[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
Every year after the monsoons, this ravaged monument whose name means “ship palace” hosts music, dance and acting. It becomes the focal point of cultural activities marking Phoolwalon ki Sair, a festival in which floral tributes are paid to two premier Hindu and Muslim shrines in Mehrauli, a south Delhi region filled with monuments of almost every signifiant historical timeline.
Some historians say Jahaz Mahal, built during the Lodhi period (1452-1526), was a mosque. Some think it was the residence of a holy man. Others believe it to be a serai (inn) that took in visiting pilgrims.
Adjacent to Hauz-e-Shamsi, a water tank built by Sultan Iltumish, it could also have been a pleasure palace, a harem, or a summer refuge for the Delhi royalty.
In any case, Jahaz Mahal got its name because its reflection in the rippling waters of the tank looked like a moving ship.
Over the years the lake was reduced to a filthy pond and the mahal lost its reflection. It also lost its southern wall. Most of the blue ceramic tiles on the domed pavilion over the central gateway were lost. Yet there is beauty in this dilapidation. The chhatris show delicate carvings. The mihrab, or recess, on the western wall indicates a mosque. The arched chambers promise serenity.
And the southern wall’s collapse has its bright side: it has opened the courtyard’s view to a lively park.
Where At the end of Mehrauli bazaar, close to Hauz-e-Shamsi Open Sunrise to sunset Nearest Metro station Qutub Minar
A house of dreams