Walking a busy road with the usual noisy Delhi traffic, a dusty lane on my left leads directly to Mehrauli Archaeological Park. There are more than a hundred archaeological remains here, scattered around 200 acres of land, with some of the oldest buildings Delhi has to offer. On my left, I step through an arched gateway which brings me to Masjid Sohailwali, a small mosque that lies in ruins. A group of men dressed in white are sitting on the floor, and one of them indicates me to remove my shoes. I walk around the uneven floor on my socks, and see a wall in which books are piled up. A few youngster play here, and then suddenly demand money. They shout at the group of men in white, who now start to make gestures to me that I am not allowed to take pictures of the mosque. Not feeling welcome anymore, I put on my shoes again, and walk towards the tomb of Balban.
Here, I find ruins of houses. Mehrauli is the site of Lal Kot, the third city of Delhi, found in the 11th century. The ruins I walk through on my way to the tomb of Balban were recovered in 2000-1 and date from the 17th century. A young couple, thinking they have found a place to be alone and caress each other without being seen, seems disturbed when I walk by. The tomb is a big, square building, in need of more repairs, and without decorations. Slightly to the west, I find the mosque of Jamali Kamali, the most famous star of Mehrauli. A courtyard with trees partly conceals the beauty of this Mugal building, with its red-and-white sandstone and marble appearance. Two men sit in a corner to chat; otherwise, it is peaceful and quiet here. On the northern side, a rusty fence is well locked: behind it, the tombs of Jamali and Kamali. The first a famous Sufi poet, it is not known exactly who Kamali is; in any case, the names rhyme well. The square building next to their tombs looks attractive, but without a guard to open the fence, it is impossible to see them up close.
Instead, I explore the mosque itself, with its five niches, with rich decorations, and Arabic calligraphy around its half-columns. I walk back to the entrance gate, look up to appreciate the details of this fine building. When I leave, the two men are still chatting next to their motorbike. I walk past a solitary column on a hill and a rose garden through the forest of Mehrauli, to the west side of the park where I climb to the mausoleum of Quli Khan, the son of Balban whose tomb I have already seen on the other side of the park. This modest building sits on a plinth, and looks quite basic from the outside. Once inside, however, I am amazed at the beautiful, blue-and-white decorations around its windows and arches, with floral and geometric motifs. Towards the north, the famous red minaret of Qutab Minar points towards the sky. From here, it is another short walk to Raoji ki Baoli, a stepwell where green water covered by plastic waste is surrounded by stairs and a U-shaped building. I walk the path through the park. When I walk past the Sohailwali mosque again, the same boys who tried to make me give them money, are practising their cricket skills on the terrain of the mosque. Back at the main road leading me back to the metro station, I am reminded that I am still in populous and busy Delhi - something I had almost forgotten walking around the historic and often overlooked ruins of Mehrauli.
Around the World in 80 Clicks
Personal travel impressions both in words and images from Mehrauli Archaeological Park (India). Clicking on the pictures enlarges them and enables you to send the picture as a free e-card or download it for personal use, for instance, on your weblog. Or click on the map above to visit more places close to Mehrauli Archaeological Park. Read more about this site.