Phoolwalon Ki Sair

WP_20141019_001 (2)

Coinciding with the 202nd edition of the historic Phoolwalon ki sair, the walk started at Yogmaya temple and ending at Jharna in the Mehrauli village –somewhat in the reverse direction to the actual procession path. The procession of the pankhas, known as the phool Walon Ki Sair –a testimony to Hindu-Muslim harmony- started during the Mughal king Akbar Shah II (1808-1837) when his wife’s vow to offer a chadar of flowers at the dargah of Qutbuddin Bakhtiar Kaki, for release of his son from British custody materialized. A week-long festivities ensued including swinging in the mango groves, cock-fighting, bull-baiting, kite-flying, wrestling and swimming bouts. The celebrations became an annual affair, which peaked under Bahadur Shah Zafar’s time; when Mughal nobilities would reach Mehrauli from Shahjahanabad on elephants and palanquins. The procession with richly dressed soldiers would start from Jharna and culminate at Yogmaya Mandir on first day, and at the Qutbuddin Bakhtiar Kaki dargah on second day. The Jahaaz Mahal would be richly decorated with chandeliers and carpets. It was halted in 1942 by the British, but re-started again by Nehru after the Independence.

Yogmaya temple : dedicated to Goddess Yogmaya, sister of Lord Krishna. It is one of the 5 ancient temples said to be built in Mahabharata times, though it has been built and re-built many a times. One can not miss the colorful fans for the Phoolwalon ki sair placed in the temple premises.

Tomb of Adham Khan: dedicated to the milk-brother of Akbar the great. There were two prominent wet nurses of Akbar – Jiji Anga, and Maham Anga who took care of Akbar when Humayun was in exile. Maham Anga’s two sons: Quli Khan and Adham Khan, both rose to important positions in Akbar’ Army whereas, Jiji Anga’s husband Atgah Khan rose to the position of advisor and minister in Akbar’s court. Adham Khan however was a violent personality and could not bear Atgah Khan’s success, and murdered him.

Adham Khan was ordered to be executed by Akbar by throwing him down from the Agra fort for his excesses and a tomb for him in the vicinity of the great Sufi saint, Qutbuddin Bakhtiar Kaki, was raised.

Adham Khan’s tomb was the first tomb to be built by the Mughals. It is built in an octagonal Lodi architecture style, that may be due to familiarity of planners and architects with Lodi era designs in the early Mughal era.

Such was the hate-ship and love-ship of the Royals!

WP_20141019_004 (2)

WP_20141019_005 (2)

WP_20141019_007 (2)

WP_20141019_008 (2)

WP_20141019_009 (2)

WP_20141019_010 (2)

Gandak ki Baoli: A step wall made of sulphorous water built for the Sufi saint by Iltutmish.
WP_20141019_013 (2)

The sufi dargah of Qutbuddin Bakhtiar Kaki: He was the disciple and the spiritual successor of Moinuddin Chishti. His most famous disciple and spiritual successor was Baba Farid of Ajodhan, who in turn became the spiritual master of Delhi’s noted Sufi saint, Nizamuddin Auliya, who himself was the spiritual master of Amir Khusrau.

He was born in Jaxartes in Central Asia, became the beloved khalifah of Moinuddin Chisti of Ajmer, and the spiritual initiation took place in Baghdad.On return to India, while Khwaja Moinuddin lived in Ajmer, he instructed his disciple Khwaja Qutbuddin to live in Delhi and set up the first Sufi center in Delhi. He was warmly welcomed by Iltutmish. The name Kaki was attributed to the Saint for his magical powers to produce breads or “kak” miraculously from a corner of his house whenever needed.
When the dargah was vandalized during 1947 partition riots, Gandhiji visited the shrine, and apologized on behalf of the countrymen, and ordered rebuilding the dargah and had the low marble balustrade around the tomb erected.

Qutbuddin Bakhtiar Kaki died in a state of ecstasy while listening to a verse in 1236, and after that qawaalis are not allowed in the dargah. As per legend, once a qawaali recital was held there, and the spiritual ecstasy caused the hand of the Sufi Saint to slip out of the grave!

The original mosque was built in mud, but the gateway was built by Sher Shah Suri, a tiled wall was constructed by Aurangzeb and the beautiful Moti Masjid was by Aurangzeb’s son.

