Of Seven Capitals and New Delhi: Chapter II – Hauz Khas Village Complex

So Time that is o’er-kind
To all that be,
Ordains us e’en as blind,
As bold as she:
That in our very death,
And burial sure,
Shadow to shadow, well persuaded, saith,
“See how our works endure!”

Cities and Thrones and Power

Walking down the alleys of history, the road – Delhi Metro to be more precise – led me to Hauz Khas on an unbelievable Sunday. I say unbelievable because of the stunning clear blue sky which is a rare sight in Delhi especially during winter. Hauz Khas Village is part of many capitals but is best known as important site for: Siri and Firuzabad, with Siri being the third capital city and Firuzabad the fifth official capital and last of the Sultanate of Delhi.

One of the best things to have happened to dear Delhi in the recent times is Metro transit system. It’s arrival has come as a great boon to traveler like me who can now easily reach far flung attractions in Delhi. Be it Hauz Khas, Qutub Minar or even Tughlaqabad, no destination seem far and also no fuss about driving in Delhi’s crazy traffic. For Hauz Khas Village I got down at the eponymous metro station but later I found out that alighting at Green Park Metro is better option as you have to walk less.

Metro Rail: Moving Delhi Forward


Walking is a good option especially during early hours in the morning when roads and walkways are less chaotic. This was the third time I had been to Hauz Khas Village, and believe me it was the best time too. First time I was here for birding – can you believe that – around 3-4 months ago after reading somewhere that more than 100 avian species could be spotted. It was disappointing as all I could capture was sitting ducks. After a short session of see-sawing and swinging and all and watching deer enclosed in small area I had returned disenchanted and angry at misinformation served to the curious tourists through promotional websites and travel forums.

Hauz Khas Village, Green Park

Ducktales: Inside Hauz Khas

Last time I visited here was with a friend from across seven seas on the last day of last November last year and it was great and bagels at the Bagel shop – with a secret chamber which was actually a washroom not the portal to Narnia – was delicious. It was a good trip but alas we made it in the late hours of the day and we couldn’t do much of sightseeing and I promised myself to come back when the there’s more light to “see”. Then I thought of this series and it happened before I had actually planned to return. You see it (my “I am Back” thing) also makes this write up ‘lines composed a few miles’ from Hauz Khas Complex ‘on revisiting the banks of the’ “tank royale” ‘during a tour, 15 January 2012 ’. Although I am not Wordsworth the words are worth it :-)

Kharera Village Wall, Green Park

The wall of Kharera Village: Look how contemporary evident in window AC fuses seamlessly with historical rubble masonry wall

So where was I? Ah! Yes, I was on and about a tale of seven cities. So this Sunday my quest led me to the Hauz Khas Complex. And the timing…oh the timing! Even as I walked on towards the Village, I came across an imposing wall structure of Kharera Village. According to the plaque of ASI, this was the only portion of the walled enclosure from Lodi period which survived. In the days of yore, most of the historical village had a protective wall around it. But with the bane of the uncontrolled urbanization, the walls were demolished to give way to residential buildings. This portion of the wall survived or say saved as this entire area of Kharera Village was bought by a single family. The part which you see in the photograph is the only portion of the historical wall which survived in its entirety. This fortified wall was built during the Lodi period made up of rubble masonry.

Moving ahead as I observed the day was good and the sun was shining radiantly in the azure sky. As I took the turn by the Aurbindo Complex towards the village the adventure began. First in the scene was the brilliant Dadi Poti ka Maqbara. The clear blue sky, perfect lighting and no crowd what else does a traveler like me crave for? Ah! Well I guess a DSLR camera with Wide Angle lens :-) But that’s in my wish list of things to buy in 2012.

Dadi Poti ka Gumbad, Green Park

Dadi Poti ka Gumbad with Poti in the front near Hauz Khas are unknown Tombs

The monuments – Dadi Poti ka Gumbad – are dated to the times of Siri or the period of Sultanate when Alauddin Khilji ruled. Beautifully crafted, these are fascinating specimen of the tomb architecture of the Sultunate period. The name given to the tomb Dadi Poti (grandmother granddaughter) is of popular origin. Methinks something about their size but that is just a speculation. As to the whereabouts of whom does it originally belonged to or the builders, no one can tell. All I can say about this is it’s a well manicured and maintained green space amidst the concrete of dear Delhi where you can spend some quite moments and a few people sleeping there inside under the gentle early spring sun would definitely testify this fact.

