(A painting by Daniells from their Oriental Sceneries in 1795)
To any cricket fan the name Firoz Shah Kotla is very familiar. Who can forget the thrill of watching Anil Kumble take 10 wickets in a single innings in that stadium! So it did not come as a surprise to me that my driver drove me very promptly to the stadium instead of the Fort when I asked him to take me there. He apparently had no clue that there was an old fort after which the stadium was named and so had to ask around for directions.
“I performed many glorious deeds; and all this I have done“That in the world and among men; in the earth and among mankind, these verses
May stand as a memorial to men of intelligence, and that the people”
Not the best of verse but then when an Emperor pens it the world stops to read.
The Tughlaq architecture though by now technically perfect as can be seen from the purity of this arch had lost its sense of celebration and was sombre, unadorned as befitted the unsettling times that they were constructed in.
According to Maulvi Zafar Hasan in his 1911 book on “Monuments of Delhi” a bed of ‘senwal’ silk cotton was made to cushion the pillar when it was uprooted from its old position, so that it had a soft, cushioned fall. The cotton was then removed carefully and it was covered with reed and raw skins for transportation. It was pulled in a carriage with 42 wheels and had ropes attached to each wheel, with 200 men pulling each rope. Next time you see it do spare a thought for the labour of these men!
“… orders were issued to commanding the attendance of all the people in the neighbourhood, and all soldiers, both horse and foot. They were ordered to bring instruments and materials suitable for the work. Directions were issued for bringing parcels of the cotton of the silk cotton tree. Quantities of this silk cotton were placed around the column, and when the earth at its base was removed, it fell gently over on the bed prepared for it. The cotton was then removed by degrees and after some days the pillar lay safe on the ground… The pillar was then encased from top to bottom in reeds and raw skins, so that no damage might accrue to it. ‘the felling and transporting of the pillar was accomplished with the help of divine inspiration, in accordance with human understanding… every detail of the work including the tying of ropes and the construction of masonry piers; pulling ropes in all directions and balancing the pillar with their help; the employment of elephants for dragging the pillar, and following on their failure the employment of longer ropes with 20,000 men and their success in carrying the pillar to the banks of the Jamna; then arranging well balanced boats for the pillar, loading the pillar on the boats and floating the same; its journey to Firozabad (Delhi); the making of all the arrangements over again for removing the pillar and carrying it in front of the Jum’ah Mosque, there constructing a large building, raising and placing the pillar thereon with the help of pulleys etc., and re-erecting the pillar according to the laws of wisdom – a gift of the most exalted God….”
thickness were obtained, and windlasses were placed on each of the six stages of the base. The ends of the ropes were fastened to the top of the pillar, and the other ends passed over the windlasses, which were firmly secured with many fastenings. The wheels were then turned, and the column was raised about half a gaz. Logs of wood and bags of cotton were then placed under it to prevent its sinking again. In this way, by degrees, and in the course of several days, the column was raised to the perpendicular. Large beams were then placed round it as shores, until quite a cage of scaffolding was formed. It was thus secured in an upright position, straight as an arrow, without the smallest deviation from the perpendicular. The square stone, before spoken of, was placed under the pillar. After it was raised, some ornamental friezes of black and white stone were placed round its two capitals (do sar-i án), and over these there was raised a gilded copper cupola, called in Hindí kalas”. ( Shams Siraj Afif in Tarikh e Firoz Shahi)
This is a sketch of what the pyramidical structure could have looked like.( fromhttp://www.archinomy.com/case-studies/1914/site-visit-to-feroz-shah-kotla)
It was called Hawa Mahal because of the many windows and entrances it had
An old photograph from 1860s
The pillar had a gilded bronze cupola but that disappeared somewhere in the 17th century. The last documented reference is by William Finch in 1611. The pillar was referred to as Minar e Zarrin or Golden Pillar because of the golden glow from the polished sandstone.
Somebody’s mannat fulfilled!
The village my ancestors come from was established by Jalaluddin Khilji and has a mosque dating to back then. I have grown up hearing stories of Djinn Mamus from my grandmother and other relatives. We have a Djinn waali masjid there and of course many tales.
The other notable building in the kotla or citadel is the Jami Masjid or congregational mosque. It was built by Firuz Shah’s Prime Minister Khan e Jahan and is one of the seven mosques he built. It was so grand that Timur offered prayers there and ordered a similar one to be made in Samarqand.
This beautiful circular baoli is now out of bounds for the public and its well has been enclosed in a steel grill after an unfortunate incident a few years ago