Where Stones Speak Book review in Synergy Online


Where Stones Speak : Historical Trails in Mehrauli, the First City of Delhi

By Rana Safvi


“Sense how
Even the smooth stones ache
With stories of their own
In the shuddering light of day.”
― Scott Hastie

‘The stones of ancient cities speak only to a chosen few. Rana Safvi is for the city of Delhi what, in another age, Ibn Hayyan was for Andalusia and Pachymeres was for Constantinople.’ – Rakhshanda Jalil

Stone-cutters fighting time with marble, you fore defeated
Challengers of oblivion
Eat cynical earnings, knowing rock splits, records fall down,
The square-limbed Roman letters
Scale in the thaws, wear in the rain. The poet as well
Builds his monument mockingly;
For man will be blotted out, the blithe earth die, the brave sun
Die blind and blacken to the heart:
Yet stones have stood for a thousand years, and pained thoughts found
The honey of peace in old poems.”
― Robinson Jeffers, Selected Poems

And so Mehrauli is the oldest of Delhi’s seven cities. Once the thriving capital of the Tomar and Chauhan dynasties and the Dar ul Khilafat of the slave dynasty, today it lies forgotten. Its congested lanes and crumbling ruins are lost in a mishmash of history and modernity, the living and the dead rubbing shoulders with each other.

Blending stirring Urdu couplets with haunting visuals, author Rana Safvi walks us through the oldest of Delhis, describing the religious diversity of Mehrauli’s monuments: from the rocky Qila Rai Pithaura to the dargah of Khwaja Qutbuddin Bakhtiyar Kaki, from Zafar Mahal, the last great monument built by the Mughals, to the holy waters of the Hauz e Shamsi; each structure a living memory of an era dissolved in history.

Embellished with stories and legends of a bygone era, and soaked in the sights and sounds of Sufi dargahs, mosques, temples, churches, gurudwaras and Buddhist monasteries, Where Stones Speak effortlessly reveals a little known, bewitching Mehrauli.
Rana Safvi is a historian with a deep love for verse and a passion for the culture and heritage of the Indian subcontinent. She combines her enthusiasm for both in her writing. She runs a popular blog, ‘Hazrat e Dilli’, which talks about Delhi’s culture, food, heritage and age-old traditions. She is founder and moderator of #Shair on Twitter, a forum that has revived popular interest in Urdu poetry in a major way.

Rana is a postgraduate in History from Aligarh Muslim University. She lives in Delhi with her family.

Hogi iss dher imaarat ki kahaani kuchh tau
Dhundh alfaz ke malbe mein maa’ini kuchh tau

Surely a story behind these ruins, somewhere
Search the debris of words, the meaning in there, somehwre
(Shahpur Rasool)


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