If monuments were colonies, Delhi would be full of slums and derelicts, for the sheer number and volume of heritage that the region contains does make one empathize with the conservation bodies working on tight budgets, trying to negate the everyday degradation and destruction that these monuments face. The gates of Delhi seem to have been cornered in this respect. Most of the 14 gates built by Shah Jahan for his magnum opus of Shahjahanabad are gone, and most of the surviving ones like Delhi Gate and Ajmeri Gate lie at the choke beds of the city’s traffic and population, and one wonders how they manage to hang on, but they do and demonstrate true historical resilience.
Tripolia Gateways are one such instance. Three-gated common structures found all across the country, especially the Northern regions, these once were typically the entrances to sarais (rest houses) or tombs and gardens of that era.
Our monument in question is located right in the middle of the Delhi-Karnal stretch on the Grand Trunk road, Near Maharana Pratap Bagh. Built by Nazir Mahaldar Khan in around 1728-29, the gateway was the entrance to Gur Ki Sarai, a rest-over on the traditional GT Road. The architectural motif is vintage Mughal. Though most of the lower lever calligraphy and stonework has deteriorated to render it unrecognisable, the upper reaches of the arches still hold some remnants, upon which is inscribed the date and other details of construction.
The monument is often in the centre of controversy. Being in the middle of a highway with running traffic, the vehicles, especially the larger cargo vehicles, have wreaked havoc upon the interior arches, from scraping the walls to damaging some sections of the roof even. The Municipal Corporation of Delhi had started digging around the monument itself for renovating the storm water drainages, which would have sounded the death knell for the gates had not the ASI stepped in and stopped the work.
Restoration work has been going on since then, but being on a stretch with active traffic, the going is slow. With the ancient day utility gone, the present day sees these structures lying mute, standing as a paradox against life trickling all around them, serving as a shelter for vagabonds and rickshaw pullers.
Expect no mercy from the traffic while exploring the structure, wear bright clothes preferably, and be careful around the dug-out portions. Though auto rickshaws can be hired along the metro stations of Vishwavidyalaya or Azadpur and Tees Hazari, we recommend walking a bit around Sadar Bazaar of the North Ridge and soak in some of the atmosphere of the days of yore before taking a rickshaw to the point. There might be a problem with people recognizing the name, so have a small print out or a photo of the place handy!
So when you next find yourself passing by this stretch, keep a lookout for this grand old sentry!
Location | On GT-Karnal Road