Hauz Khas Complex
The Hauz Khas Complex is situated in South Delhi and easily accessible by local transport. This Village complex was urbanised in the mid 1980s around the ancient medieval structures still seen today that can be traced back to the Delhi Sultanate era of the Ala-ud-din Khilji dynasty who reigned during the 13th Century AD and was responsible for the existence of a few of these stunning Monuments that we see today in this village.
Hauz Khas village complex was built over the second medieval city named ‘Siri’. The name was derived from two Urdu words, ‘Hauz’ which means ‘Water tank’ and ‘Khas’ which means ‘Royal’ and hence the ‘Royal water tank’ which is a reservoir that was first constructed under the orders of Ala-ud-din Khilji [1296-1316] in order to supply water to his people living within the city Fort of ‘Siri’ and was named after him as ‘Hauz-i-Alai’. This tank was dug over an area of 50 acres with a depth of 4 metres measuring 600 metres wide and 700 metres long. Later, the water tank was filtered by removing and clearing the clogged inlet water channels under the orders of Sultan Firoz Shah Tughlaq [1351-1388] ruler of ‘Firozabad’, the fifth medieval city of Delhi, to supply water for the use of his people.
The Hauz Khas complex is also seen with an ancient Mosque, Tomb, Pavilion and a Madrasa built by the reigning dynasties to overlook the serene water lake. Initially post monsoon, this water tank use to fill to the brim, however today, it has reduced due to present day modern construction, lesser rains and land encroachment. Recent restoration work on this lake was completed by the Delhi Development Authority or DDA in short along with the efforts of INTACH or Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage in 2004 by diverting stored rain water that settles within the southern ridge in Delhi to this lake. Another source is diverting the water from Sanjay Van treatment plant into this lake which has remarkably revived this ancient reservoir.
Firoz Shah Tughlaq also contributed by building a few Monumental structures between 1352 and 1354 on the northern and eastern sides of the water tank which includes the Madrasa or Islamic Seminary, a Mosque and his own Tomb with six pavilions. The Madrasa was established in 1352 and was known as a leading Islamic School for theological teachings in the world also named after the Sultan as ‘Firoz Shahi’. It was encircled by Tarababad or the ‘City of Joy’ inhabited by rich and affluent people who liberally donated towards the sustenance of the School. From each floor of the Madrasa, staircases are provided to go down to the lake. Many cenotaphs, in the form of octagonal and square Chhatris are also seen, which are reported to be possibly tombs of teachers of the Madrasa.
The ‘L’-shaped Madrasa is a continuous structure built at the height of a two-storied building running along the banks of the reservoir with one arm stretching along the north and south direction measuring 76 metres while the other arm stretches along the east and western direction measuring 138 metres. The lower floor and upper floor balconies are seen with ornate brackets and ‘Chhajjas’ or roof overhanging exists only on the upper level. Three Towers are also seen made of different sizes. Both the arms are wheeled over the Tomb of Firoz Shah Tughlaq and interwoven by small dome shaped gateways passing through the centre of the Tomb. Each floor of the School is seen with numerous octagonal and square shaped Chhatris which could probably be Cenotaphs and Tombs of the School Teachers of the Madrasa.
Six Pavilions are seen in a beautiful garden that faces the Madrasa on its southern end. This garden which lies on the same level as the second floor of the Madrasa can be entered from the eastern end passing right through the Hauz Khas Village complex. These six dome shaped pavilions in rectangular, octagonal and hexagonal shapes with different sizes are probably graves of a few Royalties as per the inscriptions engraved on each pavilion. There is a cluster of three hemispheric shaped domes with one measuring 5.5 metres in diameter and the other two only 4.5 metres in diameter. These domes were carved with exquisite features displaying leaf shaped motifs on the drums and Kalsa motifs on the top of each dome.
These six pavilions rest on a 2.6 feet high raised platform supported by square columns constituting of decorative architrave, frieze and cornice. Towards the western side of three pavilions supported by double columns, you will notice the ruins of a rectangular courtyard also probably used by the Madrasa in the past era. A small Chhatri supported by eight pillars is also seen with a huge bracket supporting the cornice and flat roof overhanging on the lower edge of the small dome.
A small mosque also built by Firoz Shah Tughlaq is seen on the northern end of the Tomb and sandwiched between them are the two-storied pavilions flanked on the northern and eastern side both overlooking the lake reservoir also used as a part of the Islamic Seminary. The Mosque has a dome shaped gateway that allows entry from the south-eastern end into three small rooms measuring 5.3 x 2.4 metres. The direction towards which all Muslims turn to pray overlooks the reservoir from a distance of 9.5 metres and the central ‘Mihrab’ is seen with a dome shaped Chhatri looking like a pavilion projecting into the water tank. The other ‘Mihrabs’ are placed on either sides of the central Mihrab walled by grilled windows.
It is a miracle that this ancient Hauz Khas Village complex still exudes and retains the rustic charm of the Imperial era sprawled by a well trimmed garden lined with shady trees, plants and pathways where you might just spot a few peacocks, deer, rabbits and other variety of birds flocking near the reservoir lake. This complex is surrounded by modern markets and residential colonies like South Extension, Safdarjung Enclave, Green Park and Greater Kailash coupled with world-class Institutes like IIT, IIFT, NIFT and AIIMS flanked by numerous restaurants, showrooms, boutiques and art galleries.
The Delhi Tourism Board organises a light and sound show within the precincts of the Hauz Khas Village Complex showcasing historic moments and stories with narration of the Imperial dynasties that have stayed or visited this complex during their reign. It is opened on all days between 1000 hours and 1800 hours with no entry fee hence all tourists and visitors can enjoy a grand view and stroll through the historic paths of a bygone era which surprisingly still exist in this modern city of Delhi.