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Town’s Treasure Trove Of Heritage

Updated: October 22, 2011 12:02 pm

Delhi is one of the most ancient cities of the world. Empires were built, perished and rebuilt on it but the hands that architected it kept changing. All these dramatic alterations have left an indelible mark on the turf of the city. The Rajputs, the Turks, the Afghans, the Mughals and finally the British all fought over the possession of Delhi. They built their forts and palaces and settled down for long. However, they were replaced by others.

After the Mughals, the city of Delhi was mapped by a British architect Edwin Lutyens . The Indian capital strikes as a modern metropolis, a gracious contrast to Old Delhi’s cheek by jowl alleys. Delhi was chosen as the throne of chivalry and honour by successive dynasties. One of the most preferred destinations on tourists’ itinerary—Delhi is endowed with a plethora of attractions. For its tourists, this buzzing capital has a lot in store. The Red Fort, Qutab Minar, the Jama Masjid are some of the wonders of architecture that crown the honour of Delhi. Besides, the gates and the baolis in Delhi have a historic tale the city hides in its fold.


Delhi Gate

Delhi Gate is the southern gateway of the walled city. It was built by Shahjahan between 1639-1648. Random rubble and locally available stones were used for its construction. One should not confuse this gate with that of the Red Fort, from where the emperor would exit to Jama Masjid for his prayers. This stands at the entrance to the main Darya Ganj, and underlines the fact that Delhi or Dilli was outside Shahjahanabad the walled city. So the other six cities of Delhi, starting from Indraprastha, Lal Kot, Siri, Ferozshah Kotla and Tughlakbad, were to be reached through this gate.


Turkman Gate

This is in central Delhi near the Ramlila Ground. Built in the late 1650s, the Turkman Gate was the southern entrance to the old walled city. It was named after the pious Muslim saint, Hazrat Shah Turkman Bayabani. This gate, like the other gates, has a square layout with high arched openings. It was built of stone and mortar. It was originally fenced with a railing of marble.

Locally known as Turkman Gate, it now stands amidst one of the most thickly-populated areas of the capital, but is now lying in a dilapidated state as the ASI neglects this site thoroughly—residents sit inside, dry clothes and a stable for ponies and donkeys.

Kashmere Gate

The Kashmere Gate, located at the northern end of the walled city of Delhi, led a path to Kashmir. Located near the Maharana Pratap ISBT, Kashmere Gate was one of the most important gates of Shahjahanabad as the royal processions of emperors would pass through this gate during their frequent trips to Kashmir or northern India. However, when the British came to the walled city, they strengthened the walls and the city’s gates as a precautionary measure to counter attacks. In the process, they fortified Kashmere Gate in 1835. Later, the gate was given a double gateway making it the only gate in the city to have twin openings, one to enter and the other to exit the city.


Lahori Gate

Shah Jahan was born in Lahore, and it was in Lahore that he built a tomb in memory of his father, Jahangir. With such a strong bond between Shahjahan and that city, it was obvious that the walled city must have a gate opening towards that side so Lahori Gate was built. Also, it was the same direction where the Mughals actually came from. The Red Fort, too, has a Lahori Gate and so does the walled city. Today, the Lahori Gate opens into the Naya Bazar, where the goods wagons of Indian Railways are loaded and unloaded. These gates stare at the buzzing lifestyle of Delhi, and they continue to stand and admire continuity and the change that the city of Delhi has seen since it came into being.

Khooni Darwaza

As the name itself spells blood, this sounds rather spooky. Ramsay Brothers for certain would have shot a movie on this location had this place not been standing in the middle of the road. There is already an original story in place for the movie.

Khooni Darwaza was originally called Kabuli Darwaza and formed the boundary of the city, which was originally built by Humayun and later taken over by Sher Shah Suri. Kabuli Darwaza became Khooni Darwaza 300 years later in 1857. When the British re-captured the city after the sepoy uprising, Bahadur Shah Zafar the last Mughal King went into hiding at the Humayun’s tomb along with his family. The British offered to spare his life if he surrendered. He did so. But his sons (who had led forces against the English army) kept on hiding. Some time later, when British came to know about them, they asked them to surrender too. Thinking that their lives would be spared like their father, they surrendered too. The British, meanwhile had no intentions of keeping them alive. While Captain Hodson was taking them back to the city, a crowd started gathering, threatening to rescue the princes (this fact is disputed though).

Hodson then stripped the princes and shot them in cold blood at point-blank range. This happened at the Khooni Darwaza. People say that the spirit of the princes haunts the place even today, the place wears a haunted look.


Ajmeri Gate

Ajmeri Gate is one of the gates of Shahjahanbad, which would open onto the western side of the walled city. The original structure has not changed much over the years. It opens towards Ajmer and is thus called Ajmeri Gate. Today, Ajmeri Gate opens towards the New Delhi Railway Station, on the western side of the walled city.

Baolis, Step-well and History

As leafing behind a few pages in history it’s once believed to be a part of fairyland where the likes of Sheikh Chillis became rich after meeting fairies and lived happily ever after that. Baolis or step-wells in fact resonate with an era seeped and submerged deep down in the history of India. Water played a significant role in architectural heritage of India, baolis gained prominence during the Sultanate period and during the Mughal’s reign. The baolis, however, were constructed with a view to providing bathing space to the people of Delhi.

Gandak Ki Baoli

Just a few kilometres away from the Sookhi Baoli, is one of the oldest baolis in Delhi. It was built in 1210 by Iltutmish. Perhaps it was the presence of sulphur in the water that gave this baoli a distinct fragrance, and thus the name.

The most likely explanation is that perhaps the underground river systemthe aquifers, must have changed its course leading this baoli to dry up. Also, there’s an underground water pump right outside this baoli, which further deteriorates the water level at present.

Nizamuddin Baoli

This baoli was constructed in 1321 AD by Nizamuddin Auliya, during the reign of Ghiyasuddin Tuglaq. The baoli is situated very close to the Yamuna bed, so till date it is filled with water. This step-well has only one level as the water always remained high due to its proximity to the river Yamuna. The baoli gates are always closed in order to prevent people from entering its premises, but once you are in there, you find many diving in and the residents do not have a hitch about dumping a litter in this holy and historical baoli. The baoli undergoes a makeover first time since 1321. This majestic baoli with springs underneath has magical powers, followers of the Hazrat cure themselves by taking a dip into it and going for a sip to cleanse the insides.


Ferozshah Kotla Baoli

This baoli was built in 1354 AD by Ferozshah Tughlaq. It is one of the most well-maintained baolis in Delhi. It has just one level and is circular in shape. The baoli is built inside a huge enclosed garden, which might have served as a sub-city in Delhi during Tuglaq’s reign. This water body served as a platform where people could sit and chat in a cool place, besides bathing.


Sookhi Baoli or Rajon ki Baoli

Sookhi Baoli is situated in Mehrauli. The architecture of this baoli Indo-saracenic is a blend of Hindu and Muslim architecture. This baoli was built in 1506, and is also called the Rajon ki Baoli as it was primarily built for the workers who were involved in construction in the surrounding area, during the Lodi reign.

Ugrasen Ki Baoli

Situated in Connaught Place’s Haley Road, the construction date of this baoli is not yet known, as it architecturally looks like as though it was built during the Tughlaq period. It is one of the most regal looking baolis with a huge courtyard. Sitting on the steps of the well, enjoy capturing this majestic piece of the architecture with all its nuances.

 By Syed wazid ali from New Delhi

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