In the plains immediately surrounding the city of Delhi, within a radius of eighteen or twenty miles, there are the ruins of seven ancient cities that span the time period from 2500 B.C. to 1600 A.D. You cannot go in any direction without passing through the ruins of stupendous walls, ancient fortifications, and crumbling palaces, temples, mosques, and tombs. These ruins are representative of successive periods and dynasties from 2500 B.C. to 1600 A According to tradition, the old Delhi was a political and commercial competitor of Babylon, Nineveh, Memphis, and Thebes; nevertheless, the current town of Delhi dates back to 1638, which was the beginning of the reign of the well-known Mogul Shah Jehan. A series of magnificent ruins, some of the most outstanding in the world, and a famed tower known as the Kutab-Minar, which is one of the most significant architectural sites in India, can be found around eighteen kilometres outside of the city. The Great Trunk Road of India, the most prominent road in the empire, which has been the highway from the highlands and northern provinces to the holy River Ganges from the beginning of time, is the route that you take to get there. Once you’re there, you’ll be glad you took this route. If you follow it, you will end up in Moscow by way of Constantinople after passing through Turkestan and Persia. Over this route came Tamerlane, the Tartar Napoleon, with his triumphant army, as well as Alexander the Great, and for the last twenty or thirty centuries, it has been traversed by the foot of successive conquerors. It is now the sole route that can be used between India and Afghanistan, since it leads to the Khyber Pass.
A wrought-iron column, one of the most peculiar items in India, may be seen in the middle of the court of the historic mosque of Kutbul Islam, which was originally constructed in the eleventh century as a Hindu temple. It has a height of 23 feet and 8 inches, and its base, which is bulbous, is riveted to two stone slabs that are located two feet below the surface of the earth. Its diameter at the base is 16 feet 4 inches and at the capital is 12 inches. It is remarkable that the Hindus, at that age, were able to forge a bar of iron that was larger and heavier than was ever forged in Europe up until the end of the 19th century. The weight of the object is approximately six tonnes, and the engineers who worked on it have estimated that it was forged. Its history is intricately carved onto the surface of the rock in Sanskrit script. According to the inscription, this is “The Arm of Fame of Raja Dhava,” who defeated a people group known as the Vahlikas “and acquired, with his own arm, undivided power over the earth for a lengthy period of time.” There is no record of the year it was built, although historians have placed its construction somewhere between the years 319 and 320 A.D. Because it has been left alone for about 1,700 years, this monument in India is both the oldest and the most distinctive of all of those that can be seen there. An ancient prophecy stated that Hindu sovereigns would rule as long as the column stood, and when the empire was invaded in 1200 and Delhi became the capital of a Mohammedan empire, its conqueror, Kutb-ud-Din (the Pole Star of the Faith), originally a Turkish slave, defied it by allowing the pillar to remain, but he converted the beautiful Hindu temple that surrounded it into a mosque and ordered his muezzins to proclaim the name of God and His
This Hindu temple was eventually transformed into a mosque, but it still holds the undisputed crown when it comes to the size of its arches and the elegance of the tracery that adorned the walls of the building. Even in ruins it is a gorgeous edifice. In its original configuration, there were at least 1,200 columns, each of which was intricately decorated with distinctive Hindu architectural motifs. Unfortunately, those that are most prominent were dishonourably defaced by the Mohammedan conquerors, and we will have to rely on our imaginations to picture them as they were in their original beauty. Some of them, in shady corners, are still almost perfect, but unfortunately, those that are most prominent were shamefully defaced. The walls of the structure are of purplish red sandstone, of extremely fine grain, nearly as fine as marble, and age and exposure appear to have hardened it.
The Kutab Minar is a monument and tower of victory that is located in one of the corners of the courtyard of this enormous mosque. It is believed that the Hindus were the ones who began it in the beginning, but the Mohammedans who eventually conquered them finished it. Another tower, known as the Alai-Minar, may be found around 500 feet away. It has not been completed and is only 87 feet tall from the surface of the earth. If all had gone according to plan, it was supposed to reach a height of 500 feet, which is quite close to the height of the Washington Monument. The inscription claims that it was built by Ala-din Khiji, who ruled from 1296 to 1316, and it has been preserved in the same state that it was in when he passed away. For some reason his successor never attempted to finish it.
About seven or eight miles from Delhi is a another collection of sepulchres that is much more spectacular. This group is located about a mile across the plain. They are shielded by a wall that is falling apart, but they are encircled by a forest of towering trees whose branches reach over the top of the wall.
The “Hall of Sixty-four Pillars” is the most well-known of the tombs. It is a magnificent monument made of white marble and is the last resting place of Azizah Kokal Tash, who was the foster brother of the great Mogul Akbar. He was laid to rest in this location in 1623, and the graves of his mother and eight of his siblings and sisters may be found all around him. The tomb of Muhammud Shah, who reigned as Mogul from 1719 to 1748 and was the man whom the Persian Nadir Shah defeated and plundered, is another example of the exceptional purity and beauty of tomb architecture. Alongside him are the bodies of two of his wives and a number of their children.
The tomb of Amir Khusrau, a poet who passed away in Delhi in 1315 and was the composer of ninety-eight poems, many of which are still in use today, is often considered to be the most beautiful of all of the tombs. He was referred to as “the Parrot of Hindustan” and had the trust and patronage of seven different Mogul emperors during his career. His renown will go on forever.
The Jumma Musjid, which is considered to be the best mosque in all of India, can be found in the heart of Delhi, perched on the highest point in the city. There is nothing else outside of Constantinople that can compare with it in terms of size or beauty, and we are informed that 10,000 craftsmen were working upon it everyday for a period of six years while it was being constructed. It was constructed of red sandstone that was inlaid with white marble by Shah Jehan. It is topped with three magnificent domes that are made of white marble that has been striped with black. At each angle of the courtyard stands a gigantic minaret that is composed of alternate stripes of marble and red sandstone. There are three magnificent gates, each of which may be reached through a flight of forty steps, the shortest of which is around 140 feet in length. You will enter a courtyard that is 450 feet square and is enclosed by superb arcaded cloisters after passing through several grand arches. The worshippers do their ritual washings at the fountain basin that is often located in the court’s centre. The mosque, which is 260 feet in length and 120 feet in width, is located on the eastern side of the court and faces Mecca from the top of a flight of marble stairs. The height of the archway in the centre is eighty feet.