The one place that every child visiting Delhi is dragged to, is, of course, the Red fort. It is a monument that attracts one of the highest footfalls in the country. That’s perhaps because it used to be the power-center of a greater part of India less than a century ago. But what of the numerous other fortresses strewn around this country? Did you know there are several others in Delhi itself? Seven cities were raised in the capital one after the other, and more than seven forts were built to protect the palaces and the monarchy in each case. Much of that splendor is gone today, but the stones that remain in some parts of Delhi bear testimony to the immense military power of the kings that ruled here once. Let me take you on a visit to one of the smaller, lesser known forts in the city today.
In the south east fringes of Delhi, very close to the better known Tughlaqabad Fort, lies a fortress of almost identical features but smaller proportions, Adilabad. Like Tughlaqabad, it lies in fascinating ruins today… Young boys play cricket in the meadows around it, and except for locals, visitors to the place are few and far between.
It was in 1321 when the first Tughlaq ruler had seized power from the Khiljis that ruled before him. Ghiyasuddin Tughlaq was an able administrator and a shrewd military commander, and he had his dream fort,the massive Tughlaqabad, built in 6 years to keep out the menace of the Mongols. Tughlaqabad, however, never flourished as a city, and the curse that was its undoing is an enticing story in itself. In any case, after Ghiyasuddin’s death, his son Muhammad bin Tughlaq inherited the throne. Muhammad was a brilliant man, his ideas far ahead of his time… to the point that many still think he was a crazy man. Among the many projects he took up was the building of the walled city of Jahanpanah. In effect, instead of creating a new city again, this king consolidated all the previous forts inside one great wall- from Lal kot near Qutb Minar, to Siri in South Delhi, all the way to his father’s abandoned fort, the mighty Tughlaqabad in the south east. In the words of famous Moroccan traveller Ibn Batuta, who was visting Tughlaq’s court in those days,
“Dilli the metropolis is a vast and magnificent city, uniting beauty with strength. It is surrounded by a wall that has no equal in the world, and is the largest city in the entire Muslim Orient.”
So far so good. But if the kingdom of Jahanpanah was so well consolidated, and the fort of Tughlaqabad couldn’t be properly settled for lack of drinking water in the area, what led the king to build another fort in its vicinity? No one can tell. Perhaps it was built as a transitory palace between Tughlaqabad and Jahanpanah? Or perhaps it was the prince’s private palace when his father was king? All we know is that Muhammad named it Adilabad after himself, Adil being his assumed title. To add to the confusion, there’s yet another fortress in the distance, tinier and even more ruined, also said to have been built by Muhammad bin Tughlaq. Not much more than a wall remains there, but its name is intriguing: Nai ka Kot (Barber’s fort). Historians haven’t been able to find out much about this place.
Adilabad was originally connected to Tughlaqabad via a causeway. Today there is no direct connection, but you can drive right up to it through ‘kuchha’ roads. Not far away is the well preserved tomb of Ghiyasuddin Tughlaq, where, it is said, Muhammad bin Tughlaq is also buried beside his father. Though his fortress is in ruins today, its basic structure is still intact. When I went there just after the rains, the ASI (Archaeological Survey of India) seemed to have done some beautification of the area. The grass was fresh green, and colorful flowers against the broken rubble walls made a strangely poignant scene. Do visit once. Surely this mysterious fort deserves a few guests.
- The “Window” Mosque (adatewithdelhi.wordpress.com)