Mehrauli Archaeological Park: The Remains of Delhi’s History
Mehrauli Archaeological Park, or should I just say, a park in Mehrauli.
Bordering the Qutub Minar complex, but overlooked by most of the tourist hordes, the Mehrauli Archaeological Park preserves some of the historic relics of Delhi.
I set out to see this place when a colleague told me about it being older than the all-so-famous, old Delhi.
Being new to the city, I trusted Google to lead me to this place. As ordered by my usually trusted companion, I got off at the Qutub Minar metro station, well equipped with my camera and four lenses.
I negotiated with an autorickshaw driver to take me to the park. Initially, he found it weird that I wanted to go to this park instead of Qutub Minar, as all his other passengers did.
A nondescript gate holds the entrance of the place that holds a wonderful collection of 1,000 years of Delhi’s history.
There was no board or person to welcome you into the place.
The autorickshaw left and I had no other option as the sun was setting on me, literally. So, I entered the place which seemed like it hadn’t been inhabited by a living soul in ages.
A few steps inside the gate, and I saw some movement near a dilapidated construction called the tomb of Khan Shahid. I approached it to see small kids in white kurtas and skull caps, running around. As I reached out to get my camera, I saw an elderly man asking the kids to assemble in front of a wall, to pray.
They started their evening prayers as I clicked them from a distance.
The first time I felt that this place was an archaeological site is when I saw this huge gate built in the Mughal style.
The first monument I saw in the park was Jamali-Kamali’s mosque and tomb. The mosque was guarded by one guard. His eyes lit up when I asked him if I could take pictures of the place. I asked him if people came to visit the place.
He said that there is nothing to see, why would people come. He also mentioned that, if the government took a little care of the place, then it might have more visitors.
The thing to be noted here is that this place if one of the 15,000 monuments protected under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act of 1958.
I asked him if I could see the tomb. He didn’t approve of the idea and said that it is not safe to enter the tomb after sunset.
I followed the walking track that took me through the gardens, where I saw people walking, kids playing and some young couples engaging in a little public display of affection.
The road took me to the next protected monument, the tomb of Muhammad Quli Khan who was from Akbar’s time. The tomb was built significantly higher than the rest of the constructions and had a great view of the gardens and the Qutub Minar. The interiors of the tomb were exquisitely ornamented with painted plasterwork while the exteriors had some glazed tiles.
The garden behind this tomb had a few young men playing cricket.
The monuments here had a million love stories etched on them, but not from the Mughal era. The love stories were fairly recent, from the 20th and 21st century. Couples took the liberty to write their names of the walls of the monuments to ‘decorate’ them.
While wandering through the place, I came across another guard. This one was guarding the Rajon ki Baoli, the third and last monument in the park. Unfortunately, I could not see this monument because the guard had just locked the gates to this place which had huge walls. I requested him to open the gates for a while because there were still two hours before the place officially closed.
He said he couldn’t do it because young boys often come there to do drugs after the sun sets.
He left the premises asking me to see other things in the park.
The rules of conduct inside the park were mentioned quite a few times in the park and also at the entrance. The rules included not bringing in food, playing or cycling and so on. But, to my utter surprise, I saw people living inside the park in temporary tents. These people were not here to work nor were they part of a construction crew. They just found a place to live.
Delhi is one of the world’s oldest cities, where monuments unexpectedly crop up amid roads and lanes. Depending on where you are in the city, you could be close to one of at least seven ancient capitals set up by emperors and badshahs of various dynasties.
But earlier this year, the Indian government withdrew its nomination from the UNESCO World Heritage City list.
With the ways the things are in this archaeological park, the situation doesn’t seem to be getting any better either.
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