Ravaged by time.
[Text and pictures by Mayank Austen Soofi]
Time has reduced Darya Khan Lohaniâ€™s tomb in Kidwai Nagar East, south Delhi, to broken edifices of stone and rubble masonry. Lying next to the residential blocks of Delhi Development Authority apartments, this Lodhi-era monument stands on a grass-covered platform, which was built on a larger stone platform, which is now in ruins. There are stairs on three sides, with traces of the principal gateway on the monumentâ€™s eastern face.
The tomb has domed pavilions on all four corners of the platform. Three pavilions are no longer whole. The center of the platform has another platform – very small – on which lies an unmarked grave, painted white.
Every Thursday morning an old man called Haaji Bhure cleans the grave, covers it with a chaadar, light incense sticks at its head and place a few marigolds. â€śHeâ€™s Shahid Darya Khan,â€ť Mr Bhure told The Delhi Walla, pointing to the grave. â€śHe came with Mahmud of Ghazni and fought for his religion.â€ť Thatâ€™s not true. Mahmud, who launched 17 expeditions into the Indian subcontinent from his kingdom in present-day Afghanistan, died in 1030; Delhiâ€™s Lodhi era began more than 400 years later. Darya Khan was chief justice in the reign of Bahlol Khan Lodhi, the founder of the Lodhi dynasty (1451 to 1526).
Each pavilion is supported on thick columns. The only intact pavilion has 11 of them. Most columns are disfigured with bleeding heart sketches, I-Love-You scrawls and desperate rants (‘I’m sexy girls’). One pavilion has half its dome missing. Remnants of Arabic inscriptions can be seen on the surviving portion.
At regular intervals, the areaâ€™s pigeons land beside the grave, sit for a minute before flying away with a great flutter of wings. The pavilion life is calmer: squirrels climb the columns, while students from nearby software training institutes sit cross-legged on the floor with their lecture notes. Occasionally, a pair of lovers might embrace each other behind a column. A depressed loner might withdraw to a corner where he couldn’t be seen.
The park around the tomb rises to a gentle slope. Old men sleep and boys play cricket. Their cusswords, carried by the wind, are inaudible if an EMU shuttle, a part of Delhiâ€™s commuter train service, is passing by, its engine whistling. The railway tracks are close but hidden from the tomb.
Where Kidwai Nagar East, near South Extension I Nearest Metro Station INA Time Sunrise to sunset
Behind the trees
Up the stairs
Is this Darya Khan?
Hajji Bhure comes every Thursday
The only intact pavilion
People of the ruin
I love U
Shh, they’re sleeping
Free to fly