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Mysterious Marvel

art-and-culture Updated: Sep 09, 2008 13:51 IST
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In the last column we visited the Begumpuri Mosque. This week let us explore another monument in its immediate neighbourhood, shrouded like the Mosque, in sombre stillness. And like the majestic and brooding Begumpur ki Masjid, unvisited and unknown despite being situated in the midst of a bustling neighbourhood. Also spelt as Bijai Mandal, this area once housed a khanqah or hospice of Sahikh Hasan Tahir as well as parts of a palace.

An unusual rubble-built octagonal structure atop a high platform with grassy slopes on three sides and stone-cut steps on the fourth, this is a most intriguing building. Once part of the fabled Hazar Satun, or Hall with a Thousand Pillars in the city of Jahanpanah, Vijay Mandal served as a platform for the Sultan to view his troops or grant public audiences. It was also the highest point in the city of Jahanpanah, a sort of personal watchtower for the Sultan to watch over his beloved newly built city.

The Diwan-i-Khas or Hall of Private Audience was in the chamber abutting the tower. The grassy slope that leads up to Vijay Mandal was to enable the royal elephants to bring the Sultan up to his royal chambers while the flunkies took the steps. Close by are the remains of rooms that were once royal private apartments. During Lodi times, they were used as a residence by Sheikh Hasan Tahir, a prominent religious figure during the reign of Sikandar Lodi. A khanqah built during the Lodi period has a long dalaan and side chambers on the east and west. Two stone vaults once contained the royal treasure chambers.

A little further away a row of holes at regular distances are all that remain of the Hall with a Thousand Pillars — the pillars being made of wood are long gone. A graveyard has come up in its place, removing all evidence of Muhammad Tughlaq’s fine palace. Vijay Mandal, the Tower of Victory, is all that remains.

It is interesting that something that was called ‘lofty’ in contemporary chronicles, seems so small now that it is hemmed in by the hungry amoeba that is Delhi. The usual clutter and encroachments have gobbled up all the empty space, so that now the octagonal tower and its adjacent chamber seem to have shrunk into a tight little ball. The antecedents of the mysterious Vijay Mandal and its environs are unknown and of little interest even to those who live in the DDA-built housing colony of the same name.