Springing Out Between Randomy Constructed Houses Stands Qila Qadam Sharif Near Paharganj

Delhi Dweller 1 Sept 2017

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Picture Credits: Sarson ke Khet

Paharganj, carved out of the Delhi Ridge and located just opposite the New Delhi Railway Station (NDRS), is a place normally associated with budget hotels, brightly-coloured knick-knacks and lots of tourists swarming the streets and shops. On the face of it, no one expects it to hide a Delhi Sultanate era monument but then, Delhi has its own way of springing surprises on you!

The Qila Qadam Sharif complex is a remnant of an era all but forgotten that springs out of a rickety mess of randomly-constructed houses, shops and hotels that denote the crowded, competitive life of present day Delhi. It transports you back to the past when kings ruled the land and the world was very different from the way we see it today.

A Small Yet Versatile Relic

Also known as Dargah Qadam Sharif, this monument was built by Firoz Shah Tughlaq in the late 14th century, which houses a dargah, a madrasa (seminary) and a mosque surrounded by a wall. Like all of Delhi’s smaller, less visible monuments, this one too has an intriguing story behind it - read on! 

An Unplanned Tomb

India’s great kings have been famous for building tombs as great as, or even greater than, the palaces of the living. What today is Qila Qadam Sharif was originally started by Firoz Shah as his own tomb, with the main building in the centre, surrounded by massive walls and exquisitely arched gateways characteristic of the period. 

Tragedy struck, though, when his son Fateh Khan died in 1376. Tughlaq decided to dedicate the monument to his son’s memory and built a dargah at the site. The religious nature of the tomb was reinforced when the Sultan installed a stone bearing a footprint of the Prophet Muhammad, the ‘Qadam Sharif’ to which the shrine owes its name.

Tughlaq’s grief radically altered his plans for the monument, as he turned it into a place of worship, with the dargah and the mosque alongside it. He also made sure there were provisions for education when he built a madrasa at the site.

The Qila Qadam Sharif Of Today 

Time has taken its toll on the building now and only small remnants of the fortifications remain, amid more modern structures of present-day Delhi. The arches and domes borne by the monument today belong to the time of the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan.

Talking of the ruler who originally built the monument, though, Firoz Shah Tughlaq ruled for 12 more years after the death of his son, dying in 1388 after a reign spanning 37 long years. He is buried near Hauz Khas in the city’s Southern quarter. 

The next time your feet lead you to Paharganj in search of things to buy and eat, do take a little detour here and travel back in time through this humble monument!

Location | Near Paharganj