The fifth city of Delhi, Firozabad, near the famous Delhi Gate on Bahadur Shah Zafar Road, was built by Sultan Firoz Shah Tughlaq, on the banks of the river Yamuna in 1354. The ruins of this place were originally called Kushk e Firozabad; what we know today as Firoz Shah Kotla Fort is a name given by the British. The fort has many stories attached to it which has made it the abode of the djinns. Djinns as per Islam are created from smokeless fire and are not visible to the naked human eye. The 72nd chapter of the Quran, Al-Jinn, tells us about Djinns which are very similar to the angels.
This fort was the place where for the first time the concept of Diwan e Khaas and Diwan e Aam was introduced, which was later used by the Mughals in their fortresses. When one enters the complex from the main entrance, it is surrounded by a series of low one-storeyed chambers, which served a dual purpose as the chambers were used as the guardrooms and the roofs of the chambers served as a terrace from where the walls of the Kotla could be manned. Just after the guard room and before the palaces is an area where people come from all over the city to offer their prayers to the djinns by writing their petitions on a piece of paper. People also light diyas there and shower rose petals as an offering to the djinns which are believed to reside in the fort. This particular place in front of the entrance is believed to be the niche of Nanhe Miyan, who is believed to be one of the most important djinn saints of Kotla.
Texts tell us that three main palaces existed in the complex. Although today more or less nothing survives, we get to know about the place from texts written by travelers and sometimes even emperors themselves. The first palace was Mahal e Sehan e Gilin also known as Mahal e Angoor, which was used for the reception of high nobles, officials, and people who had high respect in the field of Arts. The second palace was Mahal e Chajja e Chobin which was used for the reception of personal attendants. The third one was the Mahal e Bari Amm which was used to address the general public. But today this palace, Mahal e Bari Amm is believed to have the place where djinns resided, and hence medicaments sit here and call the Mahal as ‘Dher Wale Baba ka Mazaar’. People offer flowers, sweets, and incense sticks here and write letters to the djinns hoping that their problems will get solved. During the time of Firoz Shah, every Friday after people would get free from their work, there would be Mehfils that had artists and musicians from all across the city, and music and storytelling used to take place at the Fort.
The fort also has an Asokan pillar which was transported from Topra to Delhi on orders of Sultan Firoz Shah. The pillar had a gilded bronze cupola on it which seemed to disappear later as texts tell us. The pillar was originally known as Minar e Zarrin, but today it is known as ‘Laat Waale Baba’ because of the popular belief that tells us that the chief of Djinns resides in the pillar.
Within the complex of the Kotla, is a mosque that we know as Jami Masjid which is a congregational mosque built by Firoz Shah’s Prime Minister Khan e Jahan e Telangani. This mosque was one of the seven mosques that were built by him. The mosque when it was built was so grand that when Timur came to raid Delhi, he offered prayers in the Mosque and even read the Khutba there. After being amazed by its flamboyancy, he ordered the construction of a similar mosque in Samarqand. Near the Masjid is also a circular Baoli that is not in use today. The Baoli is often known as ‘Pariyon Ka Kuan’ or the ‘Well of the fairies’. Many women visit the Baoli to light Diyas and incense sticks making offering to the fairies.
Cover Photo: Nupur Bhatnagar
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