Feroz Shah Kotla, also spelled as ‘Ferozshah Kotla’ and ‘Ferozeshah Kotla’, is a spectacular structure that was built in 1354 by Emperor Firoz Shah Tughluq who ruled Delhi between 1351 and 1388 nestles within the fifth ancient city of Delhi originally named as ‘Firuzabad’ also spelled as ‘Ferozabad’. It lies off the main Bahadur Shah Zafar Marg [Road] and very close to the famous Feroz Shah Kotla Cricket ground and stretches across a massive plot of area measuring from Peer Ghaib in the North to Hauz Khas in South Delhi.
Firoz Shah Tughluq was known to be a great builder and nephew of Ghiyaas-ud-din Tughluq. He ascended the Throne of Delhi after the demise of Muhammad Bin Tughluq and used the Feroz Shah Kotla hunting lodge to rest during his Hunting season which was designed by Abdul Haque also spelled as Hakk and Malik Ghazi.
Feroz Shah Kotla was earlier called as ‘Kushk-i-Firoz’ sometimes spelled as ‘Kushk-i-Feroz’ which means ‘Palace of Firoz’ built exquisitely in an irregular polygon shape within a rectangular shaped three rubble walled enclosures with its eastern side aligned absolutely straight to overlook the Yamuna River. This fourth Palace was built next to the river banks due to shortage of water in the other three places where the Sultan had three more Palaces.
The central portion lying within the three enclosures of Feroz Shah Kotla citadel is known to be the largest and was named after the Sultan as ‘Kotla Feroz Shah’ and now known by locals as ‘Feroz Shah Kotla’. It contains ruins of both the northern and southern parts of the citadel enclosure that is currently seen with numerous modern buildings. You will also notice the ruins of an imposing entrance and exit gateway that overlooked the western side of the enclosure and flanked by Bastions on either side. The grandeur and beauty of this Palace also fascinated Sultan Timur of the 14th Century AD and is sometimes compared with Windsor Palace of England. After the defeat of the Tughluq dynasty, this Palace was abandoned in 1490 AD.
THE ASHOKAN PILLARS
The Ashokan Pillar that lies within Feroz Shah Kotla is perfectly placed towards the north of Jama Masjid [Mosque] that was first erected by King Ashoka between 273 and 236 BC in Topra in Ambala, Haryana. In fact there was another Ashokan Pillar that is seen installed near the Hindu Rao Hospital also erected by King Ashoka in Meerut which unfortunately broke into five pieces after it was damaged during an explosion. It was neglected for a century up till 1838 when Hindu Rao took charge to transfer the Ashokan Pillar’s broken pieces to Kolkata’s Asiatic Society. Within a year, the structure was put together and re established.
Both the Ashokan Pillars were carefully wrapped with cotton silk and kept on a bed of reed made of raw silk to be transported on a massive carriage attached with 42 wheels and drawn meticulously by 200 men from their original places to Delhi by Feroz Shah Tughlaq to avoid any damage during the journey. Upon reaching Delhi, they were then transported on huge boats to their final destination, one within Feroz Shah Kotla and the other on the ridge near Delhi University and Bara Hindu Rao Hospital.
Feroz Shah made sure that the 13 metre tall Ashokan Pillar weighing 27 tonnes was grandly installed for which he constructed a stunning three storied pyramid shaped structure ornate with extremely high quality black and white stones that shone like metal and a ‘Cupola’ or ‘Kalash’ made of copper raised on top of the Pillar. He renamed this Pillar as ‘Minar-i-Zarin’ and elaborately decorated it.
The Ashokan Pillar has inscriptions dating back to the 3rd Century BC that reveals 7 main edicts of King Ashoka written in Pali and Brahmi languages which were deciphered by James Prinsep in 1837 including Buddhism teachings along with the 10 commandments of Lord Buddha which served the purpose of spreading Buddhism. Inscriptions of the various conquests of King Chauhan in Sanskrit dating back to 1163 AD and incidents of numerous Travellers and Pilgrims during the following centuries are also seen inscribed on it. This Pillar glitters like gold especially during a bright sunny afternoon when the sun’s rays directly falls on it and hence is the best time to view it.
Jami Masjid is probably one of the most ancient and largest surviving mosque and monument still in use belonging to the Tughlaq dynasty that lies very close to the Ashokan Pillar. It was built on a series of underground cells and made of quartzite stone covered with lime plaster and surrounded by a huge courtyard with cloisters and a Prayer Hall, now in complete ruins that was once used by the Royal Ladies.
The entrance of Jama Masjid lies on the northern side and was connected by a causeway to the pyramidal structure of the Ashokan Pillar. This mosque was once visited by Sultan Timur in 1398 AD to say his prayers. He was spell bound by its beauty and constructed a mosque in Samarkand in Iran imitation the design of this Masjid. This mosque is also known to be where Emadul Mulk, a Mughal Prime Minister murdered his own Emperor Alamgir Sani in 1759 AD.
The circular Baoli, which means ‘step well’, lies towards the north western side of the Ashokan Pillar and in the heart of a large garden constructed in the form of subterranean apartments and a large underground canal built on its eastern side through which the water runs into the well. This Baoli served as a summer retreat for the Royalties where they spent time cooling off and bathing in the water of this well.
Feroz Shah Kotla was used by successive rulers to build their own cities and is presently transformed into a lush green land which homes the remains of some spectacular historical structures converting it into one of the most interesting tourist destination in Delhi. Ruins of other unidentified Monumental structures are also seen in a dilapidated state within the ramparts of this citadel. To point out a few is the remains of a square hall on a foundation structure lying just behind Ashokan Pillar towards the northern side of Jama Masjid and a building lying on the southern most portion of the Central enclosure depicting mosaic art.
Ferozshah Kotla can be visited on all days accept during the prayer session time held in Jama Masjid and easily accessible by local transport and the metro rail with New Delhi Railway Station as the nearest point to de-board. Foreigners are charged Rs. 100/- per person and Indian Nationals are charged Rs. 5/- per person as an entry fee with an extra charge of Rs. 25/- per camera for Photography.