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DELHI: A Heritage City; Nominating Delhi on UNESCOs List of World Heritage Cities

Contribution of the Firuzian Era to development of Indo-Islamic building typologies Page 1




Articulating the Outstanding Universal Value of Delhis Ancient and Sultanate Period
10
th
November, 2011, India International Centre, New Delhi

Contribution of the Firuzian Era to development of Indo-Islamic building typologies
Dr. Aruna Ramani Grover

Firuz Shah Tughlaq was nominated as the Sultan in 1351 on the death of his cousin to rule
for the next 37 years. According to historians he was the choice of the Ullema. Disappointed
by the idealistic and secular notions of Muhamad bin Tughlaq, they hoped that a sober and
devout follower of Islam would bring about a much needed reformist movement.

Firuz Shahs long reign was marked by tremendous building activity which included cities,
forts, palaces, canals, gardens, wells, bridges, madrasas, sarais, hospitals and other public
works. In addition to new works repairs and renovations of the buildings and public works of
earlier rulers were also taken up. The oft held view is that the coffers were empty leading to
the erection of buildings of a somber and staid style hitherto unknown. The scale and
number of projects however, belies this position. Contemporary historical accounts
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speak of
organized state activity for design, erection and finance of these structures.

The comparatively long and peaceful reign, the scale of building activity and the clear
indication that these activities were organized, underlines the proposition that this was a time
for exploration and initiation of Indo-Islamic building typologies. In architectural terms, this
was an opportunity hitherto unknown in the sub-continent in general and Delhi in particular.
The intention of this paper is to point to five unique architectural projects of the Firuzian era.
While three of these became the initiators of typological lineages, two others while truly
worthy were left largely unexplored. These five architectural projects are:
The Palace Firuz Shah on the Yamuna
The Madarsa complex at Hauz Khas
The Tomb of Telangani in Nizzamuddin
The Khirki Masjid south of Jahanpahah
The Begumpuri Masjid at Jahanpanah

The element of water and the manner of building in its vicinity has been an architectural
quest immemorial. In this context, the natural landscape of Delhi had something to offer. The
flowing river on a bed of soft soil and the catchment of the Aravalli spurs, where a sheet of
water collected in the monsoon could remain intact till the attack of the scorching sun the
next summer. The former condition, led to the erection of a Palace on the banks of the
Yamuna and the latter to a Madarsa Complex at Hauz Khas.
The site of the Palace Firuz Shah is on a rectangular plateau running parallel to the east
bank of the Yamuna. Measuring 800m x 1400 m its longer side is on the north-south axis.
Today the complex is in compete ruins and it is rather difficult to develop an understanding
of the built-form open space structure and one must be wholly dependent on contemporary
descriptions and conjectural restorations
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.
Surrounded by high walls interspersed by bastions on three sides and the river on the fourth,
the main entrance to the complex is from the west. This comprises of a barbican with a lofty
DELHI: A Heritage City; Nominating Delhi on UNESCOs List of World Heritage Cities

Contribution of the Firuzian Era to development of Indo-Islamic building typologies Page 2

HAWAMAHAL
& ASHOK LAT
JAMI MASJID
GARDEN OF GRAPES WITH
THE MAHAL-I-SAHN-GILIN
DIWAN-I-AM
JENANA PALACE
FIRUZ SHAHS PALACE
BAOLI
TOP: Conjectural restoration of the Palace of Firuz Shah Tughlaq. BOTTOM LEFT: View of Hawa Mahal and the rear
wall of the Jama Majid, Firuz Shah Kotla. BOTTOM RIGHT: Entrance to the Jami Masjid. Firuz Shah Kotla.
gate, with a rectangular enclose containing the guard room and the barracks. Beyond this
first space is a large rectangular garden with the Mahal-i-Sahn-Gilin used by the royal
visitors to the palace. Immediately behind this courtyard, surrounded by pillared verandahs
was the square pillared Mahall-i Bari Amm or Palace of the Public Audience for the king to
receive his counselors and royal guests.
Beyond these public and semi-public spaces and lined along the eastern bank well above
the flowing river are the private palaces, the harem and a Jami Masjid to receive the benefit
of the cool breeze during the hot weather and to be able to get an uninterrupted view of the
flood plains. According to historical accounts these buildings was set in rectangular or
square pleasure gardens with flowering shrubs and water pools. In the northern part of the
fortress a large baoli with rooms around it was perhaps the main source of water. Being so
close to river it would always be a sure source of clear water to the residents.
The massive entrance to the citadel, the hierarchical spatial configuration from public to
private, the sub-division of inner spaces in the form of enclosed gardens with their specific
buildings, the public entrance to the west and the river-edge on the east lined with the
DELHI: A Heritage City; Nominating Delhi on UNESCOs List of World Heritage Cities

Contribution of the Firuzian Era to development of Indo-Islamic building typologies Page 3

principle buildings of the complex was to become the typology of the future. Just a few
kilometers to the north is the much celebrated Lal Quila of Shah Jehan and 500 kilometers
down the river is the Agra fort to quote just two examples.


LEFT: Plan and sectional insets of the Hauz Khas Complex. TOP RIGHT: View of the North wing of the Complex as
seen from the lake today. RIGHT: Tomb of Firuz Shah facing the garden. BOTTOM RIGHT: Detail of the terrace railing.

Hauz-Khas, earlier known as Hauz-I-Allai was one of the public works of Allaudin Khilji. This
hauz or lake of about 1200x700 meters created by extended embankments held the
rainwater falling on the settlement, channelized thru streams and nallahs. It was the major
source of public water supply to the city of Siri. Due to poor maintenance, silting and
aggressive agricultural practices the tank had dried up. Under the repair and renovation
activity taken up during the reign of Firuz Shah it was de-silted and rejuvenated as a source
of water supply. The value of erecting suitable buildings around the water works was
perhaps recognized by the master builder as:
It would ensure a benign guardianship of the civic amenity
The serene beautiful site was an ideal spot for contemplative educational activities.

A college of theology or madarsa, along with hostel facilities was commissioned to be built
along the eastern and southern edge of the lake. This double storey structure comprised of
large domed chambers, pillared halls and a mosque, faced the lake edge on the lower storey
and faced an enclosed garden on the upper storey. The upper storey at ground level has
ample cross-ventilation while the lower storey just above the surface of the water benefits
from cool eddies; together offering a climatically sound solution for Delhi
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.
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