Hobbies Stories

The Sultan’s Cave

Delhi is often described as a graveyard, due to the vast number of Tombs that are spread across the city. Most of them look alike, but some stand out.

A small sign along the main road indicated the path towards our destination. It was a narrow dust road, with trees on either side. We walked a short distance before hitting a fork in the road. Short shrubs, open fields, and grazing goats in front of us, city buildings and afternoon traffic behind. But there was no hint of a historical monument in sight.

We asked the man standing next to the goats, where we could find Sultan Ghari. He paused for a while, and then asked us if we wanted to visit the Dargah. We nodded, and he pointed towards the road on the right.

The tomb is a revered place for devotees of both Hindu and Muslim religious communities of the nearby villages of Mahipalpur and Rangpur since they consider the tomb as the dargah of a saintly ‘peer’; a visit to the tomb is more or less mandatory for newlyweds from these two villages. – Wikipedia

These words made me curious…

It wasn’t very far, but hidden behind the trees, the building seemed to magically appear out of nowhere. And the moment we first saw it, we were surprised. It did not look like a tomb at all. In fact, had we not known it was a tomb, we would have assumed it to be a fortress.

Sultan Ghari was built by Iltutmish, for his eldest son Nasiru’d-Din Mahmud – Raziya Sultan’s brother. It was the first Islamic mausoleum built in India.

Considering how old it was, it was beautifully preserved, and looked like it was built just yesterday. We bought our tickets – five rupees each – and climbed up. We were asked to take off our footwear before entering the stone courtyard.

In the centre of the courtyard was a huge octagonal platform, on top of which dozens of pigeons were feasting on seeds. The walls of the fortress had huge ‘windows’. One of the walls had a narrow, steep, open staircase. Standing atop the wall, we caught a bird’s-eye view of the city, as well as ruins from another time.

The actual grave of the prince was beneath the fortress. On one side of the central platform, a small opening lead downstairs to a small chamber. Lit only by oil lamps, it was extremely dark. We felt our way around and stepped down the stairs cautiously. The air was heavy with incense.

A green chadar was spread on the ground, and bataashas were kept next to it – symbols of both Islamic and Hindu faiths.

There was complete silence inside the chamber. So silent, the two of us spoke to each other in hushed tones. While the world boils and burns, fueled by religious animosity, it is places like these that provide hope that peace will one day prevail.

Back outside, we climbed up the stairs along the wall, to get a birds-eye view of the whole complex, as well as the surrounding ruins.

Here are some photographs of Sultan Ghari.

With the main purpose of our visit achieved, we had decided to have a little fun with the pigeons. I must say the pigeons were extremely cooperative, and willingly flew away the moment one of us went near them!

PS. Apologies for the poor quality of images…


The Unsung Hero

Crumbling Haveli
Crumbling Haveli

The city of Delhi is often referred to, as a burial ground – of emperors and nobles, princes and princesses, saints and warriors. After visiting a few tombs, one gets the feeling that all the tombs are alike. That might be true for most, but there are exceptions.

This past week, I tagged along with a group of heritage-hunters, and headed towards Chandini Chowk. A friendly local offered to guide us through the uneven paths, deep within the bazaar. We went down narrow and dark lanes, past crumbling havelis and butcher shops, and even hopped over a sleeping goat! We approached a sharp turn in the path, which revealed perhaps the smallest, and the saddest tomb in Delhi.

The only three women who were ever elected to the throne in the Mohammedan East, reigned in the thirteenth century.
– Lane-Poole

Raziya Sultan was the daughter of Iltutmish*, and the only woman to have ruled over Delhi. Her father had chosen Raziya as his successor to the throne. This was obviously not welcomed by her brother, as well as the majority of noblemen.

Iltutmish claimed that his daughter was better than many sons. And it did not take long for the citizens of the kingdom, to realise this. Raziya was appointed ruler by the common people.

Sultan Raziya was a great monarch. She was wise, just, and generous, a benefactor to her kingdom, a dispenser of justice, the protector of her subjects, and the leader of her armies. She was endowed with all the qualities befitting a king, but she was not born a man, and for that reason, in the estimation of men, all these virtues were worthless.
– Minhajas-Siraj

Raziya Sultan’s tenure as a ruler was a short one. A female monarch, appointed by common people did not go down well with the establishment. The fact that she showed her face in public, and was tolerant towards the Hindus, made her case weaker. She was assassinated after three years at the throne.

There is a conflict, regarding the actual site where she was buried. Claims include Chandini Chowk in Old Delhi, Siwan in Haryana, and Tonk in Rajasthan. The site at Chandini Chowk, was a jungle during the reign of Raziya Sultan, and there is no engraving to identify the souls resting there. A part of the mausoleum has been converted to a mosque.

Raziya was a person born well ahead of her time. Unfortunately, her story is overshadowed by others who came after her. A hero for all ages, may her soul rest in peace.

*  *  *

* Iltutmish (alternate spelling Altamish) Full name : Shams-ud-din Iltutmish

The third ruler in the Slave Dynasty. The first was Qutb-ud-din Aibak, and the second, Aram Shah. The Slave (Mamluk) Dynasty was the first of five unrelated dynasties to rule over Delhi, in what is referred to, as Delhi Sultanate.

Sources and suggested reading:

Razia Sultan Was Far Better Than Her Brothers – Sunday Guardian
Chapter 5 – Raziya, The Mohammedan Empress of India, History of India – Volume 5 – The Mohammedan Period as Described by its Own Historians – Edited by A. V. Williams Jackson (Selected from the works of late Sir Henry Miers Elliot)

The Daily Post asks readers to write about their heros. I have paid a tribute to Unniyarcha before. Raziya Sultan is my answer to The Daily Post’s prompt.