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Stones that Speak: A Walk through Mehrauli

Khushaali Shukla, Class of 2020

The local folklore around Mehrauli hints at a diverse past. It was briefly made the capital of Babur’s Empire, post his victory in the battle of Panipat, and later was taken over by Jats in the late 16th century. Till this date, the Archaeological Survey of India deems it to be one of the oldest cities to have been continuously inhabited for nearly a thousand years. The History Society of Ashoka University organised a Heritage Walk at the Mehrauli Archaeological Park. Here are some glimpses from our journey:-

In the pictured structure, pieces of stone from an older temple have been reused in a tomb from the Lodi dynasty I Credits: Surabhi Sanghi, Class of 2020

In the ancient world, stone was an invaluable material. Crafting it, required a lot of time, great skill, and myriad resources. While huts made of mud and hay fall apart over the years, stone endures. It makes perfect sense that stone was the material of choice for the wealthy and the powerful.

An afterthought, not meant to be any more I Credits: Surabhi Sanghi, Class of 2020

The staircase which lead to the narrowest area possible (we had to suck our tummies in to make it through this one), was created by the craftspeople who constructed the tomb, to be able to add more detailed decorations on the roof! It was not intended to be used to access the roof once construction work was complete.

These used to be stables for the royal horses back when the Mughal dynasty was around. They are now used as a makeshift madrasa, where children receive their Islamic education. The series of arches was a genius technological invention. Professor Ojha of Kamala Nehru College informed us, that they are held up by a “keystone” — removing this stone would cause the entire structure to collapse.

Changing times, changing inhabitants I Credits: Surabhi Sanghi, Class of 2020

The mihrab is an indicator of the direction of Mecca in Jamali Kamali, the16th century mosque. A fascinating tidbit of information about this structure is that one can count five arches constructed here. Their entire purpose is to hold up the enormous dome — which is the marker of Islamic-style architecture. Without these arches, the entire structure would crumble!

To which the faithful bow I Credits: Surabhi Sanghi, Class of 2020

Perhaps the most intriguing site is the tomb of the 13th-century ruler — Balban. He is supposed to be buried here, with his sons buried on either side of him. The sheer size of this monument gives us but a hint of the kind of atmosphere that must exist then. It is hard not to look at these ruins and imagine a bustling city, with people living full lives in a world so different and yet so similar to ours.

In fraternal company I Credits: Surabhi Sanghi, Class of 2020

The monuments are currently being restored and preserved by the Archaeological Survey of India and are in much better shape than they have been in the recent past. Still, it is a source of amazement, to imagine what the ruins must have looked like when they were at their finest. The now bare tomb domes were once laced with intricate designs in stunning shades of blue and detailed calligraphy. Their edifices must seamlessly blend with lavish, well-maintained gardens, where people would meet, gossip and enjoy the sun.

A visit to Mehrauli is highly recommended! Whether you go as a group, like we did, or do so by yourself; these remnants have so much to offer.

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