India

Tour of Mehrauli Archaeological Park near the Qutub Minar Complex: An Explorer’s Delight

A gem of great historical value hidden in plain sight in Delhi close to the Qutub Minar

By Vacation India
aerial view of qutub minar and surrounding monuments in mehrauli archaeological park
A sweeping view of the Qutub Minar and the surrounding monuments in the Mehrauli Archaeological Park in Delhi, India © NareshSharma

 
Mehrauli Archaeological Park, Delhi

Guided Tour of Mehrauli Archaeological Park
Mehrauli
Jamali Kamali Mosque and Tomb
Balban’s Tomb
Adham Khan’s Tomb
Quli Khan’s Tomb
The Baolis
Dargah Qutb Sahib
Jahaz Mahal
Hauz-i-Shamsi
Madhi Masjid
Other Monuments to visit on the guided tour of Mehrauli Archaeological Park


 

Guided Tour of Mehrauli Archaeological Park

The area where the Mehrauli Archeological Park is located has been occupied continuously for a thousand years by different empires. More than a hundred structural remains of this lustrous history can still be seen today. This includes tombs, palaces with stables, stepwells, mosques and even the remains of a wonderful rose garden with sprawling lawns. Many of the structures are being restored and there is plenty of useful information for visitors. The park offers a magnificent view of the Qutub Minar and the many shady areas make it perfect for a lengthy daytime exploration of three to four hours. Take a leisurely walk under the trees through the park and discover treasures every photographer will covet.

To get a feel for what India was like centuries ago, you can take a stroll through the 200-acre Archaeological Park and surrounding village around the Qutub Minar Complex. The magnificent monuments date back from the 13th century and one can visit the following well-preserved monuments:

1. Balban’s tomb
2. Jamali-Kamali tomb and mosque
3. Quli Khan’s tomb
4. Rajon ki Baoli Stepwell
5. Metcalfe’s folly
6. Metcalfe bridge
7. Horse stables
8. Madhi Mosque
9. Alim Khan;s Tomb
10. Dargarh Qutb Sahib
11. Various Mughal era tombs and boat house

Tip: While exploring the Mehrauli Archaeological Park, take along water bottles as there are no shops inside the park, although you will find clean restrooms. We highly recommend you employ the services of a knowledgeable guide through vacationindia.com. He will take you around the Archaeological Park and provide interesting insight about its rich heritage.

Shaded walkways in the Mehrauli Archeological Park next to the Qutub Minar in an old part of Delhi. This site dates back a thousand years and is a true hidden historical treasure worth exploring. Photo by Neeraj_K


Mehrauli Archaeological Park is one of the best places in Delhi for an early morning historical walking tour. Photo by Neeraj_K


 

Mehrauli

The area once known as Lal Kot is located to the north, south, and west of the Qutb complex. The Tomar Rajputs built this settlement. The city of Qila Rai Pithora was built by the Chauhan Rajputs to the east; it is now known as the village of Lado Sarai. Not much of these two cities: Lal Kot or Rai Pithora presently exists.The Mehrauli Archaeological Park of the Delhi Development Authority presently occupies the south section of the Qutb complex. This is a vast expanse of over 250 acres. There, you will find the remnants of several monuments: tombs, mosques, water tanks, and gateways, all the way back from the 13th century to the 19th century.

Mehrauli is located on the west side of the Archaeological Park. At one point, Mehrauli was a small city. Its name was formed from the name “Mihirapuri.” Mihir means sun; hence, it is assumed that some time in history a sun temple was built on that spot. This once tiny city has developed into a busy urban metropolis. Ever since the Delhi Sultanate period starting near the 12th century until now, people have settled there.

 

PRECIOUS WATER

In this arid, rugged terrain, water had to be collected and stored from the Hauz-i-Shamsi, a reservoir that Iltutmish constructed in 1230. Other sources of water were the Jharna – a waterfall that flowed over the ridge of the reservoir into a garden, and the stepwells (baolis). This supplied water continuously.

