A dome on the roof of Zafar Mahal, with crowned pillars
Almost every Islamic ruler of Delhi has been a disciple of Hazrat Khwaja Quttubuddin Bakhtiyar Kaki (r.a.), a renowned sufi saint, and successor of Hazrat Khwaja Mouniuddin Chisti (r.a.). While rulers like Qutubuddin Aibak started established Qutub Minar in Khwaja's honor, the later Mughal emperors decided to build a summer palace next to his Dargah.
The building, then called Lal Mahal and Rang Mahal, was started by Akbar Shah II. Later, the last Mughal emperor, Bahadur Shah II (aka Bahadur Shah Zafar) built the Hathi Gate and eventually, gave it its present name, the Zafar Mahal. The emperor started festival Sair-e-Gul Faroshan (Phoolwaalon ki sair) in Hz. Kaki's honor used to celebrate his urs from this palace. It is said that Emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar wanted to be burried here but since he was exciled to Burma, his last wish was never fulfilled.
Ambigous History Plate, as installed by the Archaeological Survey of India outside the Zafar Mahal
Ambiguity in Information!
History tells us that this monument was built by Akbar Shah II in 1842. However, Akbar Shah II ruled from Delhi between 1806-1837. However, the stone at Zafar Mahal, installed by the ASI says that Bahadur Shah II ruled from 1847 to 1857, which means, till 1847, Akbar Shah II was the ruler of Delhi (whereas, he died in 1837).
Rough floor plan of Zafar Mahal
The building was made in two parts. First part, constructed by Emperor Akbar Shah II was a single floor comprising of few rooms, some open area, Moti Masjid and Naubat Khana. Emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar added another floor to it and erected the majestic Hathi Gate. He also constructed Chajja/Chhatri in the center of palace.
Towards east, adjoining the wall of Hz. Kaki's Dargah, is the Moti Masjid. It has two exists. One in south, towards the Naubat Khana of Zafar Mahal, and other in North, that opens in the property of Hz. Kaki's Dargah.
Except Hathi Gate, entire palace is in ruins. 70% of the roof has collapsed. Remaining 30% has been restored by govt. body and is supported with wooden planks. The Archeological Survey of India is trying to restore the palace and repair broken walls and staircase. Soon, we will see a Mughal Museum coming up in this premise.
The majestic Hathi Darwaaza, entrance of Zafar Mahal
Side view of Hathi Gate
The entrance of Zafar Mahal, known as 'Hathi Gate' was built by Bahadur Shah Zafar as an extension to the existing palace. It got its name because of the fact that an elephant can pass through it with the 'houdah' (seat, where people sit on elephant) mounted over it. This three storied structure has a nice decorated balcony, from where the royal family could see various processions. The upper balcony is divided into chambers decorated with marble and inlays. The arches though give a glimpse of the Rajasthani architecture and Bengali Domes.
Moti Masjid (the royal mosque), is situated adjacent to the wall of Dargah of Hz. Qutubuddin Bakhtiyar Kaki (r.a.). This is a very small mosque with double entrance. One door opens inside the premise of Dargah, and other opens in the Zafar Mahal. With these two small gates, the Moti Masjid can be separated from both Dargah and the Palace.
The mosque has three arches, and is made purely with marble. The three arches, actually decorate the three compartments of the tiny mosque, each having a Gumbad (Dome) on it. Adjacent to the southern corner of the mosque, are the royal graves.
Graves of the Royal Family
Adjoining Moti Masjid, are the graves of the Mughal Royal Family. It can be said with certianity, who all are burried in those graves, but two names, that are prominent are of the two predecessors of Bahadur Shah Zafar, his father Akbar Shah II and grandfather Shah Alam II. Besides, Zafar's son Mirza Fakruddin is also burried here. Irony is, that Bahadur Shah Zafar himself wanted to be burried next to his father's grave in Sardgah, the marble enclosure. But fate took him far away from his last wish.
lagtā nahīń hé jī mérā ūjař'é dayār méń
kiskī banī hé ālam-e-nā-pāyedār méń
būlbūl ko pāsbāń se na saiyyād se gilā
qismet méń qaid likhī tthī fasl-e-bahār méń
kaeh do in hassretoń se kahīń aur jā bas'éń
itnī jageh kahāń hé dil-e-dāGhdār méń
ik shāKh-e-gūl pe baiTh ke būlbūl hé shādmāń
kānTe bichā diye héń dil-e-lālāzār méń
umr-e-darāz māńg ke lāye tthe chār din
do ārzū méń kaT gayé do intezār méń
din zindagī ke Khatm hué shām ho gayī
p'hailā ke pāoń soyeń-ge kūńj-e-mazaar méń
kitnā hé bad-naseeb zafar dafn ke liye
do gaz zamīn bhī na milī kū-e-yār méń
...Bahadur Shah Zafar
The picture above is of Emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar, and is the only camera picture of any mughal emperor ever. Lines written below the picture are from one of Zafar's famous poems and are always linked to the Zafar Mahal, as they talk about the final burial place of Zafar.
