Khair-Ul-Manazil – It’s a chronogram, I was told. I had to read few more lines to understand the concept of a chronogram. I was inside some 16th century ruins, standing in the middle of urban Delhi, staring at a motiff on the wall. The structure was not beautiful but it was old and people were still using it. I clicked few pictures and stepped outside the mosque.
The previous day had been cloudy. It had drizzled too, in the afternoon. I had cursed myself for being unable to shake off my laziness and had watched mother nature’s beauty from the comfort of my awesome, royal bed. Tomorrow, I shall go out, I had promised myself.
Luckily, a friend had shared the same feelings and we had taken off the next afternoon for a leisure tour of Humayun’s tomb and Purana Qila. Humayun’s tomb would probably be my most favourite Mughal structure in Delhi. I have been there multiple times and its beauty and aesthetics always fascinate me.
The red & white sandstone, the motifs with stars and other geometrical shapes in them, the latticed windows and the sun beam filtering through it, the grandeur of the octagonal architecture, the Arabian calligraphy and the quietness in the lush green lawns surrounding the tomb – attractive it all is! I can lounge on that lawn and just behold the tomb in my eyes. That’s exactly what we did.
That Humayun is the grand father of Mughal King Shahajahan who built the world-famous Taj Mahal , that he had a peaceful and gentle personality and that he died after falling down from the stairs of Purana Qila, the fort built by him, is all I know about him. The tomb was commissioned by his wife and its photographs from earlier times do not portray the beauty that I feel when I look at it. May be it’s because the structure was restored heavily after 1998, after being declared a UNESCO World Heritage site. But for whatever reason, its one of my favourite spots in Delhi. Besides the tomb, many smaller monuments dot the green premises.
Next on our list of places to check out was Old Fort i.e. Purana Qila. But as we alighted from the autorickshaw, we saw another oldish structure on our left side. We thought, why not! Let’ go and see what it is about. So we moved in and came to know that this was a mosque named Khair-ul-Manazil. This name is a chronogram, meaning that when the name is written in Persian script, it gives the numerical value of the year in which it was built ( 1561-62 A.D.). We found this chronogram concept amazing and immediately went inside. There were a few Muslim men inside, all drawing water from a well inside the premises of the mosque and filling up water cans. We were told that we were allowed “only to see” the mosque( dunno what it meant) ..so we only saw the mosque. Again the same designs and patterns on the wall, the same Mihrab and the same blue colored work on the walls ( same as those found elsewhere like Humayun’s tomb or Lodhi Gardens). This place was mostly in ruins. But we had stumbled upon one of the lesser known structures in Delhi( i.e. one that is not obviously listed on Internet ) and we felt nice to be there. The best thing about Delhi, as I keep noticing every now and then is that such old structures keep cropping up around every corner of the city and most of them have nice informative boards outside them. It really helps people interested in knowing about such places.
With the mosque also covered, we diverted our attention to Purana Qila. Built by Humayun and Sher Shah Suri, this fort marks the site of Dinpanah, one of the 9 cities ofDelhi. Not much remains among the ruins and the main attraction would be the Sound & Light Show in the evening. The show is really nice. Colorful lights are projected on one of the walls of the fort and the story of Delhi from ancient to modern times unfolds before us. The first time I watched the show on a wintry night, I was mesmerized by the whole ambiance. I did not have time for the show but I wanted to wander among the ruins. We checked a mosque built by Sher Shah Suri. From the courtyard of the mosque could be seen the buildings of Pragati Maidan complex as also the dome of Sansad Bhavan in distance. Some tall buildings were lined up along the skyline.
There wasn’t much to see. But I was waiting to click the silhouette of Bada Darwaza against the setting sun. We again lounged on the great lawn and idled away more time.
Sunset came but I did not get my perfect shot. Darkness was soon to arrive. I picked up my pack and left the ruins behind in the sunrays.