Delhiwale: Last palace of the Mughals
Zafar Mahal in Mehrauli has lost its old splendour. But you can still feel its Mughal grandeur if you know where to look.delhi Updated: Sep 22, 2017 16:10 IST
The summer palace of the Mughals, which turned out to be the last major building constructed by them, is in ruins.
Situated in south Delhi’s Mehrauli village, its beauty lies unnoticed. Neighbourhood boys loiter in the compound and play cricket in the courtyard. The walls are broken and the pillars have cracks.
The designs on the slender columns have faded. The terraces and balconies are now home to bats. Some passageways end in dark chambers. The stones echo with the otherworldly sound of planes flying overhead.
Emperor Akbar II built Zafar Mahal in the 1820s. It was named after his son Bahadur Shah Zafar, who rebuilt the imposing gateway in red sandstone and marble.
Since most structures in the palace are exposed to the sky, the sunlight makes different patterns on the walls and niches every hour of the day. The chambers are connected to one another through doorways, stairs and musty corridors. The steep staircase goes to a pavilion supported by carved pillars.
It faces the modern-day Mehrauli of brick apartments, water tanks and dish antennas. The palace’s most striking piece of architecture is the white marble Moti Masjid. Commissioned by emperor Bahadur Shah I in 1709, it has parapets, minars, and a solitary tomb.
A graveyard at the northeast corner of Zafar Mahal contains tombs of several senior members of the Mughal royalty. Zafar wanted to be buried in their company. After the mutiny of 1857, the British exiled him to Burma. He was finally laid to rest in Rangoon.