Firuz Shah Kotla: Fifth City of Delhi

Even in Delhi I have met only a handful of people who refer to the ruins when I mention the name Firuz Shah Kotla.

I ask “Hey have you been to Firuz Shah Kotla?”

“No I haven’t but I’ll definitely go come this year’s IPL” an acquaintance of mine replied.

Here’s another sample conversation I had with another acquaintance of mine: “Ever been to Firuz Shah Kotla?” I asked with caution.

“Yes!” he replied “and I had a blast. What an inning Chris Gayle played that day. It was unforgettable” he added.

I feel like I could bang my head on the wall. But then it is easy to be oblivious of history in the city like Delhi because it’s the living history.

The Rock Edict of Ashoka inside Firuz Shah Kotla

Ashokan Rock Edict atop Pyramidal Structure inside Firuz Shah Kotla

It coexists with the hustle and bustle of the city which has already devoured many of the historical structures belonging to different epochs.

Many of the old buildings in and around have faded from sands of time.

As you explore the place, you’d notice most of the structures in ruins inside the fort complex including the palaces and meeting chambers as well as the sepoy barracks and marketplaces (or meena bazaars as they were referred to as).

But some are painstakingly restored and protected to stand the ravages of time, as the testimonial to a bygone era – lest we lose our touch with history and heritage altogether.

Firuz Shah Kotla near Delhi Gate is located opposite the hospital – Maulana Abul Kalam Azad Medical College (MAMC) – that once, as per Vikramjeet’s narrative, used to be the sanatorium. The palace complex is hidden from plane sight.

You really need to look for it to find it beyond JP Park hidden behind dense tree covers just as you need to look out for Khooni Darwaaza (Delhi Gate) which is also hidden from the plain site due to dense forest cover.

Cities are build over ruins and that’s true for Firuz Shah Kotla. It was ransacked and plundered to make a even mightier city. Yes! It was Shahjahanabad…which we know refer to as Red Fort.

The once mighty fort of Firuz Shah Kotla – also known as Kushak-e-Firuz – was plundered at the peak of Mughal Empire when Shah Jahan decided to build his own city Shajahanabad.

A look at Jami Masjid and Pyramidal structure makes you believe in the paradox that “the spirit can only be imminent in what is truly transcendent.” No wonder Firuz SHah Kotla is the favored residence of the djinns.

Firuz Shah Kotala is grand. It was…I mean it is the fifth city of Delhi after Mehrauli (Qila Rai Pithora), Siri, Tughlaqabad and Jahanpanah.

In the tradition of the lords that ruled and the lords which were to follow, Firuz Shah – a mystic who didn’t wanted himself as Sultan – carved his own city after the visionary madman Mohammed Bin Tughlaq died.

Firuz Shah was a sufi, mystic and not what anyone would have wanted as Sultan. May be that’s what the nobles wanted…to have a weak Sultan.

But I for one am glad that he became the Sultan of Hind. No! He didn’t want to rule and was not the material that you associate with rulers (as in Mohammed Bin Tughlaq who was his predecessor or the Akbars and Aurangzebs that followed).

Firuz Shah was a thinker, poet and a sufi for whom “hanooz dilli dur ast.”

So when he was made Sultan, he did what he could do best.

He built and he restored.

Thanks to Firuz Shah we have so many places to visit in Delhi.

Pyramidal Structure with Ashokan Rock Edict mounted on the top

Pyramidal Structure with Ashokan Rock Edict mounted on the top

 

You ask me where?

Well for the starters, there are the 2 upper floor of Qutub Minar, Satpula, Khirki Masjid, the fort itself, Kalan ki Masjid, Hauz Khas Village, Kushak Mahal (Teenmurti Bhavan) and many more are sprinkled across the city.

Why should you go visit Firuz Shah Kotla?

Well! It’s a must if you want a rendezvous with the famed Djinns of the city.

It is this haunted complex that is the favored residence of the Djinns of the city.

What are the djinns you ask?

Well…

According to Islam, Allah made djinns out of smokeless fire before he made humans out of clay. One of the things that you should know about them is that they are quirky and their mood could swing as fast as the pendulum.

Unlike ghosts, djinns are shapeless beings who may assume any form and live anywhere as in the Alladin ka Chirag. Due to this boon that they are bestowed, Djinns could even marry and have children.

They can assume any shape and unlike humans, and they could live forever.

As per the legends, jinn have free will, and Ibl?s (head of Djinns) abused this freedom in front of Allah. Oh! The same old story. Iblis refused to bow to Adam when Allah ordered angels and jinn to do so.

For this disobedience Allah expelled Iblis from Paradise and named him “Shaytan.” Yep that’s true the Satan!
Once you are in the dark chambers inside Firuz Shah Kotla, there are others sights which may leave you baffled and with a goosebump.

It could be faintly be out of your comfort zone and sometimes downright scary! When I visited last, there was a tantric performing exorcism. Believe me when I say that it was not just for the movies… It is believed that the benevolent djinns here, help get rid of evil spirits.

If you are a lady do heed this advice. Don’t use perfume or deodorant if you are visiting Firuz Shah Kotla. According to Asif – a wonderful storyteller and history enthusiast whom I met on my heritage walk to Kotla – Djinns inevitably get attracted by the ‘scent.’

Do test whether you or your companions are Djinn or a human 🙂 It’s a good reminder!

 

So what’s the story of this City of Djinns?
The earliest instance when the story of the jinnee started was at the end of the Emergency. As per the story, a fakir named Laddoo Shah moved into the ruins of Ferozeshah Kotla when the so called encroachments at the Turkman Gate were demolished – it was the last remnant of Firuzabad – a city that Firuz Shah Tughlaq built.

