Trampled Tombs: Forgotten Heritage in Zamarudpur

, Hazrat-E-Dilli

“Baad-e-fanaa fuzool hai naam-o-nishaan ki fikr
Jab hum nahin rahe, to rahega mazaar kya?”
#Chakbast

Lodi kings were Afghans and in the Afghan tribal system the king was not considered divine or absolute. The nobles also felt that they deserved elaborate funerary buildings and thus in Delhi alone we see more than 100 tombs built under the three Lodi kings.
The only difference between royal tombs and tombs of nobles was not size but shape. The royal tombs were generally octagonal while those of nobles were square in shape.
Thus, Lodi tombs in good, bad and worse conditions are found all over Delhi. One such complex was built in Zamarudpur.
During the reign of Sikander Lodi the Sultan of Delhi (1489 to 1517) a Jagir was given to Afghan noble named Zamarud Khan in Kanchan Sarai and that area became henceforth known as Zamarudpur. His family were buried in the tombs there.
There is a mention of the five tombs of Zamarudpur in recent years because of their state of deterioration and encroachment. There are some old reports that these tombs are to get a facelift due to the agencies of INTACH.
Having read these reports I decided to visit the area myself not realizing the shock I was in for!
As soon as we entered the village I saw the first tomb boxed in by adjacent buildings but still standing tall. As I took out my mobile to click photographs a local came out and told me I could not click pictures. He was extremely agitated and rude. Anyway I stood my ground and managed to get a few shots though they weren’t very good..

Tomb 1
Maulvi Zafar Hasan describing it in 1919 in Monuments of Delhi says that it is a tomb 31’6” square finished in plaster and contains six graves of rubble and plaster. He also mentions a dilapidated wall mosque with two grave sin it compound to the south of it. It no longer exists.
I don’t know if these tombs are notified, as there were no ASI boards anywhere to be seen. The entire area is also Lal Dora and Lal Dora is exempt from the building bye-laws, and strict construction norms and regulations, as regulated under the Delhi municipal act.
We then walked inside an alley hoping to see the other tombs but there was only a maze of houses and narrow alleys with no tomb anywhere in sight.
We started asking around and was told that there are two gumbads or domes inside a narrow alley near the tiny market square.
Very little prepared me for the sight of a tomb filled with garbage, partially built upon. The lotus kalasha on the half dome peeping out was obviously a favourite dumping ground for the high-rise tenement next to it. The tomb itself was closed from all sides. On the staircase of the tenement I found a column support peeping out.
Maulvi Zafar Hasan says that it is a 16’ square , domed structure containing 12 dressed stone pillars. It was being used for residential purposes even back then and its pillars had been filled with earth.
Photographs of Tomb 1
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The way to a house essentially blocks the tomb’s side walls.

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The walls of the houses are continuous with the tomb

Tomb 2
We had been told that there were two gumbads in this area but it was a blind alley. Feeling quite like a detective I started peeping into the arrow passages of the buildings which housed one room apartments with a common toilet. I saw one had another passage leading from it and when I entered I saw some old stones from afar. I ventured in to suddenly find myself in front of a huge dark cavern with a yellow tarpaulin strung on four poles and a white cow which was shining in the dark. A little girl passing by said it was indeed a gumbad and a deaf mute man live din it with his cow. Just then the old man in question came along and seeing us taking photographs kindly put on the light from a precariously hanging switch and older. This is the largest of the five tombs and it had been neatly divided into corners. The old man lived in one corner with his cow and a battered tin box with his meager possessions. It was so crowded and dirty that we could not go in and so standing in the passage of the building opening into it we took a look around.
Maulvi Zafar Hasan describes it as a tomb 27’5” square constructed of dressed stone, and surmounted by a rubble plastered dome. On the north, south and east there is a recessed arch enclosing 3 arched openings, which give access to the interior, while the west has three mehrab recesses. A doorway in the south mehrab gives entrance to a winding staircase leading to the roof. The dome is octagonal with a red sandstone finial. Inside there are three graves. It was being used a sa residence back then with the pillars filled up with earth.
We came out of the alley and asked a shopkeeper where the other tombs are. With a wave of his hand he showed us the general direction and we moved that side. A narrow passage with rooms on both sides led us to a tiny opening which opened onto a huge arch, partially covered by a building with three arched openings. We immediately realized this is the same tomb we had visited from inside. From this side it was being used by some raddi waalas and had black plastic bags full of raddi stacked there. One of them offered to take us upto the roof from the staircase described above but we preferred to climb to the top of the building next to it. From the sixth floor we were at level with the broken red sandstone finial. Wild growth was all over the dome.
Photographs of Tomb 2

20160106_120738_wmThe cow was just as startled as I was!
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an old man and his cow
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The barrenness of death
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When living is difficult who is worried about the dead!
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The once upon a time grand entrance
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The gaping holes in the dome
PhotoGrid_1452178394474_wmThe trees and the dome
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The kabadi waalas haunt and godown
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We worship yet we don’t keep it clean

