Zafar Mahal and Moti Masjid, Mehrauli, Delhi
Zafar Mahal and Moti Masjid
Also see: Monuments of Mehrauli
Mehruli located on the southern end of Delhi is said to be the home of numerous monuments, dating back to the Mughal and pre – Mughal era.
Zafar Mahal, named after the last Mughal ruler Bahadur Shah II and constructed by the second last Mughal ruler Akbar II happens to be the last major structure to be constructed by the Mughals in India.
Although locals of Mehrauli are not much aware of Zafar Mahal, but it can easily be approached from the Darga of Qutbuddin Bakhtiar Kaki, which happens to be a well known landmark of Mehrauli.
The Zafar Mahal served as a summer palace for the royals and also served as a resting place for the royals during their visit to the darga.
Bahadur Shah II added the gigantic Hati (elephant) gate to the summer palace, which allowed elephants to pass through it. The huge three storied sandstone gateway, with marble relief work, still towers above the crowded neighbourhood of Mehrauli, Delhi.
The gate and the Zafar Mahal is encroached upon by modern day structures, and parked cars and dangling electric wires make photography of the Hati Gate extremely difficult.
Today the entrance is through a small opening in the gigantic Hati Gate. Collapsed roofs, broken walls and cracked arches are all that remains of the summer retreat of the later Mughal rulers.
The place is deserted and a lone security guard stands as a custodian of the century old palace. Although in ruins, the gigantic arches, through which the elephants once passed, reminds one of the glorious days of the Zafar Mahal.
Passages through the giant archways leads to a open courtyard. At the far corner of the courtyard stands the Moti Masjid (Pearl Mosque), with its three domes and marble exterior.
The Moti Masjid built in 1709 has three domes and a recessed miharba on the western wall.
Impressive parapets and tapering minarets add a new dimension to the mosque.
On the South Eastern and North Eastern corners of the small complex, stands two azan minars.
The Moti Masjid was once approached from both the Zafar Mahal and from the Darga of Qutbuddin Bakhtiar Kaki, but today the entrance of the Darga is kept under lock and key by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), who has also declared Zafar Mahal and Moti Masjid as protected monuments.
Next to the Moti Masjid is a small enclosed place surrounded by beautiful marble jali work, it contains the grave of Akbar II and a vacant place lies next to it, probably meant for Bhadur Shah Zafar or Bahadur Shah II.
Sadly, history had a different tale to tell and after the revolt of 1857 Bahadur Shah II was deported to Burma (Mayanmar).
He died there and was buried unceremoniously without a grave, while his proposed place of burial remains vacant to this day.
A few rickety steep staircases, without railings, lead to the first floor of the Zafar Mahal, where a lone stone pavilion and a chatri still stands reminding one of the last days of the mighty Mughals.
The Hati Gate portion of the Zafar Mahal is still intact and a series of floral arches have withstood the test of time and remain almost perfectly intact.
The windows of the gate offer a birds eye view of the Darga of Qutbuddin Bakhtiar Kaki, and also of the crowded Mehrauli region, which seems to be encroaching on the nationally protected monuments of Zafar Mahal and Moti Masjid.
Special Thanks: A special thanks to friend and fellow blogger Sahil Ahuja, who accompanied me in the exploration of Mehrauli.