City Monument – Bijri Khan’s Tomb, RK Puram
A mysterious ruin.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
Sometimes, a book cover can be more stirring than the book itself. This is certainly true for a monument in RK Puram — its exterior is more interesting than its interior. Perched on a hillock, the Lodhi-era stone edifice overlooks the busy Swami Venkateshwar Marg, and looks profoundly beautiful to a passing commuter. In a speeding autorickshaw or car, the monument can only be glimpsed for a fragment of a moment, but the vision lingers in the thoughts for much longer.
That initial impression slightly subsides on entering the premises, as you discover that what you saw from the road is actually the monument’s back-end, still a picturesque wall of rubble. The front is less impressive, turned towards a dusty ragged cluster of trees.
This afternoon, the gate to the chamber within is locked, which is okay, as everything inside is clearly visible through gaps in the grilles — a series of graves, and a few pigeons resting in the higher reaches of the ceiling. This is all to the place, and it seems dull. And yet, the place in its entirety pulls you into an elusive charm. Perhaps because of its other aspects. Here’s a list of the secondary things that fascinate:
a) Two frangipani trees in the yard facing the road; flowers dropping down silently on the cobbled ground with a random regularity.
b) A tiny empty tomb just beside the main tomb; it looks more lovely, especially these days when the monsoon showers have covered its old stones with fresh moss.
c) The adjacent enclave of Ravidas Camp, a slum directly abutting the monument, gives the ruin a contemporary perspective. In fact, to examine the tomb from within Ravidas Camp’s cramped lanes is more thought-provoking, as you see the centuries-old souvenir through the complicated prism ofthe city’s 21st century daily life.
The more conscientious readers might naturally ask for the monument’s identity. They shouldn’t bother. The archaeology department board identifies it as the tomb of Bijri Khan, adding that “nothing is known about Bijri Khan”.
As for aesthetes pursuing postcard beauty, the ideal vantage point to view the monument doesn’t lie within the monument complex at all.
You must get out, cross to the other side of the road, and sit at a bus shelter’s bench. From here, Bijri Khan’s tomb looks sufficiently grand, making one marvel at the city’s audacity to forget Bijri Khan’s history.
A beautiful unknown