The OH and I spent an evening in the upmarket locality of Hauz Khas in Delhi, where lies the home of the famous cricketer Virendra Sehwag. The area gets its name from an ancient water reservoir here, which was originally built by Alauddin Khilji, part of the Turkish-Afghan Khilji dynasty, who ruled Delhi from 1296 to 1316. The tank began to be called ‘Hauz Khas’ i.e. ‘the royal tank’ (‘Hauz’ in Urdu is ‘tank’, and ‘khas’ is ‘royal’), and was used to provide water to the inhabitants of the nearby Siri Fort. Firuz Shah Tughlaq, of the Tughlaq dynasty, re-excavated the reservoir during his reign over Delhi from 1351 to 1388, and also built several other monuments around it. Today, the tank, popularly known as the Hauz Khas lake, is one of the major tourist attractions in the area.
One of the structures constructed by Firuz Shah was a madrasa, or an Islamic school of learning, adjacent to the lake. It was considered to be one of the best centres for Islamic learning in the Delhi sultanate. There is also a mosque towards one end of the madrasa, which is assumed to have been used by the teachers and students.
The madrasa contains several small rooms, all built with similar pillars and arches. The OH’s and my imagination ran riot on seeing these cells, imagining the classes that would have been conducted here, once upon a time. What would the students have been like? What type of dress would they have worn? How strict were the teachers with them? How would the students have been seated in these rooms?
Sadly, most of the madrasa is in ruins today, though it is still a sight worth beholding. The day we visited Hauz Khas, the madrasa was full of college students picnicking, smoking away in groups, as well as hundreds of pairs of lovers.
There are several ‘chhatris’ or cenotaphs in the small garden outside the madrasa, which are believed to house the remains of the teachers.
Firuz Shah Tughlaq also built a tomb for himself near the madrasa, where his remains later came to be buried. His tomb also houses two other graves, those of his son and grandson. The tomb, a simple structure without many embellishments, was later repaired by Sikander Lodi in the year 1507, during his reign over Delhi.
We had a wonderful time exploring these historical monuments and trying to think about what life here would have been like long, long, long ago. We also took some lovely pictures here.
An ‘urban village’ called Hauz Khas village surrounds the lake and madrasa, an affluent neighbourhood where one can find many exotic boutiques, extravagant cafes and bars, reminiscent of Fort Kochi and Pondicherry. Some of the shops did look really interesting, particularly the ones selling old Hindi movie posters, but we were not able to really explore them. We did manage to have a lovely, though expensive, lunch at Cafe Amici here.
This is another part of Delhi that I would love to visit again and wander about in more thoroughly.