Poetry in Stone: Feroz Shah Kotla, Delhi

Walking through the ruins of the fifth city of Delhi, Firuzabad, one is drawn in by the unique scents and silver smoke emanating from incense sticks. We have found our way to the stone walls of Firuz Shah Kotla, built on the bank of the river Yamuna in 1354 by Sultan Feroz Shah Tughlaq.

What was once the grand and opulent royal citadel of the city, now lies quietly hidden, adjacent to the more popular Cricket Stadium of the same name, that opens its doors to countless visitors when Delhi plays host to India’s favorite game.

Firuzabad, the fifth city of Delhi, now known as Kotla Firuz Shah, is a large enclosure of high walls, which contained palaces, pillared halls, mosques, a pigeon-tower and a baoli (stepped well), some of which are still in good condition.

The main public mosque, Jami’-Masjid, has a spacious courtyard and the whole structure rests on a series of cells. The Asoka column (made of polished sandstone and dating from the 3rd Century BC) is planted on top of this pyramidal structure within a stone-railing.

While history rests within its walls, Firuz Shah Kotla is also considered the land of Djinns, formless spirits that are believed to roam the narrow chambers of these ruins, answering prayers and protecting righteous believers. According to Islamic theology, Djinns are creatures of free-will made from smokeless fire by Allah, just as humans were made of clay. Devotees throng to the secluded chambers of Firuzabad, especially on Thursdays, to make offerings of prayers on paper, fruits, milk, coins and even meat, kneeling before garlanded and painted walls hoping to appease the Djinns.

The beauty that resides in the pillared halls of Firuzabad is evident to anyone who finds their way here. Whether you compose a letter of wishes to a Djinn or follow the story of royal heritage along the cobbled pathway, you will doubtless breathe the mystic air that blows among the the silent hallways of this complex.

-Text & Images by Manika Dhama

References: Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), Wikipedia