A new ruin.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
1, 2, 3, 4… exactly 12 pillars, or bara khambas, here. These white columns, plastered with political posters, appear to effectively dispel the mystery behind the evocative name of Barakhamba Road. The Boulevard of 12 Columns begins from Central Delhi’s Connaught Place and ends a mile away at the Mandi House circle.
The avenue, however, doesn’t go all the way to the similarly-named Barakhamba Tomb, the monument with… well, 12 columns again. Indeed, there is another ruin called Barakhamba inside the members-only Delhi Golf Club. It, too, has 12 pillars.
The 12 pillars of Barakhamba Road, however, look too modern to even belong to the late Mughals. In fact, they are like the miniature versions of the colonial-era white columns of the Outer and Inner Circle of Connaught Place, and obviously, the Barakhamba pillars share no architectural resemblance with the area’s new glass-and-concrete office buildings.
Who built these pillars?
The encyclopedic Delhi: The Built Heritage, which has catalogued almost every Delhi monument, has no entry on these pillars. Its author, Ratish Nanda, who heads the India operations of the Aga Khan Trust for Culture (AKTC), said that Barakhamba was a common name given to many old tombs in Delhi that have three-arched openings on each façade. Such a tomb is typically supported by 12 columns—four at each corner, and two on each side.
And what about the 12 columns of Barakhamba Road? Mr Nanda rules out any historical association to these pillars. He conjectures them as a folly of our modern-day builders, probably of those who built the multistorey Gopaldas Bhawan, which stands just behind these dozen wonders.
In any case, the pillars are as difficult to spot as the ladies of a sultan’s harem–they are hidden behind a row of trees. During the day, the area is used as a New Delhi Municipal Council car park.
Even so, though the Barakhamba Road might have been originally named after an extinct Barakhamba tomb, today it makes more sense to link the avenue to these 12 pillars. That’s probably the only justification of their existence.
And now let’s do some Maths again. 1, 2… that’s the number of people right now urinating against the Barakhamba pillars.
Could be the Greeks
3. (the view of Outer Circle, Connaught Place)