Hauz Khas Park in south Delhi offers a wide range of things to see, it came as quite a surprise to me. There’s a deer park, a large lake (formally a tank) and Hauz Khas village, all of which contain a number of monuments, some of which may take a little patience to locate but well worth the effort.
I approached Hauz Khas on foot along the road leading from Aurobindo Marg, there are a number of monuments on or near this road that are also well worth checking out on your way to the park.
Close to Hauz Khas village is a small road on your right (no cars allowed) that enters a forested area that marks the start of the deer park. Almost immediately turn right on to a jogging path, and a couple of hundred meters further on take a left path that will lead you to three tombs set in woodland.
Bagh-i-Alam Ka Gumbad
This is the largest of the three tombs located in the forest, and is one of the finest Lodi tombs to be found anywhere in Delhi. I simply loved the setting within dense woodland, it added a completely different vibe to most tombs in Delhi that are surrounded by manicured lawns such as Lodhi Gardens.
The facade is built from local dressed stone with the addition of imported red sandstone and some ceramic blue tiles. Entrance to the tomb was locked, so I had to make do with peering through the gates.
Right next to Bagh-i-Alam Ka Gumbad is a wall mosque and some further tombs in the open air.
Kali Gumti means ‘Black Dome’, this 14th century tomb is opposite Bagh-i-Alam Ka Gumbad but is much smaller, with its own wall mosque annexed to one side.
Slightly hidden from the previous two tombs, you need to head on a path north-east to find it on the right set on a raised platform.
This is thought to be Tughlak, with an extremely plain exterior and interior although the cenotaphs themselves are rather striking having been made of white quartzite.
Having explored these three tombs you now need to head further west on the same path that took you to the tombs. The route down to the lake is a little confusing as there seems to be little signage, certainly none in English. Just keep heading in broadly the same direction and if you start to descend that’s good news, you are probably about to reach the lake.
I decided to walk around the lake in an anti-clockwise direction, it takes about 30 minutes to complete the circuit. This lake is not a natural one, it is actually part of what was once a massive tank in front of the Madrasa (a complex we will reach later).
Not long after you start the circuit of the lake you will sport the Munda Gumbad on your right on a small hillock. This is a rubble built pavillion, now partly ruined, and stands on the raised hill because at one time this monument actually stood in the middle of the tank. It’s only now you will get to appreciate just how vast this body of water was. A causeway once extended from the southern edge to the tank to the Munda Gumbad.
You can climb on top of the Munda Gumbad to get a better view of the lake and the Madrasa on the far side.
Towards the end of walking around the lake you will come to the lakeside frontage of the Madrasa, with pavilions that once lined the waters edge.
You can’t enter the Madrasa from here, instead you need to walk back to where you started the circuit of the lake and locate a path on your right that takes you along the front of some modern buildings and then to Hauz Khas village. The Madrasa and other monuments are at the far end of the village, just keep heading in the same direction and you will reach there.
This compact set of monuments fronting the lake are set within pretty lawns and are clearly a popular spot for locals to hang out.
There are four primary sets of structures here.
Firoz Shah’s Tomb
Firoz Shah’s Tomb (1354 AD) is very similar in size to Ghiyasuddin Tughlak’s Tomb, but is built from local quartzite instead of red sandstone and marble.
Although you might think this makes it visibly less striking, there is evidence to suggest that the exterior of the tomb was once plastered in white, so it would certainly have stood out in the landscape.
Impressive though this building may be from the outside, it is inside where the surprises really lie.
For whatever reason I really wasn’t expecting to see such a well preserved and beautiful ceiling, it’s little surprises like this that just keep happening when I visited heritage monuments throughout India.
The simplicity and yet complicated geometry meant that, as is usually the case, I went a little over the top with the camera 🙂
By all accounts Firoz Shah was a well liked ruler, with a Hindu wife and his trusted Prime Minister, Khan-i-Jahan Junana Shah, a Hindu convert.
He was responsible for building Firoz Shah Kotla that I had visited a few days earlier, most famous for housing an impressive inscribed 3rd century BC Ashokan Pillar.
He is credited with the building of 50 dams for irrigation across rivers, 40 mosques, 30 colleges, 100 caravanserais, 100 hospitals, 100 public baths, and 150 bridges, before his death aged 90 after 37 years of rule.
Tughlak Tombs and Pavilions
These all reside opposite the entrance to the complex, a mixture of small late 14th century pavilions and tombs set in a garden, each slightly different but broadly following a similar architectural style.
The main buildings of the Madrasa are either side of Firoz Shah’s Tomb, and were built at the same time in 1354 AD.
It’s a maze of partly ruined rooms, passageways, stairs, courtyards and pavilions, and was once one of the leading institutions of Islamic learning anywhere in the world.
It’s a interesting and slightly complicated set of buildings to explore, it is thought that some of the tombs around the complex may be of teachers from the Madrasa.
This building is in fact unique to Delhi. Once thought to be a tomb, its location right in the heart of the Madrasa would perhaps suggest an alternative function, possibly a meeting hall.
Hauz Khas makes for an excellent day out in Delhi, with its mix of landscape and monuments there is much variety on offer. The village itself has also been significantly developed in recent years, and has numerous art galleries, boutiques, restaurants and antique shops. There’s something for everyone at Hauz Khas.
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