 

OTHER PLACES TO SEE

Along with the main monuments, you will find the Zafar Mahal located in Mehrauli village. This is a palace, which carries the name of the last Mughal emperor, Bahadur Zafar Shah. There is also the Yogamaya Temple – a Hindu shrine built in the 19th-century, as well as the marble Dada Bari Jain temple situated in the Park.

 

Jamali Kamali Mosque and Tomb

The pleasingly stylish Jamali Kamali mosque and tomb are inside the Mehrauli Archaeological Park area. It is named after Sheikh Fazlullah who was familiarly known as Jamali. He was a famed poet-saint when Sikander Lodi and the Mughal emperor, Babur reigned. In1528, the building of this mosque and tomb started, and it was finished during the Humayun’s reign. In the mosque’s prayer hall are five arches and two staircases lead you to the top of the mosque. An enclosure with a tomb housing two graves sits adjacent to the mosque. The grave right next to the mosque is where Jamali was buried, and the other one is named Kamali, who was possibly Jamali’s brother.

MOSQUE ENTRANCE: The central arch is beautified with carved rings and rosettes. Photo by Dan Tiego


ENCLOSURE FOR THE GRAVES: The flat-roofed, square building in the courtyard, next to the mosque is the Jamali Kamali Tomb. Photo by Azhar_khan


interior jamali kamali tomb

POETRY IN BLUE: The writings of Jamali are found in this design on the domed ceiling of the tomb. The ceiling is decorated with elegant blue tiles in floral designs combined with carved plaster painted in red, white, and ochre


ARCADED HALL: The prayer hall of the mosque is enhanced by a sequence of arches, situated at Mehrauli Archaeological Park in New Delhi. Photo by Naveen Macro


 

Balban’s Tomb

The Archaeological Park also houses Balban’s tomb, located next to the MehrauIi-Gurgaon road. Balban was the ninth sultan of the Malmuk empire of Delhi and ruled almost to the end of the Mamluk domination. His tomb was constructed in 1280. It is a square enclosed area, and all four sides have arched entrances. Initially, these arches had domes on top, but they subsequently collapsed.

It is believed that Balban was grief-stricken and died after his son Muhammad, also known as Khan Shahid died on the battlefield near Multan in 1285. Muhammad’s tomb is said to be the rectangular chamber to the east of Balban’s tomb.

OPEN TO THE SKY: Balban’s tomb is located in a clear area in the midst of dense shrubbery. The remnants of the old Mehrauli village encircles it. The cenotaph no longer has the protection of a roof. Situated at Mehrauli Archaeological Park in New Delhi. Photo by Naveen Macro


FIRST TRUE ARCH: These are the first true arches from the Indo-Islamic architecture. The ravages of time have taken their toll on the tomb, and the marks are there to prove it. Nevertheless, after many centuries the true arches remain intact. Photo by Naveen Macro


 

Adham Khan’s Tomb

On top of a hill on the outskirts of the Mehrauli village is this octagonal tomb. It is located on a bank surrounded by a wall with towers at the corners. The verandah consists of three openings with arches on each side.

Adham Khan was the son of Emperor Akbar’s chief nurse Mahim Anga. He was also a general in the Mughal army. As punishment for murdering Ataga Khan, the prime minister, Akbar ordered that Adham Khan be thrown off the embankment of the Agra Fort. In 1562, Akbar built the tomb as an act of penitence for what he did and in memory of his chief nurse who was grief-stricken by her son’s death and died also. The other names for this tomb are the Bhul Bhulaiyan or labyrinth because a network of pathways are within the walls of the tombs. These are now closed.

