Delhi, a city synonymous with a lot of words and feelings. We all love Delhi for different reasons, but how many of us know the real story of Delhi? To understand the story of Delhi, you have to go back not decades, not hundreds but thousands of years back. Doing that sounds intimidating. Thankfully there is an easy and interesting way of doing that. Like we always say ‘You want to know a city? Just explore the beautiful places and listen to their stories’. To start with, let me tell you the story of one of the oldest city of Delhi (of which today only a few remains survive).
Delhi as we know it is an ancient city, that has even been mentioned in oldest texts such as 5000-year-old epic Mahabharata as Indraprastha. Over the years many rulers came, fought and ruled Delhi. Every ruler brought a different era, as the rulers came and went Delhi was built and destroyed and rebuilt again many times. These rulers made and destroyed many monuments in their respective times, but today we only have some of those monument left that till speak of times seen.
Although Delhi has had about 15-16 cities, but today we mainly or 8 of them as we have remains and information of 8 of them (8th city the latest New Delhi)
The eight cities of Delhi have such testimonies of history. These eight cities were built by different rulers with different intentions in different times. Not all of these are in their erstwhile appearance. Some of them have only a few parts remaining as the memento of history.
Although the story of Delhi goes back thousands and thousands of years as we know but most of the written history of Delhi or the evidences of kings making it their own and ruling it starts from somewhere around 7th century AD with Tomar dynasty. As of today, we don’t have a lot from their era but we certainly some remains and many stories from the Tomar era that would take you back in time.
Lal kot and Qila Rai Pithora Overview:
The Tomars ruled Delhi from 7th century to till it was taken over by Prithviraj Chauhan. Tomar King Anang Pal Tomar built Lal Kot which is often referred to as first fort of Delhi. When Prithviraj Chauhan took over Delhi he extended Lal kot and i8t came to be known as Qila Rai Pithora. Both Lal kot and Qila Rai Pithora are considered one since the latter is extension of Lal kot. Today we know Qila Rai Pithora/ Lal kot as the first city of Delhi.
The first city of Delhi:
One of the oldest cities of Delhi is Qila Rai Pithora. It is a 12th century Fort that was built by Prithviraj Chauhan. Fort includes even older Lal Kot built by Tomar Rajput King Anang pal I in the 8th century. As Qila is Persian word which means ‘fort’ Qila Rai Piothora was perhaps called Grah / Durgh Rai Pithora.
Talking about the size of the fort, it was spread over an area about 6.5 km. It is said to have had seven gates different people have mentioned different no. of gates 13 as mentioned by Babur, 10 by Amir Khusro. The Tomar kingdom apparently included Delhi, Haryana and some parts of the U.P.
We get some information about Anang Pal Tomar’s rule from the written accounts of Amir Khusro. Writing about the reign of Anang Pal Tomar he mentions that in front of the royal palace, the Tomar king had installed stone figures of two lions and next to them was installed a bell. Anyone who sought justice would ring the bell, the case would then be heard, and justice would be served. It is said that the reign of the Tomar was so prospered that no one slept hungry in the kingdom. There is one interesting incident of Tomar era that Khusro mentions where a bird comes and sits on the bell and the bell rings as a result, taking this as bird demanding justice the Tomar king ordered that meat should be put between the teeth of the two stone lines so the birds could feast.
Lal Kot / Qila Raipithora a Timeline:
The Tomars and Chauhans (kings) built many temples during their rule. Many important courtiers, ministers also built temples in the city. One of the important ministers and Jain Sahukar of Anang Pal’s court Nattal Sahu built a massive and beautiful Jain temple in what is known as Qutub complex today. Most of these temples were later destroyed by Muslim invader Qutub Uddin Aibak. One of the first mosques of India Quwwat ul Islam present in Qutub complex was built after demolishing 27 temples and their decorations and remnants were used in building the mosque.
In the year 1160 Chauhans overthrew Tomars and took control of Delhi. One of the greatest rulers of history Prithvi Raj Chauhan ruled over Ajmer and Delhi. Prithvi Raj Chauhan ruled successfully until the invasion of Muhammad Ghori.
In 1191 Muhammad Ghori attacked India and after that happened the first Battle of Tarain where Prithvi Raj Chauhan valiantly and badly defeated Muhammad Ghori. Unfortunately soon after Muhammad Ghori attacked again and won the second battle of Tarain. He appointed his slave Qutub Uddin Aibak as in charge of India. This established Muslim rule in India. After the death of Ghori, Qutub Uddin Aibak declared himself emperor for the region and established the slave dynasty also called the Mamluk dynasty.
Lal Kot / Qila Rai Pithora Then and Now:
Lal Kot/ Qila Rai Pithora had massive fortified walls spread over a large area. Today only a few remnants of the fort are there which are spread over parts of south Delhi, these can be seen in Mehrauli, Vasant Kunj, Saket, close to Qutub complex and Kishangarh.