Located to the south and west of the Qutb Minar complex in Delhi, Mehrauli Archaeological Park contains dozens of tombs, mosques, step-wells and fortifications from the pre-Islamic, Sultanate, Mughal and British periods.
Only some of the monuments are actually within the park itself, others are now surrounded by modern buildings whilst others stand isolated within scrubland and forest either side of Mehrauli village.
The official listing of monuments here records more than 440 structures, and probably has a greater number and diversity of historically or architecturally significant monuments than any other place in the world. However, to the visitor it can be a confusing and frustrating place to visit. I was left feeling like I was immersed in a giant archaeological jigsaw puzzle, with little signage and inadequate maps to hand I explored the park and strived to visit as many of the key monuments as I could as the January Delhi fog/smog did its utmost to hinder my progress.
Adham Khan’s Tomb
Known locally as Bhul Bhulaiyan, this is a large early Mughal tomb constructed in 1562 and standing on a raised platform on the main road running through Mehrauli village. It is one of the last octagonal tombs in Sultanate Delhi under the Lodhi Dynasty.
Adham Khan was the son of Akbar’s wet nurse, Maham Atgah, and according to Mughal tradition was therefore the emperor’s foster brother. Adham Khan was politically ambitious and is said to have been involved in the killing of a rival, for which Akbar had him thrown from the walls of Agra Fort as a form of execution. Shortly afterwards Adham Khan’s mother died, and Akbar is said to have regretted her son’s execution and so he agreed to the building of the tomb.
I was amazed to discover that during the British period the tomb was used as a private residence, a post office and a police station !
Rjon Ka Baoli
This is probably Delhi’s finest step-well, with a tomb and mosque attached.
Constructed in 1506, it has four levels and a series of arcades and small rooms.
Step-wells were not just water sources of course, they also were a welcome place of refuge from the summer heat and monsoon rains.
These are directly opposite the Rjon Ka Baoli. It is a domed chattri occupying the center of a raised platform containing numerous graves within a raised enclosure.
I have yet to determine any more details about this monument, but it’s worth the incredibly short detour once you have seen the Baoli.
Nestling within a forested area, almost enveloped and obscured by trees are a cluster of Mughal structures including a couple of tombs.
I have no other details on their occupants or any other related history, but ironically for me these monuments may well be the highlight of my visit to the Mehrauli Archaeological Park.
I think that’s just down to how the monuments are slowly blending in with nature and with the surrounding fog/smog contributing to what was quite an atmospheric discovery.
This mosque and tomb is a great example of 16th century islamic architecture.
Built in 1528 by the poet Seikh Fazullah (whose pen-name was Jamali), he was buried in the tomb when he died in 1535. The five bayed mosque is in relatively good condition, with a delicately carved mihrab.
There are two graves in the tomb, and for many years it was supposed that the second one belonged to someone called Kamali. However, it is now thought that the name of the mosque is alliterative, but the mysterious occupant of the second grave has not been identified.
Charles Metcalf, Governor of India (1835-1853), used the Qull Khan tomb as his weekend retreat and created a series of ruins in the surroundings. One of these buildings is a ziggurat-like structure not far from the Qutb Minar complex.
This was built of rubble masonry to provide ruins in the northerly view from the tomb, and has to be one of the more curious additions to Delhi’s built heritage !
With over 400 recorded structures in the park, I’ve clearly got to return at some point to see a few more ! There are some key buildings that I failed to locate on my first visit here :
- Zafar Mahal – An early 19th century Mughal palace.
- Dargah of Qutb Sahib – The shrine of a 13th century Muslim saint.
- Hauz Shamsi – A 13th century tank at the southern end of Mehrauli village
- Dilkusha – A former 16th century tomb converted to a country house !
- Balban’s Tomb – The most powerful of the slave sultans, ruling Delhi from 1265 to 1287.
Clearly I have quite a few reasons to return to Delhi soon and try and seek out a few more of the monuments that proved elusive the first time !
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