City Monument – A Perfect Tomb, Mehrauli
The aspects of the unknown.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
A scholar might not consider it a monument. Just a chipped piece of stone, it is not known to convey any clue to history.
In a city of grand tombs dedicated to heroes and tyrants of its violent past, an obscure tomb stands apart due to its extraordinary beauty.
It is difficult to ascertain who was buried here—the grave is said to have been built centuries ago. The long slab of white marble is ensconced in a nameless graveyard. No longer in use, this little cemetery is tucked within a corner of the Sufi shrine of Hazrat Khwaja Bakhtiyar Kaki in south Delhi’s Mehrauli. You can identify the graveyard by its giant neem tree.
The object of our attachment is a work of exquisite detail. Floral patterns adorn the top of the grave. Tracing the patterns of those flowers and vines with naked fingers is riveting, though after a while, one tends to lose way across the dense maze of this stone garden.
The other principal embellishment to the grave is the calligraphy etched on its top as well as on the sides–the broad slashes of the Arabic script press down deeply into the surface of the marble. Those of us who cannot decipher the shapes of these signs can instead exploit our ignorance by reading our own private poems through the undecipherable.
The plinth of the tomb is a different world altogether. It is chiseled into a number of layers, and each layer looks like a base camp to the summit.
Since the little cemetery lies mercilessly exposed to Delhi’s brutal sky, large parts of the white grave have acquired a welcoming patina of black. A word of caution: those who swear allegiance to the conventions of symmetry ought to prepare themselves for a flaw–the grave appears to be severely damaged. Those missing portions of the weather-worn stone, however, add poignancy to the monument’s perfection.
A work of art