Winters are marked by warm cozy blankets, hot tea, and long nights. It’s the laziest time of the year, when getting out of the bed in chilly winds can turn out to be a real pain. But not for the super enthusiastic POSist team. Instead of snuggling at home and indulging in lethargy, we decided to beat the winter blues with a little outdoor activity. We arranged a heritage walk in the Mehrauli archaeological park, led by Asif Khan Dehlvi of the famous heritage group Delhi Karavan, who have entranced the populace with their mesmerizing baithaks (storytelling), karavans (walks), and daawats (food walks).
On the bright morning of Saturday, 23rd January we assembled at the Qutub Minar. Donning the super cool hoodies done by Champu, we geared up for our educational excursion. With the sun on our side, having come out for the first time in days and shining brightly, we decided to begin the walk by exploring the 19th century British Bungalow, the Metcalfe House which was used as a guesthouse for the stay of new couples on their Honeymoon back in the days. We weaved in and out of the dilapidated although still formidable structures, and took in the beauty and the magnificence of the Bungalow. Asif Khan’s steady, informative yet enjoyable narration kept us all hooked as he turned old, boring history facts into interesting bits of knowledge. We learned about the lifestyle and practices of the people in the British period and also discovered the age old delightful practice of kabootarbazi or pigeon rearing, and other interesting anecdotes of the time.
Next, we visited the famous mosque and tomb of the Sufi saints, Jamali-Kamali. The Indo-Islamic architecture was indeed a beautiful sight to behold, and the grandeur of the mosque was further magnified by the tales of supernatural energies.
The site is said to be dwelled by the Jinns, and local residents claim to have witnessed strange and mystic experiences at the place. Although we did not experience any such occurrence ourselves, it was sure fun to listen to the goosebumps raising stories as we explored the grand mosque.
We further proceeded to the sprawling Rajaon ki Baoli, the oldest and the finest step well in all of the Delhi, and we decided to sit and relax in the crisp winter sun while we listened to the stories of the famous step well frequented by the travelers in the medieval period.
Our final stop was the lesser known Zafar Palace, the palace of the last Mughal Emperor, Bahadur Shah Zafar. The dilapidated palace, bombarded with canons still stands tall and although run down, is the final resting place of several Mughal emperors, Sufi saints, and poets. Asif romanticized the occasion with a little Shayari as well, reciting the couplet penned by Bahadur Shah Zafar himself.
“Kitna hai badnaseeb Zafar
Dafn ke liye
Do gaz zameen bhi
Mil na saki kuye yaar mein.“
The story goes that the poet king Bahadur Shah Zafar having a special attachment to Mehrauli and his lineage had wished to be buried next to the graves of his predecessors in his palace itself. After being deported to the Rangoon prison, Zafar penned the couplet in lament of not being allotted a burial at the place of his choice. A memorial has now been erected at the place in his honor and is nothing short of a shrine for poets, history scholars, and old souls.
The entire morning and most of the afternoon taken by the fascinating heritage walk, we ended the day with a sher (couplet) from Asif, and a memorable selfie. The walk had left us all ravenous and we satiated our growling bellies with delicious Choley Bhatoore and sweets. Mehrauli is also home to special non-vegetarian culinary at delightfully cheap prices, which was enjoyed by our partial-to-meat teammates as well.
The heritage walk left us with our minds abuzz with cool historic facts and a renewed love for Delhi’s magnificent archaeological heritage. Each POSist outing turns out to be a new and refreshing change, and this heritage walk, in particular, turned out to be a wonderful experience. Who says History can’t be fun?