A simple five minute walk from my college leads to a historic city of Delhi. Being new to Delhi and seeing the massive walls everyday from my college, a visit to the Kotla was justified. The first sight as we approach the Kotla are the massive hawks which fly low and even sit on the sprawling lawns that surround the fort. Every Thursday, the caretakers of the huge Friday Mosque inside the Kotla feed meat to them and these birds are seen dotting the sky as they majestically swoop down and grab the raw meat with their powerful talons.
I approached the Kotla from behind and to go to the front gate, I had to pass through a small settlement locally known as the ‘Rose Garden’ . The settlement grows right next to the wall and some of the houses have the huge defensive wall as their own Garden ‘folly’. The occupants seem unaware of the historic importance or seem nonchalant about the huge stone wall that looms across the settlement.
The Kotla was built by Ferozshah Tughlaq as a part of his city- Ferozabad and ironically was built by pillaging earlier cities for its building material. It faced the same fate as it was too pillaged while building Shahajanabad and today most of the inner citadel ‘Kotla’ is in ruins.
One of the most majestic buildings in the Kotla is the Friday mosque, today a mute testimony to the grandeur of the past days. As the muezzin calls for the evening prayer, the handful of men who file in are dwarfed by the immense Mihrab and courtyard of the mosque. We get a small glimpse of the past, where it would have been an live mosque bustling with courtiers and nobles as they answered the call to prayer. Timur who plundered the city was so impressed that he ordered a similiar one to be built in Samarkand.
Right next to it is the Ashokan Pillar raised on a three storied platform, and the reason that this Citadel is so important in the history of Delhi. The effort required to transport the huge monolith for hundreds of mile from Ambala using the river and raw human power is stupendous! It would have dominated the skyline of Ferozabad, but today is sadly overshadowed by the industrial chimneys of New Delhi. It stands on a three storied platform that was raised to install the pillar. The solid stone pillar has borne testimony to the evolution of Delhi as it transforms over the years. We can only superimpose the image of a construction crane trying to install the pillar had it been today.
We come across lamps, incense sticks and prayers as we walk across the complex. It is said that the most active djinns reside here. Light a lamp and write a prayer, and the djinns if pleased will make it come true. The aura of mystery that surrounds these djinns lends the Kotla an unique identity. The djinns are the protectors of Delhi if locals are to be believed, protecting them in times of trouble.
The Kotla of Ferozshah is an oasis of calm in the planned chaos of New Delhi. The ring road, one of the busiest roads in Delhi is hardly ever empty, with the ITO sognal having the dubious distinction of the busiest intersection in Asia but they fade away as we go deeper into the Kotla. The hustle and bustle and traffic sounds vanish and are replaced with those of the hawks and birds and squirrels that frolic along the lawns. A perfect location to ponder the past and have a break from the city.