27 February 2014

Tohfewala Gumbad, Deer Park, New Delhi


Veiled by an envelope of thick vegetation and hidden from onlookers by a curtain of trees that conspire to deepen its charm by adding layers of canopy around it, the Tohfewala Gumbad in Delhi’s verdant Deer Park is on a deeper level also obfuscated by a veil of mysteries and comes as a surprise even to the hardiest of Delhi’s architecture enthusiasts, even the ones on a lookout for it. It is not uncommon to come across tombs and heritage buildings in the most unlikeliest of places in Delhi – cramped between high rises, semi absorbed into buildings and urban centers, seated amidst landfills or simply overtaken by foliage – but Tohfewala Gumbad, deep red in color with a dripping of black along its top as a result of withstanding season after season of rainfall, dew and harsh summer, peeping from behind the greenery with its simple, stark walls and an architectural design giving proof to its strength and endurance brings a smile on the face of every heritage lover who chances upon it. It isn’t that the tomb is very well maintained, on the contrary it has been allowed to waste as a result of official negligence and obduracy with its walls displaying signs of decay and the platform on which it and several other graves rest crumbling slowly. Nor is the tomb an artistic delight, again on the contrary, the walls are simple, plain with not an iota of ornamentation within or without the tomb. The feeling is simply indescribable – after traversing the thickly vegetated park and moving to-and-fro along the curving and looping pathways looking for these medieval structures, coming across this simplistic tomb in the midst of all the trees and shrubbery is like meeting an old friend unexpectedly! 


Hide-&-seek


Dating back to Tughlaq era (AD 1320-98), the modest tomb reflects all the features that the Tughlaq structures displayed – lack of ornamentation, walls sloping slightly to the outside, use of trabeated entranceways (stone beams of gradually increasing size kept on top of each other to fill space and form a rudimentary arch) despite there being available the architectural skills to build proper arches, kanguras (adornment resembling militaristic battlements) on the roof as well as the octagonal base of dome and an exterior appearance meant to convey massive strength. It is no wonder that the tomb survived eons even though many others that came later disappeared in the face of natural and elemental fury. Apart from the high plinth on which the entire structure and the auxiliary graves rest, the tomb proper also sits on a low plinth of its own. 


Historians point out that Tughlaqs (Qaraunah Turks born of Turkish fathers and Hindu mothers) possessed Turkish strength and Hindu modesty. So do their buildings apparently.


Like the exteriors, the interiors too are exceedingly simple – there is no ornamentation and the walls were once only covered with a layer of plaster which has mostly peeled off since; the monotony is broken by the thick arches that exist above each of the four entrances and the squinches along the corners that help support the load of the heavy dome. Four small square holes are set like a plus sign above each entrance, more for the sake of adding character than for providing ventilation. Interestingly, the tomb is pierced by an entrance along each of its face and the western wall isn’t filled up like in most contemporary structures to act as mihrab (wall indicating direction of Mecca that is faced by Muslims while offering prayers). The four graves within are surprisingly well preserved, each in perfect health and retaining the original designs and features – each of the occupant is male, as identified by the wedge-shaped protrusion atop each grave, however the identity of those buried here is unknown. An argument about the state of the graves that are crumbling outside the tomb can be made, but then the authorities already have their hands full and cannot perhaps make efforts for another structure (a theme recurrent in the past few posts too!) that is otherwise too at the mercy of vandals as so glaringly noticed by the messages left by them in paint on the interior walls of the tomb. Welcome to Delhi, a city so full of culture and heritage that it decided to forget and ignore parts of the same when it couldn’t cope up. Sadly though, there aren’t many who will cry at the loss of these unknown, unsung structures.


Safeguarded by a shy protector

Another structure, known as Thanewala Gumbad, in Shahpur Jat locality nearby is often confused to be Tohfewala Gumbad as a result of a mistake o the part of archaeological authorities. For details of the same, refer Pixelated Memories - Thanewala Gumbad.

Location: Deer Park
Nearest Metro Station: Hauz Khas
How to reach: One can walk from the metro station; availing a autorickshaw is advisable since the distance between the two is roughly 2 kilometers.
Entrance fees: Nil
Photography/Video charges: Nil
Time required for sightseeing: 20 min
Relevant Links -

2 comments:

  1. Very well written and nice pictures. Is this within the deer park or near the Haus Khas area (i.e near the madrassa)?

    ReplyDelete
  2. Atanu Sir, thank you for the kind words. The tomb is within Deer Park, couple of hundred meters away from Kali Gumti & Bagh-i-Alam ka Gumbad

    ReplyDelete