On a cold Sunday morning I tossed and turned into my bed debating if going one and a half hours away for the GoUNESCO event was worth it, now I am grateful that I did. My GoUNESCO experience started with a row of introductions inside the Purana Quila building. Purana Quila was a centre of conquests, the whole area is covered with a beautiful park, it’s one of the largest fort areas I remember visiting. Living in this city for 18 years, I was mesmerised how it still managed to surprise me.
The GoUNESCO volunteers told us we’d be playing a game, it was surprising because I thought they’d just take us out on a walk and explain the various parts of the fort. We were divided into groups of three and were awarded with a crossword and a task sheet. The first task we were given was finding slits in the Bada Darwaza which were used for throwing water and firing. It was challenging, we couldn’t figure out where the boiling hot water could be thrown from. But it was also the best task, it set us into the mood of finding and exploring for ourselves. I think I understood much more than I’d have if someone just told me the facts. The memory of going in and out, peering at the stones and hoping that they speak to us is etched in my brain.
We went to a completely wrong place during our second task and got behind in the game. I slowed down, the basis of coming to the Qila for me wasn’t to win a game but enjoy the atmosphere. The cold Delhi morning only added to it. I imagined the previous generations walking on the same places I did now, I wondered how they felt. They must have felt like they were the truth while everything else story, they must have felt alive. Now they were stories for us, half-written and half-forgotten, we try to complete the story but it is not the truth as it once was. History makes us both vulnerable and permanent. Some say Purana Quila’s history stretches to the Indraprastha era, a seat of conflict between the Pandavas and the Kauravas of Mahabharata. Mahabharata is the longest epic, longer than Odessy and Illiad combined. It is quoted by Indians in conversations and arguments, it is one of the key documents for Indian literature. From then on, this land was a continuous place for habitation. Archaeological Survey of India’s excavations show that it was inhabited by Mauryan to Shunga, Kushana, Gupta, Rajput, Delhi Sultanate and Mughal periods. All the above mentioned Ruling Dynasties was key to shaping India in what it is today. It is also said that when refugees from Pakistan came to India, they were provided shelter inside this campus. Hence if all the facts are true, Purana Quila signifies all phases of Indian history, old, medieval and new. Most of the remains now of the Purana Quila can be traced back to Humayun and Sher Shah Suri. In fact an interesting fact is that it is in this place where Humayun died which running back from his library after hearing the prayer call. There were Baolis inside whom cool air persisted even during summer days, it had different slits for both hot and cold water showing how sybarite the Mughals would have been. The Humayun gate was probably the stalled amongst all gates. It had a confusing charm to it, the black broken stones signified much more than just a structure. It was parted from us by a concrete slope, the distance and my inability to reach the other side made it even more beautiful.
The Masjid inside the fort was arguably the most daunting structure inside the campus.It was covered in intricate design, it was also our last stop. I almost gasped at its beauty. Outside the Masjid there was a peculiar structure which really interested me, it was probably a structure used to measure time. I looked at my watch and smiled, deciding that it was time I go for boating in the lake surrounding the fort. The plastic boats an amalgamation of old and new, old kings must have swam in the lake which housed me. Things change, but our thirst to know our past remains the same. We all want to be much more than what we are in the present.