Scores of ruins are spread over 100 acres in the neighbourhood of Qutb Minar, making it one of the richest clusters of archaeological treasures with a history of over a thousand years.
The area is now known as the Mehrauli Archaeological Park and has monuments such as tomb of Maulana Jamali, the mosque of Jamali Kamali, tomb of Balban, tomb of Khan Shahid, a horse stable, a wall mosque, Quli Khan’s tomb, Thomas Metcalfe’s (Delhi’s commissioner in 1840s) guest house and two step wells.
But this cluster was not always an archaeological park. Today, it is beautifully landscaped in some parts while in some other heaps of garbage, overflowing sewage can be spotted. But till a few decades ago before being acquired by the DDA, the area was called ‘Daud Ki Sarai’.
Daud Ki Sarai or Daud Sarai was possibly just like the scores of sarais (inns/resting place) that dot Delhi’s map, such as Katwaria Sarai, Lado Sarai and Yusuf Sarai.
These sarais can be traced back to Firoz Shah Tughlaq’s time. ‘Tarikh-I-Firoz Shahi’, a historic book, mentions: “Tughlaq (1351-1387) built several buildings including 120 hospices and inns, all in Delhi. In these sarais, travellers were allowed to stay and eat free of charge for three days.”
But then, presence of so many sarais in the vicinity of Mehrauli, then the shahr (main city), raises suspicion whether these were actually sarais?, says heritage activist Sohail Hashmi.