Barakhamba, Hauz Khas Village

Barakhamba near Hauz Khas Village is dated back to Lodi Period

Moving on I encountered another monument which is named Barakhamba owing to the 12 pillars on which it stands. Its construction also dates back to the period of Sultanate. The state of the structure could be rated at best as fair and crumbling. I wonder if they’ll dot the Delhi’s landscape a 100 years from now. Moving on there is a Choti Gumti, a Sankari Gumti probably build during Khalji’s rule and a scintillating white temple built recently that is 1969 :-) But comparatively speaking, to say it a recent structure in light of the project would not be an overstatement. The temple looks good though. With a perfect canopy of clear blue sky the white façade were sparkling in the morning sun and a sight to behold. The temple is known as the Jagannath temple and is considered to be the centre of cultural conglomeration for Oriyas in Delhi.

Attractions in Delhi

Chooti Gumti enroute Hauz Khas Village

Jagannath Temple, Green Park

Jagannath Temple is where the Oriya fraternity of Delhi come together for cultural exchange

Moving on through narrow yet posh alleys of shopping market where chic restaurants, art and craft shops and designer clothes stores jostle with each other and woo considerable overseas tourist traffic , arriving at the gates of the Hauz Khas Complex is almost ethereal. A step backwards and you are in the thick of 21st century modern, savvy and hip Delhi and with two steps forward you enter into a quaint world of mighty empires of yore.

A Tale of Seven Cities

Entrance to Hauz Khas Complex

Once located in the center of Tarababad (City of Joy), this complex was once the most important place in the world for Islamic learning. Hauz Khas or the “Royal Tank” was built by Alauddin Khilji to address the perennial problem of water in Delhi as the city flourished under the Sultanate. It was a public utility project to collect the rain water over a large expanse of land which addressed the growing need of water for the population of Siri and Old Delhi (Quwwat ul Islam or Qutub Minar Mehrauli area).

After Khalji’s dominion, the tank got silted and was off use till the arrival of Firoz Shah Tughlaq in the throne of Sultanate. Firuz Shah did what he was known to do best, build and restore. He had the tank desilted and built the Madarsa complex and other settlements around it and the place flourished so much so that the area was referred to as the‘city of joy’. The current Hauz Khas Complex is dominated by Firuz Shah Tomb and comprises of madarsa, pavilions, chhatris and a mosque.

Favored with fertile land Hauz Khas Village became important for food production, located as it was in a densely populated area. And with its royal endowment from the Firoz Shah Tughlaq, it also became the chief center of theological study in fourteenth-century Delhi.

Firuz Shahi Madarsa

Standing Tall: Eastern Limb of Madarsa leading up to Tomb of Firuz Shah

The L shaped madrasa with the tomb of Firuz Shah at the corner intersection of the two wings is flanked by the water reservoir in the northern front and by a lush courtyard on its southern side on the second floor level which is where you are if you enter through the gate. There’s no way down to the reservoir from this side as the gates are locked and you need to take the entrance of the Deer Park in order to see the first level of the madarsa.

The complex is in fairly good state after the recent restoration but age and long neglect of monument by our credible archaeological department is telling. Then again the plastic litter inside the complex. It is so commonplace inside monuments that I sometime think that I keep repeating the obvious when I talk about them. What was good to see was a group of young volunteers cleaning up the litter inside the complex. The concerned about the environmental ethics especially in the college going kids is something good to notice. Thank god to the entire hullabaloo over Global Warming thing which if some reports are to be believed is actually a good thing. But that’s a debate I better avoid here :-)

Tomb of Firuz Shah Tughlaq

Northern Limb starting from Tomb of Firoz Shah leading upto Mosque

As you move toward the tomb of Firuz Shah you’ll notice 6 pavilions dotting the lush lawn of the complex. One is square, another hexagonal and three are octagonal, All these structures are actually tombs and mark six important grave site, most probably the scolars/tutors who taught here in the times of Firuz Shahi.

Things to do in Delhi

Chhatris with the Urban Village in Background and some volunteers in the middle gathered to rid complex from plastic wastes

The tomb of the Sultan is entered through the veranda in the South. The tomb overlooks the Hauz Khas to the North. Inside there are four unmarked grave with the central cenotaph belonging to Firuz Shah Tughlaq. One can discern Quranic inscriptions on the gold medallion of the dome. There are steps down to the reservoir from the either side of the tomb but the gates remain locked.

