Delhi is full of tombs and gravestones. There are tombs for sultans and emperors, and their consorts. For wealthy nobles and ordinary folks. But gravestones, sorry not for one, but 50 revered eunuchs or transgender women who lived eight hundred years ago? Aaah, that can only happen in Delhi. 😊
Hijron Ka Khanqah, which literally translates to ‘a Sufi spiritual retreat for eunuchs’ is a collection of whitewashed gravestones fronted by a wall mosque in Mehrauli Village, a neighbourhood in Delhi continuously inhabited for the past one thousand years. Amidst these gravestones stands a marble tomb marked with a kalamdan, a raised ridge, typical of graves belonging to males in medieval India. Continue reading →
In all likelihood, you have already been to the Taj Mahal in Agra. And most probably, also made your way to Bibi ka Maqbara in Aurangabad, often referred to as the ‘Taj of the Deccan’.
What if I tell you, there is one more marble-encased Taj, and that too in the rather understated state of Haryana. But with a difference. Unlike its two other counterparts, the ‘Taj in Haryana’, as it’s often called, is not an expression of a man’s deep devotion to his wife, but instead a tomb for a saint and teacher who passed away in 1660. Continue reading →
The inevitable response should one mention these two places is, “where are they?”
As for the few who do know about their whereabouts [near Delhi’s satellite city Gurgaon in the neighbouring State of Haryana] the rejoinder is, “is there really anything to see there?”
Oh, yes, plenty! But despite having some of the loveliest monuments in Delhi’s vicinity, both towns lie in complete oblivion. There is no mention of them in guidebooks. Zilch. They are not even included in Delhi’s countless regular heritage tours. It is as if they simply did not exist.
Imagine my joy when I got a chance to explore the two. Not that I had ever heard of them before. I belonged to the first category. Then after some digging around, I was smitten. Completely. Continue reading →
Was it Area A, B, or C. I struggled to get my head around them as the highway wound its way through all three, one into the other in a convoluted mix. At each crossroad and Area juncture there were checkpoints galore. Israeli soldiers behind bullet-proof glass and on watch towers pointed their guns at every vehicle and person that passed by on the road.
“Sit still please and no pointing.” Our Arab driver insisted as we slowed down at each checkpoint. I was torn between ducking under the seat and staring at the soldiers in warped fascination. Before I could decide, we had moved on. Only to be met by another checkpoint and red road signs.
“This road leads to Palestinian Village. The entrance for Israeli citizens is dangerous.”
“This road leads to Area ‘A’ under the Palestinian Authority. The entrance for Israeli citizens is forbidden, dangerous to your lives and is against the Israeli law.”
Area A turns out to be a string of typical Middle Eastern cities with markets, mosques, and a well-worn homely feel. To get from one to the other though, one needed to travel through the war zone highways. Makes for a difficult commute if one had to do intercity travel on a regular basis. Continue reading →