Starting from Qutubudin Aibak and Iltutmish of Slave dynasty, to Alauddin Khilji, to Muhammad bin Tughluq and Feroz Shah Tughluq, even the ruthless Timur, to the Lodis and the Mughals..each emperor of Delhi bowed to Qutbuddin Bakhtiar Kaki to seek his blessings in the dargah.
WP_20141019_014 (2)

WP_20141019_015 (2)

WP_20141019_017 (2)

WP_20141019_019 (2)

WP_20141019_020 (2)

Zafar Mahal: the last structure to be built by the Mughals, derive its name from the last emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar. The palace structure was built by Akbar Shah II, while the main door was installed by Zafar, the poet king. Being the last Mughal monument, it is a symbolic testimony to the end of the Mughal Dynasty, which started with Babur’s triumphant conquest of Delhi in 1526 AD ending 332 years later with Zafar in the aftermath of 1857 uprising. The palace originally built as a summer palace for the Mughals in the leafy suburb of Mehrauli, and was frequented by Zafar – not far from the prying eyes of Metcalfe in his neighborhood estate. One interesting feature of Zafar Mahal was that it was manned entirely by women security guards from Central Asian countries. It is around 50 feet (15 m) wide with a gate opening called the Hathi gate (built to allow full decorated elephants to pass through). This structure contains the graves of 3 emperors, in a space of a small enclosure indicating the losing glory of the Mughals, in comparison with the grand tomb erected for Humayun: here lie the tomb stones of Bahadur Shah I (1701–1712), Shah Alam II (1759–1806), Akbar Shah II (1806–37) along with Mirza Fakhru – Zafar’s heir apparent. The empty space “sardgaah’ near the tomb stones of the three Mughal Emperors, was identified by the last Mughal as the place for his own tomb stone, next to those of his ancestors in the vicinity of the shrine… however his death was in far away Rangoon , where he was deported and exiled by the British.

As prophesized by the Poet King himself,

Lagta naheen hai jee mera ujde dayaar mein, Kiski bani hai aalam e na payedar mein;

Kah do in hasraton se kaheen aur jaa basein, Itni jagah kahaan hai dil e daaghdaar mein;

Umr-e-daraaz maang kar laaye the chaar din, Do aarzoo mein katgeye, do intezaar mein;

Kaanton ko mat nikaal chaman se, O baaghbaan, Yeh bhi gulon ke saath pale hain bahaar mein;

Kitna hai badnaseeb, Zafar, dafn ke liye, Do gaz zameen bhi na mili koo e yaar mein.

(In this land so desolate I find now only pain; Has this impermanent world ever afforded gain?

Tell these desires to find another place; My heart is home now to only wound and stain.

For a long life I’d wished; was granted but four days; Two I spent in hope, the other two in vain.

O Gardener, don’t remove the thorns from these flowers; They too, like the roses, have supped on Spring rain.

No lament from the Nightingale, the trapper has no regrets; For destiny has allotted some with only bond and chain.

How unfortunate you are, Zafar, for in your native land; There’s not even a plot of earth for your body to be lain. )


WP_20141019_028 (2)

WP_20141019_030 (2)

WP_20141019_031 (2)

WP_20141019_032 (2)

WP_20141019_034 (2)

WP_20141019_035 (2)

WP_20141019_039 (2)

Jahaz Mahal: so called because of its ship-shaped reflections on the nearby lake. It was built as a caravan-serai or inn for travelers from Arab, Morocco, Iraq, Afghanistan and other far away countries. It was used as an important cultural center where various competitions such as atasbazi ( crackers contest) was held between the Royals and the Citizens, who entered the lake on boats to re-create the ambiance of a war with their loud sounds and lights, actual wars now having faded to nostalgic memories only, with the decline of the Mughals.

Hauz-e-Shamsi: The water reservoir was built by Iltutmish in 1299, and restored by Alauddin Khilji and Firoz Shah Tughluq subsequently. As per tradition, Iltutmish was visited in his dreams by Prophet Muhammad and Qutbuddin Bakhtiar Kaki simultaneously, indicating the place of the reservoir to be built that he was searching for. Ibn Batutta describes the reservoir where people engaged in pleasure boat rides.

Jharna:   an artificial water fall in dilapidated condition from the Mughal times.

WP_20141019_041 (2)

WP_20141019_044 (2)

WP_20141019_046 (2)

This walk was led by Awadhesh Tripathi of Delhi Heritage Walks.


The Sufi Courtyard, by Sadia Dehlvi including translation of Zafar’ lament by Rachana Rao Umashankar

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s