Tomb 3

Two had been found in heart breaking condition and we were now more or less prepared for the worse. We started peeping into a few lanes in the general area we had been told to look in. From one narrow lane there was a glimpse of what seemed an old stone pillar. The narrow lane suddenly opened onto a square with a baradari on a high plinth with the look of a dhobi ghat of a particularly busy dhobi. Once again we climbed onto the top of the 6 story tenement with one room apartments and a common toilet on each landing and a tap with a small wall running around it for washing and cleaning.
The top showed such an elegant lotus finial with wild growth all over it. From the top floors we could see some of the medallions which had survived with Allah written on it in Arabic.
Maulvi Zafar Hasan describes it as a 22’5” square standing on a plinth of 7’ in height. It consists of a domed pavilion with 12 pillars in dressed stone. Traces of blue tile decoration are found on the battlements, which crown the roof, and on the octagonal roof of the dome. Inside the dome is ornamented with incised plaster and intersecting bands of red colour.
We were trying to find a way to enter the pavilion and saw a kid climbing staircase adjoining it on the opposite side. So we set off there and climbed in. The remnants of the incised plaster and calligraphy with the kalima written on it were visible. The floor was filled with every kind of garbage strewn all over it. It was used as a garbage dump cum store cum laundry room.

Photographs of Tomb 3
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Dhobhi Ghat
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Never ending clothesline of the basti

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We like to wash our dirty linen
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The ceiling of the Dhobhi Ghat tomb
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Some of the medallions are still readable

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The pillars

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The sides

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The beautiful lotus peeping out
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A balcony with a view
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A pillar which serves as a mandir and dargah
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The neighbours

Tomb 4

I don’t think anyone else in recent times had fund all five tombs but we were determined to succeed in doing so. Once again we went back to the shop keeper and found an old gentleman who said there was one behind the row of buildings in front, so we set off in that alley. There was a passage running behind these buildings so feeling like Sherlock Holmes we entered it. But we came back out onto the road and found no traces of any tomb in there. An old lady was passing by and we asked her about a gumbad. She said that it had been enclosed from all sides by these buildings but in a narrow lane in front of us we could find a part of it peeping out. It was a tiny passage next to a fancy house and in complete darkness. It didn’t seem old from far but as we came close we could make out an old column support on the side. There was no way we could go any closer to it as it was surrounded by garbage and unused stuff.
Coming out we asked a shopkeeper if we could go up one of the buildings there. When he assured us there was no problems we climbed up the 6 floors there. This one was slightly better condition with students staying in it. We reached the barsaati of the building and peeped over the edge of the inner wall. As if in a deep well we saw a dome peeping out with tall bricked walls on its four sides. I realized why no one had found it so far and also the sad realization that very soon it may not be there to find.
Maulvi Zafar Hasan describes it as a domed structure hexagonal in plan with a diameter of 16’ and containing 6 dressed stone pillars. In the centre of the dome is a grave of rubble and plaster.
Well there are no traces of any pillars or grave. The level of the ground has come up to the dome level.

Photographs of Tomb 4

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The dome which has been taken into the building giving clues to its existence
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The tombed up tomb
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The locked up door
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The pillars in the building staircase
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I’m here!
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Wonder how long before its eaten up
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The houses

Tomb 5
I don’t think anyone else in recent times had fund all five tombs but we were determined to succeed in doing so. Once again we went back to the shop keeper and found an old gentleman who said there was one behind the row of buildings in front, so we set off in that alley. There was a passage running behind these buildings so feeling like Sherlock Holmes we entered it. But we came back out onto the road and found no traces of any tomb in there. An old lady was passing by and we asked her about a gumbad. She said that it had been enclosed from all sides by these buildings but in a narrow lane in front of us we could find a part of it peeping out. It was a tiny passage next to a fancy house and in complete darkness. It didn’t seem old from far but as we came close we could make out an old column support on the side. There was no way we could go any closer to it as it was surrounded by garbage and unused stuff.
Coming out we asked a shopkeeper if we could go up one of the buildings there. When he assured us there was no problems we climbe dup the 6 floors there. This one was slightly better condition with students staying in it. We reached the barsaati of the building and peeped over the edge of the inner wall. As if in a deep well we saw a dome peeping out with tall bricked walls on its four sides. I realized why no one had found it so far and also the sad realization that very soon it may not be there to find.
Maulvi Zafar Hasan describes it as a domed structure hexagonal in plan with a diameter of 16’ and containing 6 dressed stone pillars. In the centre of the dome is a grave of rubble and plaster.
Well there are no traces of any pillars or grave. The level of the ground has come up to the dome level
Photographs of tomb 5 from the rooftop
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I’m in here
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One of the rooftops next to Tomb 5
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close up from the roof
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We squeezed in from a narrow passage to see it from the bottom

The nicest part was meeting Chandi Begum who came here as a young bride from Old Delhi, 60 years ago

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One Comments

  • JOSE PANIAGUA 03 / 02 / 2016 Reply

    Hey,
    My name´s Jose Luis and I am a Spanish jorunalist working a story about encroachment in Delhi heritage sites. I just stumbled on your blog and it would be very useful for me to reach these locations in Zambrudpur.
    Could you help with the exact location??
    Thanks!

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