Rajkumari Sharma Tankha
Sandwiched between the New and the Old Delhi, Feroz Shah Kotla fort was built by Feroz Shah Tughlaq, the Turkish Muslim ruler of Tughlaq Dynasty in 1354. Feroz Shah had established the city of Ferozabad as the Capital of Delhi Sultanate, and during his rule it was a vibrant city with beautiful palaces, verdant gardens, mosques and madarsas enclosed within thick walls. History tells us that Feroze Shah moved the Capital to Ferozabad as Tughlaqabad was facing severe drought conditions while the new place had abundant water, thanks to mighty river Yamuna. You see, Yamuna was not the drain it is now, at that time.
The fort is worth a visit, especially for history-lovers. Despite the passage of over eight centuries, and a lot of wear and tear, Feroz Shah Kotla has a special charm that beckons you to itself. There are huge green lawns in the front, back and along the sides, lined with age-old trees adding to the beauty of the area.
The 13-m-high Ashoka Pillar occupies the pride of place in the complex. The pillar was reportedly brought to be installed here on the orders of Feroz Shah from Topra in Ambala (Haryana). So enchanted was he by the Ashoka Pillar that Feroz Shah got a three-storey pyramidical building constructed around to keep it safe and secure.
Feroz Shah considered the Ashoka Pillar a prized possession. It came wrapped in silk cotton and encased in reed and raw skins to rule out damage during transportation. A 42-wheel carriage carrying it was pulled by over 200 men with thick ropes towards the banks of Yamuna, from where the pillar was transferred to large boats.
Ashoka Pillar occupies the pride if place at the fort complex.
The huge Ashoka pillar was re-erected at its present location in 1356. At that time the pillar had eight-domed chhatris on the top with a stone lion at each corner. It also had ornamental friezes in black and white stones and a gilded copper cupola. All of that has given in to the vagaries of weather, but even in its ruinous state the pillar is considered as one of the most important edifices of historical importance. The Edicts inscribed on it in Brahmi, Pali and Sanskrit languages can still be seen today.
Apart from the Ashoka pillar, the Fort complex has a circular baoli (step-well) but the most interesting part is Jami Masjid, frequented by scores of people from all walks of life daily and especially, on Thursdays. People come here to pray and to rid themselves of the problems they face. The Jami Masjid is haunted by benevolent Dijnns (genies), say regular visitors. People come here with their wishes written on letters which are kept inside the masjid. After the djinns fulfill their wishes they offer milk and grain, and light candles and incense sticks as a mark of gratitude towards them.
The stairs leading to the Jami Masijd.
“They fulfill the wishes of those who pray here. And many come for that,” says Fauzia Amin, who too has come here with some secret wish. “My friend’s wish was completed, I am sure the good Dijnns will listen to meas well,” she says, putting an agarbatti in one the many corners here.
You can see the now-closed baoli just behind this old tree.
The baoli built for the supply of water for drinking needs and also for the gardens around, was once open for all. But it is out-of-bounds for visitors now.
In earlier times, the complex played host to classical performances as New Delhi didn’t have so many auditoriums back then. Ebrahim Alkazi, staged one of his landmark productions, Andha Yug, here in 1964. These days the place has got into the list of many walking groups who hold events here. Iftars, guided tours and photography sessions all are held in the fort complex..