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A Walk Through Mehrauli Archeological Park


The Mehrauli Archaeological Park covers 100 acres of green land abutting a World Heritage Site—the Qutub Minar. It is bound by the Chattarpur Road to the east and Qutb Complex in the north. This area is dotted with remains from every era of Delhi’s history—from the pre-Islamic to the late Mughal and the colonial period.

The Tomar Rajputs established Lal Kot, the first fortification in Delhi here. The succeeding Chauhan rulers extended Lal Kot to form Qila Rai Pithora. In the late twelfth century Qutbuddin Aibak, the founder of the Delhi Sultanate, made this area the seat of Sultanate power. During the early Sultanate period several structures like tombs and mosques were built here.

The trend of constructing monumental structures continued through the reign of successive rulers. Buildings like the mosque and tomb of Maulana Jamali (a sixteenth-century Sufi saint), Madhi Masjid, Rajon ki Baoli, and the tomb of Quli Khan (the foster brother of Emperor Akbar) were constructed within this area. Renovations like the extension of the Quli Khan Tomb into Thomas Metcalfe’s (commissioner of Delhi in the 1840s and 1850s) retreat and the conversion of the landscape through the addition of a bridge, canopies, and guesthouses were accomplished during the colonial era.

The Archaeological Park has a varied landform with irregular rocky slopes, valleys, plains, and water bodies. The park contains several water bodies, some of them manmade. These include Hauz-e-Shamsi, Rajon ki Baoli, Gandhak ki Baoli, Jharna, and the depression below the Quli Khan Tomb which earlier formed a pond. The park also contains a variety of vegetation and landscaped gardens such as Metcalfe’s Garden in front of Quli Khan’s Tomb. Today the park forms a buffer between the settlement at Mehrauli village and the Qutb complex and is one of the city’s largest green space.


Jamali Kamali Mosque and Tomb, built in 1528-1529 during the reign of Babur, is located in the Archaeological Village complex in Mehrauli, Delhi. It comprises two monuments adjacent to each other. One monument is the mosque and the other, within the mosque, built in a separate area, is the tomb of two people of the names Jamali and Kamali.

The tomb and mosque present in the site have been together named as “Jamali Kamali” because both people were buried next to each other. It actually shares the boundary with Qutub Minar premises, yet it is another archaeological site.

The Jamali Kamali Mosque, positioned in an enclosed garden area, is built in red sandstone with white marble embellishments. The mosque has a single central dome and is elaborately ornate accompanied with stucco work depicting a blend of the architectural styles of Moth Ki Masjid and Sher Shah Mosque.

It is considered to lay the foundation to the great Mughal architectural style and also introduced something which is missing in other earlier monuments, the Jharokha system. There are eye-catching verses which are inscribed on the wall, composed by the Sufi saint Jamali himself, which greatly enhances the beauty of the mosque. This mosque portrays the architectural brilliance that is seen in the early Mughal Period.

Inside the mosque, you will find a prayer hall, where prayers do not take place anymore in order to protect the monument from even more vandalism. In front of this mosque, is a large courtyard with five arches on thick piers which displays the impeccable architectural style.

Only the central arch, which is the largest of the five arches, has a dome and is embellished with beautiful ornamentation. The square chamber which depicts ornate stucco work has a very exquisite interior decor.

The exterior, however, is dressed in stunning tiles which are blue colored and they are engraved with beautiful verses which were composed by Saint Jamali himself. It is one of the most serene and peaceful sights if the city of New Delhi.

The Tomb of Jamali Kamali and the Mosque are protected and maintained by ASI (the Archaeological Survey of India) and has been funded by the Government to restore and conserve these monuments which hold our national heritage and precious ancient masterpieces.

The Jamali Kamali has a glorious history attached to it. But sadly enough, the glory seems to be forgotten with the emergence of Jamali Kamali being a haunted place story. There are numerous Jamali Kamali haunted stories about ghosts and Jinns who are believed to reside within Jamali Kamali. Apparently, some people claim to have experienced sightings of lights, apparitions, animals growling and a feeling that there is someone else standing right next to you.

However, security guards on duty say that they have been at the mosque several times on duty, both in the day as well as night and they never felt any paranormal or uncanny activity and insists that they are made up stories for the pure entertainment of people.

Although these various Jamali Kamali haunted stories are made to seem true, the only destruction seen are caused by humans, not ghosts, as scribbled names and other acts of vandalism caused by people are visible all over the Jamali Kamali Masjid and tomb.


Now you are wondering who were Jamali and Kamali?

