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The gate of blood

The historical Khooni Darwaza, one of the main gates to Delhi's walled city, has witnessed many gory deaths over last few centuries that include royals, rebels, and riot victims. Tales of ghosts haunting this structure are at an abundance. Sarat C Das tells us more.
Hindustan Times | By Sarat C Das, New Delhi
UPDATED ON MAY 19, 2008 02:05 PM IST

The Gate of Blood popularly known as Khooni Darwaza and also referred to as Lal Darwaza or Red Gate, is located on the Bahadur Shah Zafar Marg in Delhi. It is one of the 13 surviving historical gates of the walled city of Delhi. The gate is 15.5 m high and built with Delhi quartzite stone. See video

Three staircases lead to different levels of the gate lending a grotesque appearance to the structure. The locals living in the neighbourhood of the gate have many horror stories to narrate about the gate with some claiming that blood still drips from its ceiling during the rainy season.

The Gate was built during Sher Shah Suri's reign as one of the two gateways of Purana Qila. It was known as the Kabuli Darwaza as caravans coming from Afghanistan passed through it. It came to be known as Khooni Darwaza during the Mughal reign due to various tales of bloodshed at the gate, in addition to the practice of displaying criminals' heads there.

Emperor Jehangir who succeeded his father Akbar to the throne was resisted by some of Akbar's Navaratnas. He ordered two sons of Abdul Rahim Khan-I-Khana, one of the Navratnas, to death at this gate. Their bodies were left to putrefy at the gate. Aurangzeb (Jehangir's grandson) defeated his elder brother Dara Shikoh in the struggle for the throne and had his head displayed at the gate as a prize scalp.

On September 22, 1857, during India's First War of Independence, William Stephen Raikes Hodson shot Bahadur Shah Zafar's sons Mirza Mughal and Mirza Khizr Sultan and grandson Mirza Abu Bakr at the gate. Later, on September 22, 1857 the sons of Bahadur Shah Zafar, Mirza Mughal and Mirza Khizr Sultan and grandson Mirza Abu Bakr, were murdered at the gate by Major Hodson after the king's surrender to the British. The princes were brought from Humayun's Tomb in Nizamuddin where Zafar had taken refuge in a bullock cart.

A crowd of 3,000 people from Shahjahanabad and Nizamuddin followed the British party. Near the Khooni Darwaza Hodson panicked, thinking that the crowd would assail him and rescue the princes. So he shot princes in cold blood. The Khooni Darwaza is said to harbour the spirits of these moghul princes.

During the riots of 1947, more bloodshed occurred near the gate when several refugees going to the camp established in Purana Qila were killed here. Some say the riots added to the number of the supernaturals. There are media reports, which recount some of the local experiences, that some of the apparitions in Khooni Darwaza rise from the muslim graveyard behind the Express building in Bahadur Shah Zafar Marg. A newspaper wrote: It is in the realm of spirits and djinns and that blood stains can still be seen on the walls of Khooni Darwaza.

Most recently towards the fag-end of 2002, Khooni Darwaza gained more notoriety, when a medical student was raped there by four youths. The girl was dragged off from the nearby busy road at a knife point to this monument. The main accused, Rahul, alias Budh Prakash, has been charged with raping the medical student along with Amit and two minors - his friends. The incident started a big uproar and was also discussed in the Parliament of India. Following the incident, the monument was sealed to the general public.

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