As the Capital gears up to welcome global experts who'll evaluate Delhi's nomination as a World Heritage City, we take you beyond the tourist map to showcase some of history’s unsung gems here.
Delhi’s nomination to UNESCO for the coveted title of World Heritage City has been accepted and the date of examination by a panel of experts from the UN-appointed International Council of Monuments and Sites is coming closer. With so many lesser-known yet majestic historical monuments in the city, we think we well deserve the title.
Read: 1,000 Delhi monuments ‘unprotected’
The three current world heritage sites in the Capital are Humayun’s Tomb, the Red Fort and the Qutab Minar. Here are the unsung but unmatchable others.
Muhammad Shah Sayyid’s Tomb
Location: Lodhi Garden
Built in: Sayyid Dynasty’s period
The Sayyid Dynasty has a brief mention in history, as they ruled over small territories. Thus, they did not have the time to build vast and expansive structures in their name. The tomb is a structure of archaeological importance. It is an octagonal structure with corbelled doorways, engravings on plaster and a colourful ceiling. The roof has pavilions too. The tomb has many graves, the central one, it is believed, belongs to Muhammad Shah and is surrounded by his family members. The tomb is mostly visited by architecture enthusiasts.
Location: Asaf Ali Road
Built in: 1658
Turkman Gate is one of the four surviving gateways of erstwhile Shahjahanabad. It is believed that there were 14 such gateways that surrounded the city. The gate is named so, as Shah Turkman was buried near the gate. The monument has recently undergone the process of restoration. Muktiram Kumar, who works nearby, says, "The gate is the centre of the hustle-bustle in the area."
Location: Hauz Khas Enclave
Built in: Khilji Period
The most peculiar and eye-catching feature of this minaret is the presence of gaping holes at the top. It is believed that the severed heads of the thieves were placed in these holes and put up in the public to strike terror. And so, the place gets its name. The monument is well maintained and often explored by walkers who roam around the Hauz Khas Village market.
Read: The timeless monuments of Delhi
Dara Singh Shikoh Library
Location: GGSIPU Campus, Kashmere Gate
Built in: 1637
The building was originally the library of Shahjahan’s eldest son, Dara Shikoh. At one point in history, it housed Ali Mardan Khan, the Mughal Viceroy of Punjab. Later, the place went on to home Sir David Octherlony in 1803. The building later served as a government college and a district school from 1804 to 1904. Since then, the building has undergone many changes and is now the office of the Department of Archaeology, which also has a small museum at its entrance. Raidar Ali, the librarian, says, "The books present here can now only be accessed by the Archaeology Department staff. Some students are interested in the place, and I feel happy to tell them about the building’s history."
Location: Lodhi Garden
Built in: Akhbar’s reign
Built by Nawab Bahadur, it was constructed to span a stream that further joined the Yamuna. The name Athpulla is derived from the Hindi word ath, meaning, eight, which refers to the eight pillars that support the beautiful curvy bridge. "The beautiful view of the lake and ducks around the area makes this place my favourite spot in the city," says Neha Singh, a student from the nearby Dyal Singh College. The place gets the care it deserves and is great for a Sunday picnic.
Makhdum Sabzwari’s Mosque
Location: Mayfair Gardens, Hauz Khas Enclave
Built in: 15th century
The mosque was built by Timur, when he invaded India in the 14th century. The architecture of the mosque is a confluence of Indian and Islamic style of architecture. A beautiful facade welcomes the visitors. The dome and the chhallar adds dimension to the simple structure, which houses a mosque and a graveyard. The structure needs restoration and is in a somewhat dilapidated state. The caretaker of the monument, Ved Pal, says, "Peer baba, Makhdum, came here in 1668. He was a Sufi saint who used to meditate, pray and sing songs praising the Lord. People do not know much about this place."
Baradari, Qudisia Garden
Location: Prema Kunj, Civil Lines
Built in: 1748 by Qudisia Begum
The legend goes that in 1754 Emperor Muhammad Shah and his wife Qudisia Begum were executed here. The palace lost its lustre when Kashmere Gate was heavily bombarded in 1857. The structure was elaborate, but couldn’t stand against the tide of time, as the so called palace now barely has two rooms, and is in desperate need of restoration. Ram Kumar, who works as a gardener here, says, “ Years ago, some films were shot here, but these ruins now only a house to pigeons.”
Location: Northern Ridge, near Hindu Rao Hospital
Built in: 1863
The memorial was erected in the memory of the soldiers of Delhi Field Force, who lost their lives between May 30 - September 20, 1857. On the completion of the 25 years of India’s Independence, a plaque was installed here to commemorate the soldiers’ heroism. The intrinsic feature of the memorial is its Gothic design paved in red sandstone, mounted with a marble cross at its top. The monument has recently undergone the process of restoration. Chhote Lal, who works as a guard here, says, "Some days, college students turn up, but I think this generation is not interested in knowing about our freedom struggle."
Location: Old G.T Karnal Road
Built in: 1728-29
Built by Nazir Mahaldar Khan, as described in the inscriptions over the gates. It is believed that in the Mughal Era, elephants and camels passed through these gates. The monument sometimes makes headlines, as the road witnesses heavy traffic and fatal accidents, some of which have also damaged the arches. The monument has been conserved by ASI and the level of the road has also been lowered for its protection.
Agrasen ki Baoli
Location: Hailey Road
Built in: 14th century
Believed to be originally built by Maharaja Agrasen and restored in the 14th century by the Agrawal community, which traces its origin to Maharaja Agrasen, the structure was constructed to preserve water. The place is quite a hit among youngsters, though it remains a hidden monument around the otherwise busy circles of Connaught Place. ASI guards are on duty round the clock.
What the Archaeological Survey of India says
We had a chat with Dr DN Dimri, Superintending Archaeologist, ASI
Why are these monuments lying in the shadow? Why haven’t they gotten their due?
The prime objective of the Archaeological Survey of India is to protect the monuments under the provisions of the Antiquity and Art Treasure Act, 1972. Some monuments are not as popular as the others because they are not well connected with public transport. Other reasons are that many of them do not have a rich history or exquisite architecture to attract many visitors. Also, when tourists come to India, they have limited time to explore a city.
How does ASI plan to promote these lesser-known monuments?
One needs to understand that ASI’s work is limited to the walls of various monuments and heritage is a concurrent subject. We can only protect and conserve a monument. The government, both at the local and the state level, has to do the rest.