Jamali was pseudonym of Sheikh Hamid bin Fazlu’llah who was also known as Sheikh Jamal-ud-din Kamboh Dehlawi aka Jalal Khan. He was a Sufi saint known for his poetry and came to India during the reign of Sultan Sikendar Lodi [ruled 1489-1517 AD] and settled in Delhi. He was already known by 3 different names but people, impressed by his poetry and seeing the beauty in the words, gave him his fourth name Jamali. Jamali comes from Urdu word Jamal which means beauty and positive aura. He was a disciple of another Sufi poet Sheikh Sama-ud-din and the mosque that now hosts his tomb was his place of chilla-nashini. It is said that such was the beauty of Jamali’s poems that even Sikendar Lodi who himself was a renowned poet used to get his works corrected by Jamali. After Mughals conquered India, Jamali was offered a place in their court and remained there during the reign of Babar and Humayun, until his death. It is also said that it was Humayun himself who had the tomb built after Jamali’s death.

“Kamal” in Urdu means miracle. Who Kamali was, however, remains a complete mystery. Whether he was a disciple of Jamali, or another Sufi poet or maybe just a servant, no one knows. We don’t even know if that was his real name or if he just took that name because it rhymed with Jamali. There are several stories around his identity one of which is that it was actually his works, his poems that Jamali took credit for. Another story is that they were brothers who travelled together to India. Jamali got famous because he was an excellent poet while Kamali had no such talent but he too was a Sufi saint. An even more interesting story is actually described by an American author Karen Chase in her book “Jamali- Kamali, A Tale of Passion in Mughal India” where she mentions that they were both homosexual partners.

A more believable story however, says that Kamali was actually Jamali’s wife, a woman who is now, after centuries, believed to be a man because of the name Kamali which sounds a little masculine. Kamali died first and Jamali, who had an important place in the royal court at that time, built a tomb for his beloved wife. After Jamali’s own death, Emperor Humayun had him buried right next to his wife in the tomb that Jamali had himself built during his life.

So, that was the whole history and story of this beautiful site and now let us go inside and have a look around the place.


Next, we will be checking out the BALBAN’S TOMB..

(Balban’s tomb entry closed, renovation work going on for G20 summit )

So here goes the history or story as we choose to call it... Ghiasuddin Balban (1266–87) was of Turkish origin and one of the several ‘Slave rulers’ of the early Delhi Sultanate. This thirteenth century tomb was probably the first major building in India to use true arches and dome.

The tomb of Balban is approached through an entrance gateway with column and beam structure which is commonly seen in pre-Turk Indian architecture, for instance in temples. The lintel and beam frame, which in a temple might have had a corbel carved in the shape of an elephant face, is modified to simple decorative form without any animal or human depiction to suit the tenets of Islam.

It is a multi-chambered tomb, having one chamber on either side of the central space. The building is constructed in rubble masonry, originally having true arches and dome though the domes are no longer there today.

The Qutab Minar can be viewed from the tomb. In the eastern chamber of the tomb lies the grave of Balban’s son, known by the title Khan Shahid.

Now, for the story of the person himself …

Ghiyas-ud-din Balban was the ninth and the last major ruler of the famed slave dynasty. A Turk by origin Balban had a humble beginning as a water carrier boy, who was captured by the Mongols and sold as a slave in the bazars of Ghazni, Afghanistan.

The word “slave” is actually a misnomer, as the slave traders provided education and imparted military training to these slaves, because an educated slave with military training would fetch a higher price.

This is what happened with Balban, his master Khwaja Jamaluddin Basra, provided him with education and military training. Many of these military trained educated slaves rose to the positions of commanders and governors and even went on to become kings and sultans.

Balban followed the same path. He was purchased by Sultan Shamshuddin Iltutmish, who was himself a slave. Balban rose rapidly under the patronage of Iltutmish.

During his reign Balban used his unlimited funds to create a mausoleum in the middle of what must have been a flourishing metropolis complete with bazars, mosques and residential quarters. Sadly today as you can see the massive tomb, of rubble masonry, lies in a miserable condition surrounded by further ruined structure in Mehrauli Archaeological Park in south Delhi.

That was all about the Balban’s tomb and the story associated with it.

From here we will walk towards RAJON KI BAOLI. The route is a bit long from here and we will go and come back using the same route..

We all know that, Delhi, despite its location beside the Yamuna, has always had problems regarding the supply of water—brought on, partially, by the long and extremely hot summer, and by the proximity to the arid zones of neighbouring Haryana and Rajasthan. From early days, therefore, Delhi’s rulers began establishing waterworks: dams, canals, artificial lakes and wells. Among the last-named, some of the most prominent were the baolis, or step-wells.

