Where Stones Speak review in The Tribune

Down monumental lane of India”s multiculturalism
Posted at: Oct 5 2015 1:05AM
New Delhi, October 4

A church that wears looks of a temple and a mosque too, a festival that dates back to the Mughal rule and numerous monuments that have stories to tell.

A new book ‘Where Stones Speak’ by historian Rana Safvi tells many little known stories associated with monuments around Mehrauli, the first and also the oldest of the seven cities that make modern day Delhi.

Athough it is one of the most visited monuments of the Capital, not many know that the nondescript second floor a mosque in the Qutub complex was a women’s mosque and it was standing on this floor that the young Razia was chosen Sultan by people of Delhi overthrowing her tyrant brother Ruknuddin Firoz Shah.

The author takes the reader through the narrow, congested lanes of Mehrauli, describing the religious diversity of its monuments, from the rocky Qula Rai Pithoura to the Dargah of Sufi saint Khwaja Qutbuddin Bakhtiyar Kaki and the ancient Yogmaya temple, telling stories associated with these.

Mehrauli is home to India’s ancient pluralistic and multicultural tradition. It is here that the Mughal emperors offered tribute to the Yogmaya temple and the dargah of Khwaja Qutbuddin Bakhtiyar Kaki.

Also befitting is the St. John’s church built on the ruins of a Mughal fort- the structure incorporates the architectural features of a mosque and a temple, truly symbolising the syncretic culture of Mehrauli and India, the author says.

Nothing epitomises the multicultural flavour of Delhi as the ‘Phool Walon Ki Sair’ or ‘Sair e Gul Farosha’n’, the procession of flower sellers that is currently held in October after the monsoons.

It began when in fulfilment of her vow Mumtaz Mahal Begum, wife of Akbar Shah II (1808-1837) organised seven days of merry making and celebrations when her exiled son Mirza Jahangir was allowed back in Delhi by the British. Hindus and Muslims joined the festivities and on public demand the emperor decided it would henceforth be an annual affair. Akbar Shah also offered a ‘pankha’ (a fan made of flowers) at the nearby Yogmaya temple.

Till the Mughals ruled, this festival was celebrated with great pomp and show. It is held even now and pankhas are offered on behalf of President of India and the Lt. Governor of Delhi, the book says. The festival was stopped for some years, but later restored, the author says.—PTI


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