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Delhi's Hidden Riches

Sadia Dehlvi

By Rakhshanda Jalil Photographs by Prabhas Roy
Niyogi Books, New Delhi, 2011, pp. 326, Rs.795.00


A s a proud Dilliwali who loves Delhi, its monuments, history and culture, my study is filled with books on various aspects of the capital city. The latest addition on the bookshelf is the new edition of Rakshanda Jalil's Invisible City: The Hidden Monuments of Delhi. The book explores the different cities of Delhi, tells us how to get to these hidden jewels and brings alive a glorious past in an easy to read narrative. The book is neatly divided into sections beginning from the pre-Sultante to the Sultanate, Tughlaqs, Sayyid, Lodhi, Mughal and post-Mughal periods. While most books on Delhi concentrate on Delhi's famed landmarks, Jalil explores lesser-known monuments in crowded alleys and isolated forests. She takes the reader along while marvelling at their architecture, shares the history and legends and wonders why these historical places have become invisible to most who visit and reside in the capital city. In the introduction Rakhshanda writes, 'The Delhi which I have called "invisible" holds an embarrass de richesse in the form of countless little known, seldom visited, largely unheard of tombs, nameless pavilions, mosques, madarsas, pleasure gardens, baolis, cemeteries and much else.' Urban renewal takes place in all cities, but unfortunately a large part of Delhi's growth is unplanned, with sheer disregard for its heri-tage. Seventeen years ago, the Government banned all construction and mining within 100 metres of centrally protected monuments. However, the law has not been enforced strictly in Delhi, which has led to the loss, desecration and deterioration of monuments and dargahs in urban villages. While working on my book detailing Delhi's Sufi history, Rakshanda's book remained a constant companion. Even though I had been studying Delhi's monuments and dargahs for years, Invisible City, provided me with information and stories that came as wonderful surprises. The book does a thorough job of locating the monuments and comes with an easy to follow map attached. I discovered the mausoleum of Bagh-e-Bedil, the seventeenth century mystic poet on Mathura Road, the elegant dargah and mosque of the fifteenth century Sufi Makhdum Sabswari hidden in the colony park of Mayfair Gardens. I particularly enjoyed the post-Mughal section of the book, which covers an area of Delhi that I don't know much about. This inclu-des the Mutiny memorial close to Hindu Bara Rao, Nicholson's cemetery close to St. James Church at Kashmiri Gate and St. Martin's Church in the cantonment area built ...

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