The octagonal tomb of Adham Khan, a general of the Mughal ruler Akbar. Built in the 16th century on the walls of the first Delhi settlement, Lal Kot, it was at one time converted into a residence by a British officer, but later restored to its former glory. Photo by Matyas Rehak


Beautiful interior of the Adham Khan’s Tomb, Mehrauli Archaeological Park , New Delhi. Photo by Mukul Banerjee


Perfect arches around the Adham Khan’s Tomb. Photo by Mukul Banerjee


 

Quli Khan’s Tomb

Muhammad Quli Khan’s octagonal tomb is elevated on a terrace in a garden southeast of the Minar. He was the brother of Adham Khan. In the 1840s, Thomas Metcalfe a British negotiator at the court of Mughal emperor Bahadur Shah “Zafar” II, purchased the tomb and built annexes around it. He used this as his summer retreat home and named it the “Dilkusha.” Interestingly, his dining room was the area where the tombs are.

Tomb of Quli Khan in the Mehrauli Archaeological Park in New Delhi. Photo by Matyas Rehak


ORNATE PATTERNS: Quli Khan’s tomb has a dome on the top and is attractively decorated with glazed tiles and ornamental designs on its exterior. Photo by anuragjha


Steps to the tomb. In background once can see the Qutub Minaret. Photo by Naveen Macro


Sprawling garden in the Quli Khan’s tomb, Mehrauli Archaeological Park. Photo by Leonid Andronov


Floral designs in the Interior of the Quli Khan’s tomb. Photo by rahul66447


 

The Baolis

Near the Qutb complex are two step-wells also known as baolis. The Rajon ki Bains baolis is located in the Mehrauli Archaeological Park. It was given that name because long ago, the rajs (masons) used it. On one side of these stepwells is a mosque. In that mosque, a chhatri, that is a kiosk or pavilion with an umbrella-shaped dome has engravements from 1506 stating the dates the building was constructed during the rulership of Sikander Lodi’s. The five-tier stepwell called the Gandhak ki Baoli is also situated in Mehrauli village. It was erected back in the 13th century while lltutmish reigned. Legend has it that its Sulphur (gandhak) waters had healing powers.

GANDHAK Kl BAOLI: The circular well at one end of the baoli can be accessed by a flight of steps. The baoli was originally filled by a sulphur spring, which released a strong odour. Photo by Ravi Krishnan Gupta


Rajon ki Baoli is a four-storeyed, oblong stepwell. The storeys at the top have several galleries, which are supported by embankments. The one at the bottom has arches that are constructed one within another. Photo by Eurico Rodrigues


ENTRANCE TO RAJON Kl BAINS: At the entrance of the baoli is an impressive canopy with a dome. You can still see the relics of the blue tiles that encircled the dome. Photo by Azhar_khan


Archways leading to the rooms in the Rajon stepwell, Delhi. Photo by Nektera


rajon ki baoli stepwell mehrauli archaeological park delhi

Staircase to the Rajon stepwell. Photo by Azhar_khan


 

Dargah Qutb Sahib

Qutbuddin Bakhtyar Kaki also known as the dargah is set on a path leading from the Mehrauli bazaar. Kaki was a Sufi saint and scholar of the Chishti order from Delhi. His name “Kaki” derives from kaks, which are tiny cakes he enjoyed eating during his fasts. His birthplace was Ush in Persia, but after he journeyed through Khurasan and Baghdad, he settled in India with the Muslims who conquered in the earliest invasions. He consequently succeeded the Sufi saint, Khwaja Moinuddin Chisthi of Ajmer as the spiritual leader and was the preacher during the rule of lltutmish. Kaki died in 1236. His tomb is on the interior of the shrine underneath the domed gallery with a rectangular shape decorated with mirrors.

