City Monument – A Beautiful Unknown Tomb, Mehrauli
The aspects of the unknown.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
The Delhi Walla has found the most exquisite grave in Delhi and it doesn’t belong to any shehenshah or famous fakir.
To some, it may just be chipped chunks of marble not known to convey any clue to our shared past, but to me it stands out for its extraordinary beauty.
It is difficult to ascertain who was buried here—the grave is said to have been built centuries ago. It itself 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 find the desolate graveyard by looking for a giant neem tree growing out magically from its stone floor.
The object of my attachment is a work of painstaking details, like one of those embroidery works on Lucknow’s chikan kurtas. Floral patterns adorn the stone surface. Tracing the patterns of those flowers and vines with one’s own fingers is engrossing, 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. These broad slashes of the Arabic script press down deeply into the surface of the marble. Not being familiar with the language, I can’t figure out what is written. Even so, just gazing upon the inscribed passages is an experience. It is like reading one of those difficult poems whose true meaning one can’t decipher and yet makes one feel the melodic effect of individual words.
This evening the rose petals are strewn upon the grave, while a bird feather has fallen picturesquely on one side.
Since the cemetery lies mercilessly exposed to Delhi’s brutal sky, large portions of the white grave have acquired a patina of black. It also appears to be severely damaged but the loss is somewhat acceptable. Those missing portions of the weather-worn stones add a hint of poignancy to the monument’s gracious imperfections.
A work of art