Travel tips Delhi

Northern Limb ending in Mosque overlooking Hauz Khas

Firuz Shah Tomb, Hauz Khas

Cenotaph in the center is the one that belongs to Firuz Shah Tughlaq

There are only a few places which could boast of the sophisticated market, monuments, a lake and sprawling gardens and Hauz Khas Village, a veritable “urban village” is one of those few places in the world. Inside the park, there are a few monuments built during Khalji’s reign one of which is a tomb. There’s a deer park inside and besides ducks it was good to spot some red wattled lapwings basking in the warmth of gentle winter sun.

This is place where you can spend serene hours but then beware of traveling towards far corners and secluded spaces inside this sprawling lake garden as the bane of Delhi’s public places are also found here. Yes! I am talking about the love/lust sick couples ruining the ambience of the park.

Nevertheless Hauz Khas Village is definitely recommended if you can take my word for it. There is so much to do once you are here. Eating, sightseeing, nature walk, shopping, the list is endless. I mean all you could hope for to do in a day could be done here. When it comes to food, there are plenty of street food option including Delhi’s own Chhole Kulche and bhature. Then there’s Gunpowder, the Bagel Shop and well there is the travel Café Kunzum which should be on the” things to do” list. Parking, opposite entry to the Deer Park, is not a problem and there is ample space to park in if you are traveling in your own vehicle.

A Day in Life - Delhi Trip

Loneliness: Crumbling remains of the Eastern Limb Arches

This will conclude the second part of the series Of Seven Capitals and New Delhi I was thinking of including my trip to Bijay Mandal and Bagumpur Mosque in this part only but that will make it too long and I think they will be more relevant if featured in a separate chapter with Siri wherein I could cover Khilji’s reign (Siri) and Mohammad Tuglaq (Jahanpanah) together as there’s not much to them separately and I don’t want to sound monotonous covering only history which is available in numerous books.

Looking back I also think that I should have covered Mehrauli in the very first chapter itself. I mean the Archaeological Park as the chronologically it is now out of order. Here I’d like your advice on whether I should devote 1 chapter for Mehrauli Archaeological Park or should I include in an exclusive chapter wherein I could cover the Lodi period – the last of the Delhi Sultanate after which Mughal arrived on the scene. I will look forward to your suggestion and in the meanwhile I would keep working on the rest of the chapter of Seven Capitals and New Delhi. Now before I end this post just a quick recap:

I have covered Lal Kot (Qila Rai Pithora), Mehrauli (one half i.e. Qutub period whreas coverage of Archaeological park remains) and Hauz Khas (Complete). In the next I will either take up with Firuzabad or Siri. So the order will look something like:

Chapter 1 – Qila Rai Pithora/Lal Kot (1st capital city of Delhii)
Chapter 1 – Mehrauli (2nd Capital excluding the Archaeological Park)
Chapter 2 – Hauz Khas Village (Associated with 3rd and 5th cities of Delhi)
Chapter 3 – Firuzabad/Siri & Jahanpanah (Tentative)
Chapter 4 – Firuzabad/Siri & Jahanpanah (Tentative)
Chapter 5 – Tughlaqabad (4th city of Delhi)
Chapter 6 – Dinpanah/Shergarh (Dawn of Mughal Empire)
Chapter 7 – Shahjahanabad (7th city of Delhi)
Chapter 8 – Lutyen’s Delhi (Current capital)

Now this is how I have it in mind and if all goes well then this is the order I’ll follow but then there’s a chance – a small one – that if some chapter exceed the appropriate word limit the I may either increase the number of chapters or else there’s a remote possibility that I may change the order. Feedback at this point would be most welcome.

A few more pics:

Things to do in Delhi

Stairway to Heaven - Hauz Khas Complex Madarsa

Hauz Khas Lake

Oops! Rain Dancing Hauz Khas

Birding in Delhi

Three is Crowd: Inside Hauz Khas Garden Area

P.S. It also crosses my mind sometimes that the series should have been better called of Seven Cities and New Delhi :-)

20 Comments

  • Nandan says:

    Great shots Nikhil.

    This place has gone from WORSE to Excellent. :-) You were lucky to not visit this years ago. Imagine Begumpur (which is hard to find at first place) and imagine this in the same state. ASI and ‘Delhi Govt’ have done a tremendous job in restoring and overall beautification.

    At one point of time, Ram (http://www.ghumakkar.com/author/ram) was planning to write a piece on this along with Begumpur etc. I am not sure whether he read this series. Would request him.

