Film buffs thronged the Siri Fort Auditorium for ‘Celebrating a Century: An Audio Visual Voyage’ on the occasion of 100 years of Indian cinema. But the irony was that most remained oblivious to the centuries-old structure that lends its name to the plush auditorium.
Siri Fort or Siri was the second city of Delhi, built by Allaud-din-Khilji in 1303-04 to defend the city from the onslaught of the Mongols.
Zafarnama, a famous early 19th century book, states the city was surrounded by a high rubble wall with seven gateways. What remains are mostly ruins, including random rubble masonry wall, bastions and portions of one of the gateways.
These ruins are surrounded by landscaped gardens belonging either to the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) or the Delhi Development Authority (DDA).
Apart from the Siri Fort auditorium, next to Shahpur Jat, the area also has Asiad Games Village complex and the DDA’s sports complex. For residents of several of the surrounding posh South Delhi colonies, the lush green lawns have been the veritable joggers’ parks.
“I have heard about the place from my driver, who also told me war stories associated with it and how it’s founded on sir-s (heads) and bones. But unfortunately, I have never been to see the Siri Fort wall,” said Kshama Pathak, a resident of Asiad Village, a stone’s throw away.
According to popular legend, the name Siri was given as its foundation was built on severed heads (sir in Hindi) of thousands of Mongol soldiers.