peeking out amongst the houses in the distance from the topmost point of the citadel. Entering the mosque would give a person quite a grand feeling as one suddenly sees a huge courtyard surrounded by a boundary of pillars and arches leading to spaces inside them having domed ceilings. Just like all monarchs like to portray their wealth, power, dominance by creating monuments in a grand manner, the Begumpur mosque is a great example of that. If we look at it, it is just a huge mosque which also has sarais but it was meant for important and affluent travelers. It is also believed to be built as a Jama Masjid for Jahanpanah or it could have been built by Feroz Shah, the successor of Mohammad bin Tughlaq. It was around 1920 that ASI took the mosque under their care at the time when it was occupied by people who had turned the place into a village who were relocated nearby. The topmost point of the mosque is easily accessible and gives one amazing views of the mosque and the area around it.

When Ghiyasuddin Tughlaq died and Tughlaqabad, which is believed to be cursed by Nizamuddin Auliya, was abandoned, Jahanpanah was established by Mohammad bin Tughlaq. After shifting the capital to the Deccan and trying out several political and administrative policies that failed, the capital shifted back to Jahanpanah yet again and that is the time when Ibn Batuta arrived in Delhi. Like every era comes to an end, the Tughlaq dynasty did too hence all Tughlaq monuments lie in ruins today.

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The value of these monuments is restored a little by the conservation and renovation works but visiting and listening to stories attached to these places, old and new alike, keeps places like Jahanpanah alive.

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