    I am fine if you cover Mehrauli separately as long as it is somewhere in the series.

    • Chandra81 says:

      Thank you Nandan!
      I agree completely that the place is simply amazing with a seamless blend of the past and the contemporary.
      ASI do deserve commendation for their commitment to restore relics of past.
      Thanks for your feedback!
      Cheers!
      Nikhil

  • Vibha says:

    I can’t believe I have never planned to make this trip. This seems to be a nice place to visit in this weather. I’m glad that the ASI and the Government have started focusing on our monuments and I hope it continues.

    Thanks Nikhil for the excellently narrated story and the incredible photos. Can’t wait for the next part. About the Mehrauli Archaeological Part, as Nandan said, you can write about it as you think is the best, either as a separate chapter or as a part of another chapter. We do not really have a maximum word limit and we love reading long, juicy stories. :)

    • Chandra81 says:

      Hey V!
      As an adage goes it’s never too late :-)
      I’d definitely recommend HKV to you.
      And yes I think after Nandan and your feedback I’ll definitely devote a separate chapter for Mehrauli Archaeological Park :-)
      Cheers!
      Nikhil

  • ashok sharma says:

    beautiful pics.

  • Naman says:

    Fab. narration,supported with equally beautiful pictures! It was exciting to read about delhi on ghumakkar after a long time! :)

    • Chandra81 says:

      Thank you Naman :-)
      It’s good to know that what I am doing here was needed for a long time :D
      I hope you’d like the forthcoming installments too.
      I’ll look forward to your feedback on my writing and pics.
      Cheers!
      Nikhil

  • Nandan says:

    @ Vibha – You should explore it. Get down at Green Park and then walk down. It is a chic place apart from the history angle all around. ‘Gun Powder’ is a decent place to eat, esp after the hike since there is no lift and it is on 3rd floor.

  • Vibha says:

    Yes Nandan. I’m quite motivated now. Wasn’t aware that this place was so magnificient. Is “Gun Powder” a South Indian Restaurant? I am also very interested in exploring the Bagel Place. Perhaps I’ll have bagels in breakfast and then explore the region and come back to “Gun Powder” for a well deserved lunch. :) Sounds too nice to be true!

  • Nandan says:

    Yes, ‘Gun Powder’ specializes in South Indian cuisines. If the weather is good, then you can sit outdoors and have a hearty view of the lake.

    Also explore the shops, selling all kind of trinkets, old movie posters, memorabilia. If you have time, try visiting Kunzum Cafe. Though I visited the area multiple times but could not get around to visiting Kunzum.

    What else ? , well , ‘Dilli Haat’ is close-by :-)

    • Chandra81 says:

      Even I have been to near Kunzum…once even as far as opening the door but then I turned back. I will ensure that next time I am there I do pay it a well deserved visit :-)

  • Sundar Shastry says:

    Awesome pictures Nikhil.

  • Julie Jarvis says:

    A real joy to read Nikhil! Another very colourful and informative article of Delhis majestic architectural history.You write with real verve and honesty which really does bring your journey alive.Beautiful accompanying pics too.
    …and I can also recommend the bagel cafe -but I’m still convinced that the ‘Secret Chamber’ is most definitely a portal to some magical land :)
    Look forward to reading the next installment .

    • Chandra81 says:

      Aloha Jules!
      I see I have your attention now :-)
      And about the bagels cafe, are you sure you wanna recommend it after such fuss about agents and all watching you :D Ah! I see the allure of the ‘secret chamber’. I wish you all the best when you do fly here the next time…magic do happen…But then all you need to do is take the entrance to the complex…that itself is something quite out of ordinary :-)
      And thanks for your liking both my post and pic :-)

      Cheers!
      Nikhil

  • Aditya says:

    Great Stuff Nikhil….

    It’s my third year living here and I am still waiting for an opportunity to explore this area… now your post is motivating enough for me to plan a visit asap….

    • Chandra81 says:

      Thank you Aditya :-)
      Coming as it is from a “certified” Ghumakkar, it really is a great compliment.
      It’s always give me the greatest pleasure when my travelogues do motivate someone to undertake a journey :-)
      Cheers!
      Nikhil

  • Nitesh says:

    Nice post…great pics.

  • Anuja says:

    Apart from the large and beautiful expanse of the Tughlaq fort, Boheme (rooftop cafe) is a nice place to visit too :) one of my favourite urban-villages of Delhi, great that you covered it!

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