Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Qila Rai Pithora (Mehrauli) (1180 A.D.) - The Legacy of Delhi Vol 3

(In this edition of Delhi-iteful Tuesdays I am bringing to you the third part of this historical series The Legacy of Delhi.)

As you drive towards Qutb Minar (in Mehrauli) (from the direction of Saket) a massive wall, which seems as old as time, runs parallel to the road. That wall was a major part of the fortifications of the first city of Delhi (based upon archaeological evidence) built by one of the famous rulers of India Prithviraj Chauhan (Prithviraj III) in the year 1180 A.D.. This was his capital city.. This was Qila Rai Pithora..

The information board at the entrance to the walled portion of the fort.

History - 
                   In the year 736 A.D. King Anangapal Tomar (his name is inscribed on the Iron Pillar of Delhi) founded Lal Kot. The words 'Lal Kot' basically mean 'Red Fort' but it should not be confused with the Lal Qila (Red Fort) built by Emperor Shah Jahan in the year 1648 A.D. Lal Kot was basically a walled citadel or Military Garrison which also served as the capital of the kingdom of Tomars.

Observe the multiple bastions in the walls of the fort.

King Prithviraj Chauhan (Prithviraj III) captured Lal Kot in the year 1180 A.D. and made extensive renovations to the structure and extended the citadel by building massive ramparts around it. It was made into a thirteen gated fort. That city became to be known as Qila Rai Pithora. The Chauhans and the Mamluks (Slave Dynasty) ruled from Qila Rai Pithora and it remained the capital city of the empire of Northern India for over a hundred years.

Another view of the bastions of the fort as dusk sets in.

After Afghan invader Mohammed Ghori defeated Prithviraj Chauhan (Prithviraj III) in the second Battle of Tarain in 1192 A.D. he made his General and slave Qutb ud Din Aibak a 'Naib us Sultanat' in India. After Muhammed Ghauri's death he made himself the ruler of the Kingdom of Mohammed Ghori.

Physical Map of Delhi with the location of Qila Rai Pithora

Architecture -
                              Qutb ud din 'Aibak' (the word 'Aibak' was a title bestowed upon Qutb ud din by Muhammed Ghori. It basically means 'Axis of Faith', in India)  is credited with the construction of Quwwat ul Islam Mosque (The first mosque to be built in Delhi) and the world famous Qutb Minar. Today, the Qutb Minar is one of the most remembered monuments in the city of Qila Rai Pithora. Successive Mamluk rulers continued to rule from this capital city until Sultan Muiz ud din Qaiqabad (1287-1290 A.D.) (Balban's successor and the last ruler of the Mamluk Dynasty).

Quwwat ul Islam (Might of Islam) Mosque. (It is apt that Qutb ud din 'Aibak '(The man who was given the title of Axis of Faith) would construct the 'Might of Islam' mosque in Delhi). The type of architecture used to prepare this mosque is a fusion of Hindu and Islamic architectures chiefly because local Hindu sculptors were used to build this mosque. Pure Islamic architecture was an unknown concept at that time in India.

Life in Qila Rai Pithora - 
                                                             As per the accounts of the city given by Vibudh Shridhar (an accomplished writer of his times) in the year 1189 A.D. he has described 'The fort as immense and surrounded by a moat beside the Ananga lake. The markets were full of commodities like cloth, grain, betel-nuts, sweets etc as well as accounting books. He also implies that Delhi was a center of learning where eloquent language was spoken. The pinnacles of the city gates were gilded with gold and buildings were studded with gems.'
                                                             It is believed that this picture of the city remained intact when the Mamluks (Slave Dynasty) made this city the capital of their kingdom for the next 100 years.

Qutb Minar (A UNESCO World Heritage Site)

Decline -
                  When the Khilji Dynasty came to power in the last decade of the thirteenth century they shifted the capital to the new and well fortified capital city Siri which was approximately six kms away from Qila Rai Pithora in order to defend themselves better from Mongol Invasions.

Today major part of the ruins of Qila Rai Pithora are covered by the forests of 'Sanjay Van' and the 'South Delhi Ridge' while some parts of the city are yet to be excavated. The only visible part of the fortifications of the city can be seen next to the Qutb Golf Course in the Qila Rai Pithora Park. The Qutb Minar which has made the city famous can be seen and reached quite easily though.

The sun might have set over Qila Rai Pithora and its glorious days but its legend lives on.


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