“The Tughluks have gone; Tughlukabad is a ruin; only Nizamuddin remains.”
― William Dalrymple, City of Djinns: A Year in Delhi
William Dalrymple in his book The City of Djinns rightly said that Delhi has been build upon layers and layers with the iconic buildings of the past still standing in ruins and co-existing with the new. The past, perhaps a reminder of the battles, opulent architecture and a city which was always wanting to be conquered but couldn’t be.
As you walk by, the streets you may just walk into a lane filled with the history of the bygone era and if you’re lucky you may hear a few stories. Alas! that’s what happens to monuments in ruin, they merely become stories, in the end, but not the iconic building, still standing the test of time near Nizammudin Basti.
People come thronging to the Nizammudin Basti to offer prayers to the shrine of Sufi Saint Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya and closer to the relic you will also find the tomb of the great poet Amir Khusrau. Legend has it that Khusrau, the disciple wanted to be buried next to his beloved master. Worshipers make their offering and prayers first at the tomb of the poet and then at the shrine of the Sufi saint. On Friday evenings one can truly witness the mysticism in the air from the storytellers themselves, talking about brotherhood, love and true worship in the form of qawwalis.
An article by the Citizen. in quoted
“It is said that Hazrat Nizamuddin abhorred any association with the rulers. As the story goes, Sultan Ghiyasuddin Tughlaq was constructing his capital of Tughlaqabad, at the same time when a baoli (step well) was being constructed at the Nizamuddin Basti. The workers of Tughlaqabad used to work at the Baoli during night hours. Miffed at having to share labourers with the Baoli construction, the Sultan ordered to stop the supply of oil to the Basti, which was needed to light lamps to do night time construction work. Nizamuddin Auliya then made the lamps burn using water. And the work on the Baoli went on uninterrupted. Following this episode Nizamuddin Auliya also became popular by the name Chiragh-e-Dilli.”
The basti is a charm on its own with shops selling flavors of the local cuisine, attar, perfumes, embroidery and much much, but if you walk further away you will witness history in its true form, an archaeology site declared as a heritage monument by UNESCO, yes, we’re talking about the marvelous Humayun tomb.
Humayun’s Tomb was built in the 1560’s, with the patronage of Humayun’s son, the great Emperor Akbar. Persian and Indian craftsmen worked together to build the garden-tomb, far grander than any tomb built before in the Islamic world. Humayun’s garden-tomb is an example of the charbagh (a four quadrant garden with the four rivers of Quranic paradise represented), with pools joined by channels. The garden is entered from lofty gateways on the south and from the west with pavilions located in the center of the eastern and northern walls.
The tour of the Humayun’s tomb and the garden is breathtaking with acres of green open space, a plenty fountains and the spectacular designs which truly pave way for the artisans of that period and a score of artisans who’ve made it what it is today. A true play with a fusion of designs and the architecture of that era.
In a city which has been in the news for it’s worse air-breathing quality hardly qualifies for a green space in the city. Adjacent to the Humayun’s tomb, you will find Sunder Nursery, a sprawling 90-acre park dotted with historical monuments, 280 tree species, 36 butterfly species, two amphitheaters, a bonsai enclosure, a peafowl zone and plenty more. Literally, a fresh burst of air in the most polluted city which was made possible by the Public-private partnership with the help of the government and Aga Khan Development Network.
The Humayun tomb, the Sunder Nursery and the Nizamuddin Basti have only recently been restored by the public-private partnership of the govt of India with the Aga Khan Development Network and with the initiative under care for culture by which, not only has the glory reclaimed to this monument but the people who live in the basti, their lives have changed too.
“Where there is ruin, there is hope for a treasure,” said Rumi. The monument that was once a ruin is now a space that beckons stories of hope, pride, and empowerment for the people that build not just the monument the basti in itself.
Under the Basti Urban Renewal Initiative initiated by AKTC as part of the Aga Khan Historic Cities Programme whose main ideology is to revitalize urban heritage centers across the world in ways to not only protect the sites and monuments but to also spur social, economic and cultural development.