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Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Siri (Darul Khilafat) (1303 A.D.) - The Legacy of Delhi Vol 4

(In this edition of Delhi-iteful Tuesdays I am bringing to you the fourth part of this historical series The Legacy of Delhi.) 

When I was in school, me and my father often used to discuss about the various capital cities of Delhi. The capital city which always used to attract my attention was the one from whose ramparts 8000 severed heads of Mongol warriors were hung in demonstration to remind the Mongol invaders about the consequences of attacking and pillaging India. The name of that city was Siri (Sir means 'Head' in Hindi).

Physical Map of Delhi depicting the location of Siri

History -
                        The time period when the Mamluk (Slave) dynasty came to an end and the Khilji dynasty took over coincided with the invasions, by the barbarian Mongol invaders, of North India. Delhi too had to bear the brunt of pillaging and looting which ultimately convinced Emperor Ala ud din Khilji to build a new and secure capital for the empire. This he did with the help of Seljuq craftsmen who were from Turkey. They built a new, strong and efficient fort which mirrored the massive Turkish forts of those times.

Observe the battered walls of the fort and the protected passageway between the walls (to the left) for movement of the soldiers during action and the gaps in the wall for archers to shoot down at the invading armies


The 'Moat' of the fort of Siri

A small bridge which served as the crossing point of the moat.

Legend of Siri -
                                         Targhi, a Mongol ruler besieged the Siri Fort following Khilji's retreat during the Mongol invasion of India in 1299 A.D. (The construction of the city had not yet completed then). The siege was not successful and Targhi retreated to his Kingdom in Central Asia (Afghanistan). In the next Mongol attack which Khilji repulsed with the help of his Generals, Ghazi Malik and Malik Kafur, the captured generals and soldiers were brought to Siri. The generals were trampled upon by elephants and the severed heads of the soldiers were hung from the walls of the Siri Fort (this is the incident from where the name Siri origins)

Sultan Ala ud Din Khilji (the emperor who commissioned the building of the city of Siri)
Picture sourced from Wikipedia

Architecture - 
                                 There are very few records about the layout of the city and the fortifications of Siri but Timurlane who had invaded India in the year 11398 A.D. left an account of the city in his memoirs. He said - ' The Siri is a round city. Its buildings are lofty. They are surrounded by fortifications built of stone and brick, and they are very strong.'   
                                 According to experts the city was built with an oval plan with palaces and other structures. There were seven gates for entry and exit (Only the Southeastern gate exists today). The name of only one gate, the Baghdadi Gate, is known to us. The palace of a thousand pillars, Hazar Sutan (which was a great work of craftsmanship of that time), was built outside the fort limits, and had marble floors and other stone decoration. Its door was supposed to have been beautifully decorated. In eastern part of the ruins of Siri there are remnants of flame shaped battlements, loop holes for arrows, and bastions, which were considered unique new additions of that period of time in India.
 
A view from the top of the remains of the battlements

 The walls of the fort were broad at the base as this picture shows
                           
Decline -
                  The decline of this capital city began when the Tughlaq dynasty (which succeeded the Khilji dynasty) shifted their capital seven kilometers south-east to Tughlaqabad. The destruction of the structures of the Fort is attributed to the local rulers who removed the fort's stones, bricks and other artifacts for their own buildings. Especially, Sher Shah Suri, of Pashtun Afghan descent from Bengal (East India), took away materials from Siri to build his own city (Shergarh).

A newly excavated portion of the wall.

The walls of Siri might have been vandalized, the monuments of this city might have vanished but the legend and strength of this city and the dominance of its ruler (Ala ud din Khilji) which struck fear in the hearts of the Mongol invaders lives on..


The No-Nonsense Travel Advice
Name of the City
Siri (Darul Khilafat)
Constructed By
Emperor Ala ud din Khilji (Khilji Dynasty)
Year of Completion
1303 A.D.
Location
On August Kranti Marg (near Siri Fort Auditorium), New Delhi
How to Reach
Take an Auto Rickshaw or Cab from your hotel or take the convenient Delhi Metro Rail.
. If you take the Metro, get down at Hauz Khas Metro Station (on the Yellow Line) and come out of Gate No. 3. Ask anyone directions to the Siri Fort Auditorium as the Siri Fort ruins are close by. (Come out of the gate no 3 and walk towards the fly-over on the main road, take two left turns and keep walking. You will spot the ruins from across the road. Cross Safely!) The distance is approximately 1.5 kms or 0.9 miles so you can walk till there.
. Correct auto fare from the metro station to the destination is Rs 20 but most (not all) Delhi auto rickshaw drivers are normally more comfortable in fleecing tourists rather than serve them.
. Delhi Tourism run Hop On Hop Off buses do not go to this location
Entrance Fee
Zilch!

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