Kutla Firoz Shah

Firoz Shah was one of the greatest builders of the Tughlaq Dynasty, at the end of the 14th Century. He built Firozabad, the fifth city of Delhi, which stretched from modern day Civil Lines in the north to Hauz Khas 20km to the south. Kutla Firoz Shah is a fort at the centre of the city, flanked by the River Yamuna to the east.

The builders of Shahjahanabad (Old Delhi) 250 years later ransacked the fort for stone and marble. The Archaeological  Survey of India has made the buildings safe and landscaped the area with wide lawns. The manicured ruins give a poor indication of what the majestic citadel would have looked like in its heyday.

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The main entrance is protected by two massive bastions. There is a famous step well, or baoli, but this is fenced off and closed to the public. Despite being decrepit, the beautiful old Jama Masjid is still functioning as a mosque.

It is a mysterious, place with a sense of innate power. There are niches in the old walls, blackened with the smoke of votive oil lamps, strings of marigolds and ashes of joss sticks. One special area has been surrounded by bars, to which people have attached locks, like the Pont des Arts in Paris.

There is a three-storey pyramid of cells, upon which is mounted the “lat” or Pillar of Ashoka. The stone pillar was transported to Delhi from Topra. It was carefully wrapped in cotton, encased in reeds and lowered onto a carriage. Each of the carriage’s 42 wheels was fastened to a hawser which was pulled by 200 men. Once they had hauled it to the River Yamuna, it was loaded on board several boats and brought to Firozabad.

The pyramid was built around the pillar, raising it up with every new storey. The base of the pillar is engraved with Brahmi Script, which was translated in 1837 by James Prinsep. I squeezed through a gap in the railings to climb the pyramid and to see the Ashokan Pillar.

On the steps of the Jama Masjid, an old man clothed in white, tore up some bread and added it to some liquid in a tin bowl. At first, crows came down to eat, then kites. I set up my “point and shoot” camera to get some action photos.

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Being from the North East of England and a founder member of Cambridge University Pigeon Fanciers, I was disappointed not to find the Pigeon Tower.

Young lovers haunt the ruins of Delhi, hoping for a bit of privacy, away from the prying eyes of their own neighbourhoods. I don’t begrudge them this.

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