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Timeless Wonders – Love for Learning

Hauz Khas – the remains of a grand Muslim centre of learning, an ancient reservoir and the stately tomb of the great builder king, Firuz Shah Tughluq! This is indeed a unique historical site – not a palace or a sort, the usual architectural product of history, but an ancient college!

A narrow road, south of Green Park, Delhi, winds through the village of Hauz Khas where surprisingly commerce has come to settle in this dusty settlement, lining the road with boutiques and show-rooms advertising the tinsel world of glamour and glitter. Standing in stark contrast and cheek by jowl is the pre-eminent 600 year old monument of Hauz Khas, a symbol of man’s eternal quest for wisdom and learning.

As one walks through the gates of Hauz Khas – it is an experience how all at once the past overtakes. The stone structures, domes and tombs are sans ornamentation, embellishments and intricate art of the later Muslim period. Austere and plain and yet Hauz Khas has an impressive beauty of its own!

It was here that the third Khalji king – Ala-ud-Din excavation the larger water tank Hauz Khas, originally known as Hauzi-i-Alai. The deep, expensive reservoir flanked by steps – an example of the ingenious water storage system- has now gone dry. This was the pond that stored water for the inhabitants of Siri, the third of the seven cities of Delhi, which king Ala-ud-Din had founded in 1303.

The wheel of history turns on forever. The Khalji rule ended with the murder of Ala-ud-Din’s third son, Qutub-ud-Din Mubarak Khan. The Tughlaqs came to power.

The third Tughlaq king, Firuz Shah, a noted conservator and builder of mosques, hunting lodges and the founder of the sixth city of Delhi, Firuzabad, now known as Kotla Firoz Shah, is said to have desilted Hauz Khas Hauz Khas and also repaired it.

Here along the south-eastern banks of the tank, Firuz Shah raised a row of “L” shaped double-storeyed halls and chambers in about 1352 which was the Madarsa i.e. college for religious learning. The chambers of this college have balconied windows, deep niches probably for storing books and stairways leading down to the water tank. At the northern end stands a mosque.

Like the Khalji kings, the Tughlaqs too were patrons of art and learning so that scholars, artists, architects and craftsmen from Western and Central Asia flocked to the court of Delhi which became a centre of scholarship in the 14th century.

Firuz Shah, himself an author, showed great zeal for the cause of education by establishing over a thousand schools and colleges. The famous historian of the time Zia-ud-Din Barni had noted. “The capital of Delhi, by the present of these unrivalled men of great talents had become the envy of Bagdad, the rival of Cairo and the equal of Constantinople. The Madarsa at Hauz Khas is a standing testimony of Sultan Firuz Shah’s love of learning.

And here at Hauz Khas at a most appropriate site, lies entombed in eternal sleep, in the centre of a rubble-built square chamber with a high dome, the learned king Firuz Shah. The ceiling of this mausoleum chamber is decorated with plaster work and inscriptions from the Quran. There are other graves inside this room, two of which belong to a son and grandson of Firuz Shah.

Scattered in the neighbourhood of Hauz Khas, the tank, are several grave – probably belonging to the teachers of the Madarsa. And dotting the green lawns are raised platforms with pillars topped with domes. Here scholars may have rested, meditated and discoursed amidst a setting that must have been ideal – with a cool breeze blowing in from the life-nourishing water rippling in Hauzi-i-Alai and peacocks, deer and monkeys co-existing in the green surroundings.

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