Until two years ago, #OurCity was in the running for being declared a UNESCO World Heritage City (before the nomination was revoked by the government), and with good reason. Delhi, Dilli, Indraprastha — the capital has been an integral part of every dynasty or invasion this country has seen. It forms an indispensable part in the epic of The Mahabharata, and has been the seat of power since the 12th century AD — from the Slave dynasty to the Tughlaqs, the Mughals, the British, and independent India. With such a culturally rich history, it is natural for past inhabitants to have left behind a tangible legacy. Red Fort, Old Fort, Qutub Minar are perennial destinations, and rarely any mainstream cinematic representation of Delhi is complete without a shot of India Gate. However, there are some hidden gems in the city that yearn to be admired (and restored) before they get lost in the tide of time forever. We bring to you seven monuments across the capital that you need to explore, soak in, and revel in their forgotten heritage, and see a Delhi you’ve never experienced before.
Location: Shakti Nagar
Nearest Metro Station: Pul Bangash on the Red Line | 1.3km away
The Mughal-style palace garden was designed and commissioned by Roshanara Begum, the daughter of Shah Jahan and Mumtaz Mahal, in the 1650s. Once a crucial player in Aurangzeb’s ascension to power, she was banished to this palace because of her libertine lifestyle. Aurangzeb had her interred here after her death in 1671.
One of the largest gardens in Delhi, today it boasts of a wide variety of native and imported plants, and is a popular site for bird-watching as the pond attracts many a migratory birds in the winters. The elite Roshanara Club was founded on these premises by the British, and it is also the birthplace of the Board of Control for Cricket in India.
Timings: 6:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m.
The Mosque of Khair-ul-Manzil
Location: Kaka Nagar, opposite Delhi Zoo, Mathura Road
Nearest Metro Station: Khan Market on the Violet Line | 1.3km away
Maham Anga, de-facto regent and the wet-nurse of Akbar, who later rose to the position of his prime minister, was one of the few women to hold a prominent rank in Indian history. Before she and her son were branded traitors by Akbar for killing a court official, she enjoyed enough sway to commission an educational institution, Khair-ul-Manzil, in 1561. When she died of grief after Akbar sentenced her son to death, she was laid to rest within the premises, which is a confluence of both Mughal and Sultanate architecture.
The gateway of the mosque is made of red sandstone, and the courtyard consists of a stone well and water pitchers for birds. The prayer hall can be reached through five arched openings, which bear inscriptions in Persian. Previously used as a madrasa, the two storeys on the northern and southern side of Khairul Manzil provided boarding rooms for its students. Relics of red, yellow, and blue tiles are still visible in places.
Timings: Open 24 hours
Image: David Haberlah
Nearest Metro Station: Tughlaqabad on the Violet Line | 5.2km away
Ghiyas-ud-din Tughlaq, the founder of the Tughlaq dynasty, built the fortified city in 1321 after dethroning the Khiljis. The fort was designed with several bastions, parapets, gates, and rainwater tanks to prevent an attack from the Mongols. Believed to be cursed by the Sufi saint, Nizamuddin Auliya, the fort was abandoned in 1327 after it was captured by Gujjars. Situated atop a hillock in the Aravallis, Tughlaqabad Fort also houses Ghiyas-ud-din’s tomb, wherein his wife and issue, Mohammad bin Tughlaq, are also laid to rest.
Timings: 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Entry Fee: INR 5 for Indians; INR 100 for foreign nationals.
Image Left: Vinayak Hegde; Image Right: meghanahassan.blogspot.com
Feroz Shah Kotla Fort
Location: Vikram Nagar, Near Bahadur Shah Zafar Marg
Nearest Metro Station: ITO on the Blue Line | 1.2km away
In 1354, Feroz Shah Tughlaq, the successor of Mohammad bin Tughlaq, established this fort by the banks of Yamuna. The complex, now in ruins, comprises a pyramidal citadel, a baoli or step-well, and a still-functional mosque. The dungeons of the citadel are believed to be inhabited by djinns, spirits that act as mediators between the worlds of the mortal and the divine. The citadel also supports a 13-metre high Ashoka pillar, which bears the Mauryan Emperor’s edicts on governance. The monolith was earlier situated near Ambala, from where Feroz Shah had it transported to Delhi through Yamuna.
Timings: 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Entry Fee: INR 5 for Indians; INR 100 for foreign nationals.
Image: Varun Shiv Kapur
Jamali Kamali Mosque and Tomb
Nearest Metro Station: Qutub Minar on the Yellow Line | 1.7km away
Between 1528 and 1529, this red sandstone and marble monument was first constructed as a mosque. The tomb of renowned Sufi poet Sheikh Jamali Kamboh was later built adjacent to the mosque after his death in 1535. Kamali, whose credentials are not accurately established, is believed to be a follower of Jamali, and buried next to him. The tomb chamber consists of two marble graves; its ornate ceiling has Quranic inscriptions, whereas the walls, adorned with inlaid coloured tiles, bear verses from Jamali’s poetry. Friday prayers (jummah) are prohibited by the Archaeological Survey of India due to the fragile state of the premises, but fakirs appease djinns on Thursdays, and the place is believed to be haunted.
Timings: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Image: Ramesh Lalwani
Kamla Nehru Ridge
Location: Civil Lines
Nearest Metro Station: Civil Lines on the Yellow Line | 2.4km away
The Delhi Ridge, an extension of the northern Aravalli Hills, provides the maximum green cover in the city. While the forest area has shrunk over the years due to rapid urbanisation, the Ridge is home to variegated species of birds. The northern part of the Ridge, referred to as Kamla Nehru Ridge, is located near the North Campus of Delhi University, and boasts of monuments from the time of the Tughlaqs to the British Raj. Feroz Shah Tughlaq installed a second Ashoka pillar in this area, along with a hunting lodge, and the Chauburja Mosque. The Ridge also played a crucial role during the Indian Mutiny of 1857, when many sepoys were deployed here to keep the uprising within check. Flagstaff Tower, built as a signal tower on the highest point of the ridge in 1828, served as a safe haven for British families during the uprising. Also situated 200m away from the Ashoka Pillar is the Mutiny Memorial, or Ajitgarh, which was built in 1863 in Gothic style to commemorate the Rebellion.
Timings: 6 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Location: Burari Road, near Kingsway Camp
Nearest Metro Station: GTB Nagar on the Yellow Line | 3.5km away
This venue is historically significant for hosting the Delhi Durbar in 1877, 1903, and 1911 at the height of the British empire, to mark the ascension of a new empress or emperor. The Durbar of King George V on 12th December 1911 is the most important as it marked the shift in capital from Calcutta to Delhi. The premises include a Coronation Memorial, denoted by an obelisk, and a statue of King George V, the tallest and largest in the world.
Timings: 5 a.m. to 7 p.m.