So, the Step wells ,which are known as baoli in Delhi, are called vaav in Gujarat and barab in Maharashtra, and these are a unique form of architecture built around the gigantic shaft of a well. You will se that , the construction is simple, and consists of a well with a huge diameter and depth. Just on the opposite side of the shaft is a broad staircase leading down to the water level.

This baoli that we are going to visit served as a residence of the mason or the ‘raaj mistri’ during the early 20th century and hence the name Rajon Ki Baoli. So in this case the Rajon ki Baoli  does not mean ‘kings stepwell ’, but ‘masons stepwell’; This isn’t one of the deepest of baolis and it only consists of three long flights of broad steps leading down to the water. This is, however, one of Delhi’s more beautiful baolis.

Supposedly built in 1506, during the reign of Sikandar Lodhi, the baoli has lovely arches all along the sides, with some exquisite plasterwork—very distinctive of the Lodhi period—along the arcade at the top of the baoli. Small narrow staircases lead to the terrace of Rajon Ki Baoli, and offers a spectacular view of the Mehrauli region .

The Rajon ki Baoli was obviously meant to act not just as a source of water, but also as a place of rest for thirsty travellers. This is why, besides the small cells (used as rooms) which line the walls, there is a small and pretty mosque here, decorated with more of the finely incised plasterwork. The mosque is small and simple but still has an elegant look. In front of the mosque stands a domed pavilion supported by 12 pillars. The dome is crowned with a floral motif finial and only traces of blue ceramic tiles can be seen to this day.

In addition, there’s a small tomb, in the form of a chhatri (a domed pavilion). This, according to an inscription, was built by Daulat Khan, for Khwaja Mohammad, in 1506.

Now we will walk back towards the tomb of Quli khan.

The tomb of Quli Khan is located south-east of the Qutb Minar at a distance of 200 m. Built in the seventeenth century, the tomb stands at the edge of the Lal Kot, within the Archaeological Park.

In the early 1840s, the tomb was converted into a residence with landscaped gardens, terraces, and guesthouses by Thomas Metcalfe. This weekend retreat was named Dilkusha. The main residence was planned with the tomb as its core. The cenotaph from the centre of the tomb was removed and several rooms were added to the outside of the tomb chamber. Landscaping was done by introducing water channels and few structural additions bringing in the influence of the home country.

The large landscaped garden has separate west and east sections divided by a kuccha (unpaved) pathway leading towards the canopy placed in the centre of the garden. The canopy dates from the time of Metcalfe, though an attempt has been made to mimic an older form. The western garden is enclosed by stone walls with octagonal bastions on all three sides. The eastern garden has terraces formed by stone retaining walls.

Located midway in the northern side of the garden enclosure is a former gateway leading to the Qutb Minar. This was converted by Metcalfe into an annex which functioned as guest house. Within this building certain nineteenth-century features such as a small pool, fi replace, etc. can be seen.

The tomb is an octagonal domed structure standing on a 1.25 m high plinth. It has a square plan from inside and an equal sided octagonal form from the exterior. The tomb chamber can be accessed from all four directions through arched openings.The dome rests on a drum constructed in the Lodi style. The parapet and the drum of the dome have kangura (stylized motif that resembles battlements but are strictly ornamental) details on all sides. Originally the tomb was decorated with tile work, now visible only along the eastern façade. The spandrels have Quranic inscription all along. Decorative medallions are also present on either side of the spandrels.

The interior of the tomb has brilliant ornamentation which has been recently restored. There are decorative arches above the four entrances and at the corners. The entries are flanked by square niches on either side. Above the arched entries and the drum of the dome, open arched niches are present for light and ventilation. The dome of the tomb has beautifully decorated medallions, one in the centre and four on either side.

Today the tomb structure retains few remains of the reconstructions made by Sir Thomas Metcalfe. The exterior wall which was an addition made by Metcalfe exists only on one side along with ruins of arched additions made at basement level.

The tomb provides a good view of the Qutb Minar which is nearby.

Going back one can take a look into the Rose Garden area.

On exiting the gate near Jamali Kamali, we can walk towards the horse stables, behind which is the “unknown Tomb” and Wall Mosque from the Lodi period.

The structure of the mosque, is made of random rubble masonry and then plastered. You can  see verses from Koran and floral patterns inscribed on the plaster on the parapet.

From here too the Qutub is visible at a distance, but heavy rains spurring the growth of heavy foliage can mask the view.

This finishes the walk inside the Mehrauli Archeological Park Complex.






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A Walk Through Mehrauli Archeological Park A Walk Through Mehrauli Archeological Park Reviewed by CREATIVE WRITER on August 21, 2023 Rating: 5

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