If you are curious about the Masjid-i-Jamis that preceded Shah Jahan’s glorious Jama Masjid, this will be a wonderful surprise. This massive 14th century stone mosque may be bare of ornamentation—characteristic of the Tughlaq era in which it was built—but it is magnificent. Now somewhat hemmed in by the urban villages of Begumpur and Kalu Sarai (themselves circumscribed by Sarvodaya Enclave and Sarvapriya Vihar), this was once the centre of the Tughlaq city of Jahanpanah. Look for one of the staircases that still lead all the way up to the roof. Even on a pleasant day, you will only have a couple of kite fliers for company.
From Aurobindo Marg, take a left turn towards Sarvodaya Enclave. Keep going until you reach Begumpur village. Park your car before you enter the village. The masjid is a 2-minute walk away. Visit before sunset.
A gateway for the bored residents of the Red Fort, the pretty Zafar Mahal was the part-time residence of the late Mughals. Many of these rulers were great believers in the powers of the Sufi saint Qutubuddin Bakhtiyar Kaki, so they built this little palace next to his dargah (tomb) in Mehrauli. Go through the lovely arched?gateway and seat yourself in the pillared dalan (rectangular and flat-roofed) upstairs to play at being emperor. Also, visit the charming Moti Masjid and the now derelict graves. Those buried here include Bahadur Shah I, the luckless Shah Alam II (who was blinded?by?the?Rohillas),?his?son?Akbar?Shah?and?prince Mirza Fakhru (son of Bahadur Shah II, popularly known as Zafar). Zafar, who had once reconstructed the mahal (palace) to allow elephants to enter, could never be buried in his intended grave because he died in exile in Burma, now Myanmar.
Starting at Adham Khan’s tomb (next to the Mehrauli bus stand), walk down the main street towards Bakhtiyar Kaki’s dargah. Remove your shoes and carry them with you through the dargah. Open from sunrise to sunset. If closed, ask for the gatekeeper: He’s usually nearby, “just getting a cup of tea”.
We like India Gate, really, but it’s more for the atmosphere of revelry—the unselfconscious takeover of this imposing imperial monument by picknicking families and shutterbug tourists. The fact that this 138ft-high war memorial arch was meant to honour Indian soldiers who died in World War I seems to barely register. For a more sombre taste of Raj-style commemoration, visit the Mutiny Memorial up Rani Jhansi Road, west of Delhi University. This 1863 structure is now endowed with a small plaque (to inform you that these men were fighting on the “wrong side”, so to speak, during 1857). The Mutiny Memorial is a great example of “High Victorian Gothic”—the 19th century revival of a medieval architectural style that emphasized heavy detailing, strong vertical lines and pointed arches to give a sense of height. Climb up the steps for a great view of the city.
Rani Jhansi Road, south of Hindu Rao Hospital. Open from sunrise to sunset.
TEEN MURTI HOUSE
Visitors to Delhi are usually taken to see the Rashtrapati Bhavan, only to be left standing admiringly outside the beautiful wrought iron gates (unless, of course, you’ve had the foresight to book ahead. To arrange a tour, call 23015321). Console yourself (and your deprived guests) by going to see Teen Murti House, where you can happily traipse through the lovely lawns and wander through most of the interiors. Originally called Flagstaff House, this rather grand 1930s building was designed to serve as the residence of the commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces by Robert Tor Russel, then the head of PWD’s architects department. Nehru moved in in 1948 and it remained his home until his death in 1964. The building now serves as a museum to Nehru. As official residences go, we’d choose to live there over Rashtrapati Bhavan any day.