Overshadowed by its neighbour, the Qutub Minar complex, Mehrauli Archaeological Park is a momentous piece of history hiding in broad daylight.
Covering an area of about 200 acres, the park is one of the oldest places in Delhi. The area hosts a forest and the Mehrauli village behind it. Shreds of evidence, including the ruins of Lal Kot built in 1060 CE, state that this is one of the oldest cities of Delhi, with around 1,000 years of habitation.
With more than 100 monuments, some even dating back to the 10th century, a walk through this tranquil park is sure to leave you awestruck. It hosts extraordinary riches of history, like multiple tombs, fortifications, and mosques.
A walk in the park will put you amongst the ornate medieval structures from the glorious pasts of the Delhi Sultanate, the Mughal empire, and even the British raj. A heritage trail of Delhi is clearly incomplete without marking Mehrauli as one of the stops.
The huge Mughal-style gate at one of the entry points leads to the Jamali-Kamali Mosque. Built by Sufi poet Shaikh Fazl al-Allah, also known as Jamali, in the early 16th century, the mosque is a perfect amalgamation of Indo-Persian design. The poet's tomb lies attached to the mosque.
The trail leads on to the dargah of the Sufi mystic and saint, Qutbuddin Bakhtiar Kaki. A notable tomb here is Balban’s tomb which is distinct for having the oldest recorded arch in India.
Adjacent to this is one of the most prolific structures, the tomb of Muhammad Quli Khan. This grand Mughal monument’s date of construction remains unknown.
The tomb with calligraphed walls towards the end of the Mughal era was leased to Sir Thomas Metcalfe, an Englishman who belonged to the Mughal court of Emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar II. He referred to the tomb as 'Dilkusha', meaning 'delight of the heart'.
The tomb with the most interesting story remains Adham Khan’s mausoleum, which was used as a British residence, later as a police station, and then a post office.
The park also has Delhi’s finest stepwell, Rajon ki Baoli. This 16th-century structure is a historically significant well that was created to provide water to the area.
Even the multiple burials grounds here tell interesting tales. The Hijron ka Khanqah, a Lodi-era burial ground for transvestites and eunuchs, is a well-maintained site.
Another small burial ground to the south of this place still has one empty space that was saved for the last king of Delhi, Bahadur Shah Zafar, who died while in exile in Burma (Myanmar) in 1862.
Keep walking and a new architectural relic will keep popping up at every step in this park. Gandhak ki Baoli and Madhi Mosque aren’t to be missed. Parts of the park is covered by forest and a variety of fauna can be found here. A large number of wild pigs scamper the area, while bright-green parakeets and black kites swoop from tree to tree. At dusk, troops of monkeys can be seen jumping around the ruins.
Many interesting pieces are covered up by growth or are in semi ruins. Stone pillars marking the way to these places can be found on dusty paths. However, once dusk sets in, the chances of getting lost in the maze-like pathways are high. There is no one particular point with signage to enter the park. However, some of the dusty old monuments can be seen from the road and the adjacent Qutub Minar is an easy landmark to follow.