Har shaam yahan, shaam e veera’n aseb zada raste galiya’n
Jis shahr ki dhun mein nikle thay who shahr dil e barbaad kahan?
Every evening is lonely in these haunted lanes
Where is the city in search of which my wounded heart set forth?
Siri or Dar-ul-Khilafat, the second city Delhi was built by Sultan Alauddin Khilji (1296-1316 AD) between 1297 and 1307 AD to defend his kingdom against Mongol invaders.
Initially this was called lashkar (military camp) and Mehrauli was shahr (city) but later Siri became the Dar-ul-Khilafat or Capital City. Its present day location includes Shahpur Jat, Hauz Khas, Siri Fort and Green Park.
However, the main residence for Sultan Alauddin Khilji apparently remained the shahr or Qila Rai Pithaura (Mehrauli).
The name ‘Siri’ was given according to legend because heads (sar/sir in Urdu) of 8,000 defeated Mongols were embedded in, some say, the city’s foundations. Many believe they are even in the city walls!
Sir Syed Ahmad Khan, however quotes Khulasat-ut-Tawarikh, an Indo-Persian chronicle by Sujan Rai, that there was a village called Siri on this location and that’s why it became famous as Kushk-e-Siri. At that time it lay between Qila Rai Pithaura and Kilokhari, or Naya Shahr.
Today the walls have crumbled, the bastions encroached but history tells of their majesty.
The fort was circular in shape and its walls were very strong, made of lime, stone and bricks. There were seven gates to this fort as noted by Timur in his memoirs. But only the name of one, the Baghdad Gate, is mentioned, which was presumably one of those on the western side. The walls, according to Ibn Batuta, were seventeen feet in thickness, but only mounds of earth remain to mark their position. Some parts of Siri’s walls can be seen in the Shahpur Jat area. They show a complex double wall with passages in between for the soldiers to move in for defensive purposes and have holes in it for firing arrows.