Hidden Heritage - Kite Over Delhi
What is history if not a chronicle of the past? A chronicle of people, of places and their lives. An attempt to capture a mood of a place at a certain point in time, in all its myriad dimensions.
Remember the paintings of Thomas and William Daniell? The manner in which (ref https://www.tallengestore.com/collections/thomas-daniell) they captured iconic structures and the landscape around in their travels through India in the late 18 th century CE became an incredible chronicle of those monuments – some of which no longer exist. Others such as Felice Beato and Joseph Beglar did similar work, via photography. Today, what is missed is such visual chronicling – perhaps a travesty in an age where everyone has a camera phone in their hands.
‘Kite Over Delhi’ is an attempt to bridge that gap – it captures nuggets of architecture, mostly of the Sultanate Period (1192 – 1526 CE), spread across South Delhi. These nuggets find themselves tucked away in residential areas whose inhabitants have little to do with these structures. They have often been photographed individually, but this is perhaps the first attempt to show them collectively, in an urban setting where they struggle to retain space and relevance.
‘Kite Over Delhi’ has been painted by the wonderfully talented Shashank Gautam, who has honed his skills at the National Institute of Fashion Technology (NIFT) and curated by Hidden Heritage founder Arjun Kumar.
Hidden Heritage will continue to chronicle monuments in India’s dynamic landscape with the effort moving beyond Delhi into other parts of the country.
Scroll down to know more about the monuments featured in the painting
1. Moth Ki Masjid
Built by Miyan Bhoya, prime minister to Sikander Lodi (reign 1489 – 1517), the mosque brings together some of the finest features of Sultanate period mosque architecture, across dynasties. A popular story holds that when the Sultan walked into a nearby mosque, he found a grain of lentil which multiplied manifold on replanting – the money from this being used to construct this mosque.
2. Muhammad Wali Masjid
Among South Delhi’s best kept heritage secrets in this elegant three-bay mosque within a walled compound. It is attributed to the Lodi dynasty, around the beginning of the 16th century CE – a time when mosque building traditions and design hit an acme towards the last part of the Sultanate period. Nearby run the mighty fort walls of Khilji’s Siri.
3. Tombs in Deer Park
Within the Deer Park lie several tombs dated to the Lodi era (1451-1526 CE) and whose occupants are unknown. These have been given names of convenience, including the large Bagh-i-Alam ka Gumbad and Kali Gumti.
4. Hauz Khas
The large complex we see today is the result of building activity through the 14th century, with the Hauz-e-Alai believed to have been built by Alauddin Khilji (reign 1296-1316), the madrasa complex by Firoz Tughlak (reign 1351-88), whose tomb is also here along with the tombs of several others who were teachers at the madrasa.
5. Tombs In/Around Green Park
Closer to Aurobindo Place market lie several Lodi era tombs (1451-1526 CE) whose occupants are unknown and the names of convenience given to these: Dadi-Poti Tombs, Choti Gumti, Sakri Gumti etc.
6. Chor Minar, Idgah
The Chor Minar is believed to have been built in the early 14th century by Alauddin Khilji (reign 1296-1316 CE). A popular account holds the niches on its outer walls were used to display the heads of thieves, hence the name. The Idgah nearby came in 1404-05 under the patronage of a Mallu Khan, a nobleman who virtually ruled Delhi then.
7. Makhdum Sahib Mosque & Tomb
This complex is a mash of varying styles: the buildings seem to merge into each other without a plan or any symmetry. The domed entrance looks Tughlak, the mosque Lodi. The exact identity of Makhdum Sahib himself remains obscure – perhaps he occupies the pillared tomb in the middle of the complex.
8. Nili Masjid
The mosque dates to 1505-06, which puts it towards the end of the Lodi period. With a courtyard formed by a dwarf wall, this three-bay structure is topped by a single dome. Its embellishment included a blue strip formed by lapis lazuli, a mineral found in present-day Afghanistan. Incredibly, the mosque remains in use as a place for prayer.
9. Mosque of Darwesh Shah
The structure essentially comprises a wall mosque facing a courtyard that forms a grave enclosure. This is built on a high platform, and is rarely open to visitors. Little is known about the real identity of Darwesh Shah, though the name indicates a revered figure. The tomb dates to the late 15th century Lodi period.
10. Bijay Mandal
A multi-level structure, also referred to as the Hazar Sutun – thousand pillared palace – of Mohammad Tughlak (1324-51). May have been the innermost building within the Tughlak city of Jahanpanah. Its later occupation by a Sufi, Sheikh Hasan Tahir, shows it remained in use till the Lodi period in the early 16th century CE.
11. Begampur Masjid
Delhi’s second largest courtyard mosque after Shahjahanabad’s Jama Masjid, this was probably the congregational mosque for the Tughlak city of Jahanpanah. May have been completed around the time of Mohammad Tughlak’s death (1351) or later, by Khan Jahan Junan Shah, a minister of Firoz Tughlak (reign 1351-88). Known for its domes and the tall central gateway in its western wall.
12. Lal Gumbad
Similar in design and colour to the tomb of Ghiyasuddin Tughlak, this one is the tomb of Sheikh Kabiruddin Auliya, a disciple of the 14th century CE Sufi Sheikh Roshan Chiragh-e-Dilli. Is probably the focal point of a large burial ground, indicated by numerous smaller graves and wall mosques around it.
13. Sheikh Yusuf Qattal’s Tomb
An ornate and tiny tomb, the twelve-pillared red stone structure has some of the finest stone lattice jaali work for a monument of its time. Its occupant was a popular and revered figure during the reign of the last Lodi sultan, Ibrahim (reign 1517-26 CE). Next to the tomb is a mosque and the remains of a brick structure.
14. Khirki Masjid
Perhaps the boldest experiment in mosque architecture during the Sultanate period, the stone lattice work of its windows – ‘khidkis’ – lends its name to the mosque and the village beyond. Small open-roofed courtyards intersperse with pillared corridors in this late 14th century structure built by Khan Jahan Junan Shah, a minister of Firoz Tughlak (reign 1351-88).
Looks like a fortified wall from a distance, this is a Tughlak era dam built to channelize the water of a stream that probably flowed northwards from the ridge beyond present-day Mehrauli. The name comes from the seven arches at the base of the dam, meant to allow water to pass. Part of the 14th century CE city of Jahanpanah.