ORNATE PAVILION: A recently constructed pavilion protects the Sufi saint’s grave. Photo by Kunal Khurana


PILLARED ENCLOSURE: Interior of the Sunni Muslim Sufi mystic, Qutbuddin Bakhtiar Kaki’s shrine in Mehrauli, Delhi. It is the oldest dargah in Delhi Women are not allowed to enter the enclosure of the Sufi saint’s tomb; only men can do so. Women must view it from behind the marble screen. Photo by Kunal Khurana


 

Jahaz Mahal

The Jahaz Mahal is located at the northeastern corner of the Hauz-i-Shamsi. It was built with grey and red sandstone and is thought to have been constructed sometime in the Lodi period. Arched rooms surround the rectangular courtyard. It bears the name Jahaz (ship) Mahal because of its location on the edge of the Hauz-i-Shamsi water tank in Mehrauli, and it appears to be floating on water. Some think the Mahal was a place where pilgrims rested. However, its western wall has a mihrab, which indicates a section of it was a mosque.

PALACE WALLS of Jahaz Mahal: It’s an amazing sight these intricately carved chhatris on top of each corner of the pavilion walls. They are beautifully dotted with pieces of bright blue tiles. Photo by Kunal Khurana


 

Hauz-i-Shamsi

The Hauz-i-Shamsi is an enormous rainwater-fed tank called a hauz. It is situated, on the southern fringes of Mehrauli. The Hauz-i-Shamsi was built sometime around 1230 by Sultan lltutmish. Legend has it that the Prophet Moammed visited him in a dream and specifically instructed him where to build the tank. The sultan visited the location the following morning and there, he saw the hoofprint of the Prophet Muhammad’s horse. Obedient to the prophet’s instructions, he commissioned the building of the tank. The area was excavated and a domed pavilion made of red sandstone and twelve supporting pillars was erected. A stone was also placed there to memorialize the hoofprint of the prophet’s horse. The pavilion sits on the southwest corner of the tank.

PAVILION OVERLOOKING HAUZ-I-SHAMSI in Mehrauli Archaeological Park. Photo by Azhar_khan


 

Madhi Masjid

The Madhi Masjid Mosque is in the Archaeological Park on a pathway just off the main Mehrauli-Gurgaon road. Its design is simple in nature, but that does not take away from the magnificence of this double-storeyed mosque constructed during the time of the Lodi or early Mughal reign. On the eastern side is a square gateway, which is made of grey stone. The windows extend outwards and are made of red sandstone; they lead to a courtyard. The three prayer halls are skillfully arched and elaborately decorated fusing the hallmarks of a covered and an open wall-mosque.

ENTRANCE to the Madhi Mosque: Small balconies with canopies are on both sides of the arched entrance, Mehrauli Archaeological Park. Photo by Leonid Andronov


STEPPED ARCH: A corbelled or stepped arch is at the exit portal of the Madhi Mosque. Photo by Azhar_khan


OPEN COURTYARD: The massive courtyard is enclosed by these thick, high walls with fortification at the top. It gives the mosque the appearance of a military fortress. Photo by Azhar_khan


 

Other Monuments to visit on the guided tour of Mehrauli Archaeological Park

 

The Qutub Complex was named after India’s first Muslim ruler, Qutb-ud-din Aibak who was also responsible for its construction This is another 12th century monument built by him in Mehrauli. Photo by Krishnkundan06


The domed Lodhi-era tomb with its twelve pillars in the Mehrauli Archeological Park is one of the city’s largest mausoleums and was constructed to house the remains of Ghiyas-ud-din Balban, one of the sultans of the Delhi Sultanate that spanned five dynasties. Photo by Dan Tiego


The ruins of the 18th century Zafar Mahal, a summer palace started in Mehrauli by Akbar Shah II and completed by Bahadur Shah Zafar II, the last of the Mughal emperors. Photo by NareshSharma


What remains of the ancient Jama Masjid in the Mehrauli Archeological Park are mere ruins. Photo by Dan Tiego


This Mughal era tomb for Azim Khan dates from the 17th century and sits majestically on a rocky hilltop in the Mehrauli Archeological Park, Delhi. The view from the top of the structure is worth the climb. Photo by kunal88del


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Anca Gheaus
Anca Gheaus
3 months ago

Can you please advise how to book this tour? Thank you!