Delhi’s most puzzling ruin.
[Text and pictures by Mayank Austen Soofi]
This was the palace of Muhamamd bin Tughlaq (1300-1351), a sultan so stupid that he forcibly moved Delhi’s entire population 700 miles south to the Deccan. Having survived many transformations, Bijay Mandal, or what is left of it, is like difficult poetry with the first and last verses missing.
Historians call it Delhi’s most puzzling monument. They guess it was the site of the famous thousand-pillared hall; the pillars were said to be of painted wood and the roof exquisitely carved. All that is gone.
Hardly anyone climbs the stairs to reach the plinth on which the palace was built during the first half of the 14th century. The main hall is open to the elements and yet is dark and musty. Its southern portion has collapsed. The walls have lost their smoothness, the roof is broken. The hall has two treasure pits from which pearls, porcelain, gold and rubies were excavated during the last century–impossible to believe this today.
An octagonal pavalion adorns the roof. But the ramp that leads up ends in a padlocked door. Daring boys climb the walls for a majestic view of the city, but don’t risk it.
The northern side of the main hall looks to a burial ground, which houses the shrine of the Sufi saint Sheikh Hasan Tahir. Further ahead is a ruin with stunning arches (see photo 3a below).
The monument’s southern side offers a peek into the private lives of the residents of Begumpur village. If the wind is favorable, you hear the barking of posh dogs from the bungalows of Sarvapriya Vihar. Sometimes boys from the village come here with their guitars and sing love songs.
Blame me for my purple prose but I’ll still say that the silence of the stones is the noisiest.
Romance of the rubble
2. (this photo was taken in the winter)