It is now widely believed as a fact that only after that demolition and Ladoo Shah moving in with his Djinns that the practice of writing letters to the jinns began in the late 1970s – a year after the demolitions at Turkman Gate locality.

I am yet to visit Firuzabad – Kotla of Firuz Shah – on Thursday. It is a free day i.e. no entry fee and you get to eat free biryanis too as per Asif. But beware the biryanis offered are meant for the Djinns to persuade them to grant the wishes of the desperate.

Every Thursday hundreds of local people come to offer milk and grain, light candles and incense, and leave strips of thread or coloured cloth, often with petitions scribbled on bits of paper, at various places within the complex to appease the djinns that are said to inhabit the place.

Inside the dark chambers of still standing structures of Kushak e Firuzshahi, you’ll come across letters – amazingly they all happen to be printed copies of letters spelling out the exact nature of trouble. These letters are stuck to alcoves throughout the Kotla. You’ll also notice that these recesses are blackened with the soot of the lamps and incense sticks.

So if you have a business gone bad to a family falling apart and a wife who is in love with a man in foreign country, bring your problems for the djinns to sort out.

Structures of note inside Firuz Shah Kotla

Pyramidal Structure

One of the most prominent sight inside Firuz Shah Kotla is the pillar mounted atop pyramidal structures – which I thought is called Hawa Mahal but I have to found enough evidence to corroborate it.

The building is one of the most noticeable thanks to a pillar mounted atop the dilapidated structure. This Ashokan Rock Addict was referred to as the Bhimsen’s Laat, or the Minar-e-Zarreen depending upon the version of story you are reading.

If the stories are to believed. then the first reference (Bhimsen’s Laat) was made because so mighty is this pillar that people believed it was the walking staff of the mighty Bhima of Mahabharata fame.

The later reference (Minar-e-Zarreen) is recounted by Ziauddin Barani who wrote Sirat-i-Firozshahi.

“… in the village of Topra, by the banks of the Jatan, stood the stone pillar, the like of which in height and circumference had not been seen by anyone…
“by the grace of the Creator… we (said Firuz Shah Tughlaq) shall remove this lofty Pillar and make a Minar of it in the Jumah Mosque of Firozabad, where, God willing, it shall stand as long as the world endures.’

Even to this date, head djinn inside Kushak-e-Firuzshah, is addressed as Laat Waale Baba (the baba of the laat, or pillar). Was it a happenstance that Laddu Shah choose this ground and the name is somewhat similar…Ladoo/Lat? BTW even the cart on which the pillar was carried is commonly referred to as ladha.
The construction of identity (more like immortality)through the incorporation of glorified objects is directly relevant to the re-erection of antique pillars by the Delhi sultans. One such example is the iron pillar inside the congregational area of Quwwat u–Islam Mosque inside Qutb Minar Complex.

Jami Masjid

Jami Masjid was the prayer mosque of the Sultan, his family and nobles. The sight of this Friday prayer mosque from the top of Pyramidal Structure is awe inspiring. Looking as I was from that vantage point at this humble mosque, I could feel why Timur left it intact when he plundered and massacred Delhi in 1398. He was impressed by this mosque and took away artisans to build something similar in Samarkand where he lies interred.

The Ruins

Most of the structures inside the fort complex of Firuz Shah Tughlaq lie in ruins. Ironically some of the better structures of the time of Firuz Shah – the great builder – could be visited in the Siri area and Hauz Khas Village. Even Firuz Shah Tughlaq is interred at his tomb in Hauz Khas village where he also built a madarsa.

The entrance to this mosque is from North through a flight up stairs. As per the legends Timur was so impressed with this mosque that he performed his prayer here and ordered a similar one built in Samarkand by taking away the artisan who built Jami Masjid.

Baoli at Firuz Shah Kotla

This baoli is so very different from the renowned baolis of Delhi that you might have seen. From the renowned, I mean the Agrasen ki Baoli, Rajon ki Baoli and the Gandhak ki Baoli. I suppose these are the 3 most popular baolis of Delhi.

What also makes them common is their design. They are rectangular and reached through a single flight down stairs. What separates Baoli of Firuz Shah Tughlaq from them is the design. The Baoli inside the fortress of Firuz Shah Tughlaq is circular.

The outer wall of the baoli has arched alcoves, and the baoli itself is three storeys deep but the access is through the stairs which are embedded within the structure descending down to the water level at the western end.

Other notable building of his time include the Kalan Masjid, Sunehri Masjid,Tohfewaala Gumbad (Shahpur Jat) and Khirki Masjid and Kushak Mahal – his hunting lodge – near Nehru Planetarium (Teen Murti Bhavan) and Ridge near Karol Bagh.

Location : Kotla is located off Bahadur Shah Zafar Marg, ITO, adjacent to Ambedkar Stadium
Duration : 1-2 hours
Time : Sunrise to Sunset
Metro: the nearest metro station in ‘Pragati Maidan’
Still Camera Charge: Free
Entrance Fee: INR 5 for Indians and INR 100 for foreigners
Nearest Bus Stops
(i) Delhi Gate
(ii) Ambedkar Stadium Terminal: 39, 118 Ext,
225, 301, 307, 309, 312, 423, 322, 343, 51
347, 348, 353, 363, 783, 447, 503, 85, 857,
936, 949, 949A, 949 Ext, 960, 533, 621
(iii) Darya Ganj: 26, 51, 62, 104, 118 Ext, 164,
171, 172, 185, 204, 210, 113, 216, 241, 245,
246, 260, 261, 266, 270, 301, 312, 322, 339,
347, 363, 402, 403, 404, 404 Ext, 405, 409,
419, 425, 436, 502, 602, 605, 622, 632, 729,
753, 760, 838, 901

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