Jahaz Mahal and Hauz – i – Shamsi, Mehrauli, Delhi
Jahaz Mahal and Hauz – i – Shamsi
The Ship Palace and the Lake, Mehrauli, Delhi
Also see: Monuments of Mehrauli
Located deep inside the Mehrauli area of South Delhi and approachable from the Darga of Qutbuddin Bakhtiar Kaki by a complex network of lanes and by – lanes is the Jahaz Mahal, literally meaning the Ship Palace.
Although in ruins the Jahaz Mahal, towers like a ship over the congested and overcrowded Mehrauli neighborhood.
Located next to the Jahaz Mahl is a huge lake called Hauz – i – Shamsi, dug out by Sultan Iltutmish in 1230.
Jahaz Mahal was constructed almost 200 years later during the Lodi Period and because of its reflection on the huge lake it gets a ship like appearance and hence the name Jahaz Mahal.
The U – shaped Jahaz Mahal was probably surrounded by a moat, sadly the moat has long dried up. A flight of stairs on the sothern end probably lead to Jahaz Mahal via a wooden draw bridge.
The wooden plank of the draw bridge have long vanished and presently the entrance is through the Eastern side, where part of the moat is covered up to give access to the Jahaz Mahal.
Historian doubts about the exact usage of the Jahaz Mahal. Some believe it to be a Sarai (Inn) for pilgrims while other opine it to be a pleasure house of the royal family.
A presence of a Miharba on the western wall of Jahaz Mahal indicate that this part of the building was indeed a mosque.
The U – shaped courtyard is lined with several anti – chambers, each crowned with a dome with decorative squinches.
But the star attraction of the Jahaz Mahal are its Chatris decorated with glazed blue tiles.
Five out of the six chatris have survived the test of time and only traces of the glazed tile work remains to this day.
The corner chatris are square and smaller in size and are supported by four pillars each, the chatri at the South – West corner have long toppled.
The Chatri on the middle of the Western side, crowning the Miharba is octagonal, but the grandest of the chatris lies on the middle of the eastern side above the entrance gate.
The massive square chatri is supported by twelve highly decorated pillars and dominates the surrounding sky line.
Hardly visited by tourist the Jahaz Mahal becomes the centre of attraction during the festival of Phool Walon ki Sair, celebrated in the month of August.
The origin of the festival of Phool Walon ki Sair dates back to the late 18th century when the son of the Mughal Emperor Akbar II, Mirza Jehangir was imprisoned by the British.
Mirza Jahangir taunted the British Resident Archibald Seton. The young prince also took a shot at Seton at the Red Fort, but missed his target and killed his orderly instead.
His mother Mumtaz Mahal (not to be confused with the wife of Shah Jahan) vowed to offer chadars at the Darga of Qutbuddin Bakhtiar Kaki and the Hindu Jogamaya Mandir on the release of his son.
Ever since the festival is being celebrated with devotes, irrespective of religion, offers colourfull chadars and decorated floral fans to the dargha and the temple.
Festival continues with kite flying, wrestling bouts and qawwali and the non – descriptive monuments of Mehrauli, like the Jahaz Mahal, gets the much needed attention.
The huge Hauz – i – Shamsi Lake, located next to the Jahaz Mahal is an interesting mix of history and legend.
It is believed that the Prophet arrived in Iltutmish dream and mentioned about the suggestible site of the tank.
Next day Iltutmish visited the place and found the hoof marks of the Prophet’s horse.
Iltutmish had the tank dug and in the centre of the tank he made a pavilion housing the stone with the hoof marks of the Prophet’s horse. The Moorish traveller Iban Batuta was struck by the vastness of the tank.
Today the tank is a shadow of its past and probably it has also shrunk in size the water looks dirty. A lone domed pavilion stands on the South West corner of the lake. The domed pavilion approached by a concrete passage is probably a recreated version of the one original one created by Iltutmish.