In the cramped market of Badarpur Village, hidden amid shops and eateries, are the Badarpur Gateways. Shopkeepers, buyers and residents pass by these structures every day, but hardly anyone recognises their existence or knows anything about their history and significance.
Located near the Tughlakabad Metro station on the Violet line, one can use the subway to reach the main Badarpur village road. Another five minute walk and one enters the narrow lane of this congested market.
It is believed that these gateways used to be a sarai (inn) for travellers in the medieval times. People travelling between Delhi and Agra would often stop here in the 18th century. The inn doesn’t exist anymore, but what remains are its three gateways — northern, southern and central — along the central road through the market. A fragment of an enclosure (cell), part of the inn, also exists here.
When tourists, history students and heritage lovers ask for information about the gateways, locals tell their versions of the stories. Shopkeepers also dole out information and other fables.
“There are no information panels here, nor any signboard that explains its history. So when somebody wants any information, they come to us. Though none of us knows who built it, we know that this place used to be an inn. The location of the gateways is fascinating. These are situated one after the other and visible in a straight line,” said Ramesh Gupta, a shopkeeper running a garments store here.
According to heritage experts, the gateways are believed to have been erected by Roshanuddaula, who flourished during the reigns of Mughal rulers Farrukhsiyar and Muhammad Shah. The sarai was an extensive building made of rubble masonry. It consisted of two enclosures with a gateway between them and all three gateways which are similar to one another lying in an axial line.
In 2008, the Delhi government signed an MoU with the Department of Archaeology and Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH) with an aim to protect and conserve at least 250 historical monuments and sites. Restoration work on Badarpur Gateways started in 2014 and ended last year.
“Earlier, Badarpur Gateways were unprotected and in bad condition. Later, it became a state protected monument. Now, it comes under the Delhi government’s Department of Archaeology,” said Ajay Kumar, director (projects), INTACH Delhi Chapter.
According to INTACH officials, the southern enclosure contained arched cells for the accommodation of travellers. These cells are mostly ruined, and only a few of them on the north and west now remain. The northern enclosure, known as the ganj, was surrounded by a battlement wall with bastions at its four angles. It also contained cells similar to those of the sarai, but these together with the bastions on the east have now disappeared, the enclosing wall also dilapidated. The ganj stored vehicles and bulky goods of travellers or merchants who stayed in the sarai.
Locals say that earlier these gateways were visible from a distance. But now they are concealed by Metro lines, bridges and highways. Encroachments around the gateways are growing by the day. There is no breathing space around the walls, which are covered in dust and dirt. Vendors are operating small food outlets dangerously close to the walls of the gateways. Open drains and heaps of garbage lie near the central gateway. The shadowy regions in the centre of each gateway often become a parking area for cycle rickshaws.
“People write on the walls and nobody stops them. Old posters continue to stay on the walls. Vendors throw waste here. Human activities and neglect have resulted in cracks on the walls,” said Devesh Sareen, 45, a resident of Badarpur Village.