It was just another Saturday afternoon and instead of lazying around and being a couch potato I thought of going on a date with history, and what better way than joining the walk that was about Zafar Mahal- the last Mughal touch in India. Lead by Asif Khan Dehlvi, founder Delhi Karavan; we crossed the most crowded bylanes, havelis of one of the seven ancient cities of Delhi, Mehrauli and there I caught the first glimpse of the last palace that was built and used by Mughal Emperors Akbar Shah and Bahadur Shah Zafar ( Zafar meaning Victory). The last known piece of Mughal architecture which houses a few graves like that of Shah Alam II and Akbar Shah II along with Mirza Fakruddin and Bahadur Shah I is in its grave stage itself.
The three-storied structure which is now in ruins was once the summer palace of the later Mughals was built by Emperor Akbar Shah II, refurbished by the last Mughal king Emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar II. This structure with marble relief work, still pillars now overlooks the crowded neighbourhood of Mehrauli, Delhi. Listening to the narration by Asif it was like being transported to the bygone era of Royalty, which, today has been it has reduced to just a few crumbling arches which are crying for attention.
With the holy shrine of Sufi Saint Khawaja Qutbuddin Bakhtiar Kaki right next to these grave ruins, the cracked walls and broken doorways are now places for kids’ playzone. Faded designs and architecture is all that remains in today’s time. The grand palace sees a Chhajja or a grand arch in Mughal style architecture and both sides of the arches are two ornate medallions in the shape of lotuses. Bhahadur Shah Zafar once said “Lagta nahin hai jee mera ujde dayaar me… Kiski bani hai aalam-e-na_paaedaar me” which translate to “My heart no longer finds solace amidst these crumbling ruins …this world is temporary and no one ever finds peace in it.” This royal palace happens to be the main venue for the annual phool walon ki sair, started by Begum Mumtaz Mahal, who vowed to offer a chadar of flowers at the dargah of Hazrat Qutubuddin Kaki. This is a three day annual celebration by the flowers sellers of Delhi where people carry flowers from the Chandni Chowk to the shrine of Sufi saint Hazrat Qutubuddin Kaki and Devi Yogmaya Mandir.
A symbol of unfulfilled desires, this palace is divided into two parts – The Mahal, built by Akbar Shah II and Hathi Gate (for the purpose of elephants to pass through) built by Zafar himself. Today one can enter only through the small wooden door at the gigantic Hathi Gate. Tattered roofs, cracked walls and arches is what is left of this symbol of royalty with only one security guard as the custodian of history. But yes, it still has some reminisce of beauty in store – the Moti Masjid.
This striking piece of architecture in white marble located at the far corner of the courtyard has some impressive minarets along with three domes with marble exterior and double entrance. The azan minars stand on the Northern and the Southern side of the masjid. Mughals have always been known for their remarkable aesthetic sense but today it lies in its most neglected state. (Note: The other Moti Masjid is in Red Fort.)
Standing tall today amongst all commercial and residential encroachments this piece of history is merely paid any attention. The palace is completely open to look around. If stories are to be believed then it is said that Zafar had a special attachment to the shrine tomb of Qutub Kaki, the Sufi saint of the Chishti order. The marble enclosure also houses the vacant grave of Bahadur Shah Zafar as he was never buried there.
As my walk comes towards the end it’s almost like an era ending and another one waiting to mark its presence. This piece of beauty reminds me of the lines by the last Mughal Emperor in which expressed his desire to be buried next to his father’s grave in Sardgah, but in turn was banished from the his own country. After being deported to Ragoon the the poet-king Zafar wrote the couplet titled “Do gaz zameen”
“Umr-e-daraaz maang kar laaye they chaar din…
Do arzoo mein kat gaye do intezaar mein…
Kitnaa hai bad_naseeb “Zafar” dafn key liye…
Do gaz zamin bhi na mili kuu-e-yaar mein.”
( I had begged four days from God; spent two in desire and two in longing, How unlucky is Zafar! For burial…he did not even get two yards of land in the beloved land )
How to reach: Straight from Qutub Minar walk towards Mehrauli Bus Terminus. The straight road leads directly to Zafar Mahal. One can park their car in the parking in front of Yogmaya Temple.
Nearest Metro Station: Qutub Minar Metro Station
Cover pic courtesy: Richa