City Monument – Adam Khan’s Tomb, Mehrauli
A hilltop memorial
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
You want to lose yourself? Okay, come here then.
This is Delhi’s only known Bhool Bhullaiya, a knotty labyrinth where one may easily get lost, as its thick walls enclose a maze of passageways — indeed a perfect place to play hide and seek. Curiously, it isn’t very well known, although perched on the top of an easily visible, and accessible, hillock in south Delhi’s Mehrauli. Officially, this monument is a tomb, and is believed to be the resting place of Adam Khan. Mughal-era aficionados might recall this quarrelsome “doodh-shareek bhai” (milk-sharing foster-brother) of Akbar who was executed by the emperor by having him hurled twice from a parapet in Agra — you may watch a recreation of that death in all its blood-curdling details in the 2008 film Jodhaa Akbar.
Today, the memorial feels bleached of its past, totally distanced from the compromised figure it commemorates. The stones are permeated in serene quietude even though surrounded by the city chaos. The octagonal monument, circa 1562, resembles Jerusalem’s Dome of the Rock. It looks onto a bazaar and a bus terminal, the parts of the historic district of Mehrauli that seems least historic.
On climbing the steps, and reaching up to the tomb, the visitor lands amid the quiet charms of street life. Idle boys snooze against the pillars, old men talk politics atop the boundary wall, giggling couples playfully hide from each other, and stray dogs prowl in the corridor. In the evening, families from the neighbourhood gather to enjoy the breeze. Many play ludo on the mobile phone.
The monument offers a panoramic view of the Qutub Minar. In rainy afternoons, the centuries-old stone tower looks like the last soldier alive in the battlefield.
The two mithai shops (Siya Ram Sweets and Aggarwal Sweets), down the stairs, add their contribution to the Adam Khan experience. The cooks are always busy churning out fresh rounds of deep-fried jalebis in sooty black cauldrons. Consume the crispy sweets inside the tomb for full effect. The edifice is also special for being one of Delhi’s few Akbar-era monuments (another noteworthy souvenir from that time is the Athpula stone bridge that runs over the duck pond in Lodhi Gardens). The dome is crowned by a red sandstone finial. Eight arched entrances opens into the dark chamber. This cloudy afternoon the stone floor is littered with bird feathers. Adam Khan lies in the centre, his grave absurdly narrow.
It is said that his mother — Akbar’s chief wet nurse Maham Anga — was also buried here; she died shortly after her son’s gory end. Her grave is missing.