Last two lines mean: How unlucky zafar is, that he did not get a handful of land to be burried next to his beloved.
Sardgah, the graves of Akbar Shah II and Mirza Jahangir. Un-cemented floor is the place, where Bahadur Shah Zafar wanted to be burried.
It is said that the last Mughal Emperor, Bahadur Shah Zafar wanted to be buried next to his father in the Sardgah (the marble enclosure) at the Zafar Mahal. However, in 1858, he was arrested by Major William Hudson and exiled to Rangoon, British Burma, where he died on 7th November, 1862.
Model of bunglow, where Zafar was kept in his last days
Rangoon, Burma (now Yangon, Union of Mayanmar)
Upon his death in Rangoon, Zafar was burried the same night under a tree. The location of his grave was initially mistaken, but later it was identified. Both India and Pakistan raised claims over the grave and showered it with presents. Indian government helped burmese people build a prayer hall near the place, which is now treated as a shrine.
Many groups in India have raised voice to bring the remains of last emperor back to the sardgah of Zafar Mahal. Many say that Indian government has already cracked a deal with the Burma Government on this issue, but this information is still un-confirmed.
Shrine of Bahadur Shah Zafar (considered saint by locals)
Rangoon, Burma (now Yangon, Union of Mayanmar)
It is said that the elder king of Emperor Akbar Shah II, Mirza Jahangir had a heated argument with a resident british officer Sir Archbald Seton and opened fire on him. Missing his target, Mirza killed the orderly of Sir Seton and was later sentenced to death by Britishers. Mother of Mirza Jahangir, Begum Mumtaz Mahal vowed at the grave of Hz. Bakhtiyar Kaki that if her son is spared, she will offer a chadar at his dargah. In few years, Mirza Jahangir was released from prison and was allowed to return to his family as a free man. The royal family then fulfilled their promise and went to the Dargah of Hazrat Qutubuddin Bakhtiyar Kaki (r.a.) with a chadar of flowers and a fan for Yogmaya Temple from Red Fort along with almost all residents of palace.
The royal seat was shifted to Lal Mahal (or Rang Mahal), as Zafar Mahal was known in those days and for three days, the celebrations happened with all sorts of merrymaking. There were performers and artists every where and entire region was dipped with doze of celebrations.
Since that day in 1812, this festval has become a symbol of communal harmony, where people take flowers from Chandni Chowk and reach Mehrauli. They visit Hx. Kaki's Dargah and Yogmaya Temple to seek blessings of deities.
Ban on Festival by britishers
Following their policy of Divide and Rule, britishers stopped this festival in 1942 during the Quit India Movement of Mahatma Gandhi. In 1962, Pt. Jawahar Lal Nehru resumed it and since then, the Prime Minister of India has been a patron of this festival. Every year, The President, Prime Minister and the Lt. Gov. of Delhi offer Pankha and other offerings to the dargah and Yogmaya temple. This festival is celebrated in the month of August-September every year, and now it has grown to a week long celebration.
More Information: www.phoolwaalonkisair.com
How to Reach
Zafar Mahal is situated in the heart of Mehrauli, adjacent to the Western Gate of Dargah of Hz. Bakhtiyar Kaki (r.a.). To reach there by road, go straight from Qutub Minar, passing Adam Khan's Tomb and Mehrauli Bus Stand. You will reach an open area with shops and Mehrauli Police Station. Just before you enter this open area, a road turns to your left, which will take you straight to Zafar Mahal.
The area is congested and it is advised to take a two-wheeler or small car only. One can also walk from Mehrauli Bus Stand or take a cycle-rikshaw to the palace
- Dargah, Hazrat Qutubuddin Bakhtiyar Kaki (r.a.)
- Jahaz Mahal
- Chaumachi Khan's Tomb
- Adam Khan's Tomb
- Mehrauli Archeological Park and its Monuments
- The Qutub Complex
- Gandhak ki Baoli
- Rajon ki Baoli
View of top floor of the Hathi Gate
Rooms towards your right, as you enter the Hathi Gate
First view, as you enter the Hathi Gate
Inside Hathi Gate
Stairs adjoining the main corridor. They take you nowhere as the rooms connected are no longer existing
Corridor & Stairs
View of windows on top floor, looking towards the corridor connecting the Hathi Gate and porch
View of the Dome, constructed on roof of Zafar Mahal
View, as we enter the Hathi Gate, and look towards left
Inside Hathi Gate
Storage or Guard room, immediately after we enter through the Hathi Gate.
Looks like this is a part of what at one time used to be the roof
Stairs towards the royal rooms on first and second floor
View of rooms with collapsed roof
View of the decorated third floor with mehrabs, from where the royal family used to watch celebrations during Phoolwaalon-Ki-Sair (Sair-e-GulFaroshaan) festival
Remains of a ruined room
Access to the Royal Graves, Sardgah, Naubat Khaana and the Moti Masjid through ruins
Three Gumbads of Moti Masjid, facing the Gumbad and Dargah of Hz. Kaki. Marble enclosure in front is Sardgah, adjoining the other royal graves. Qutub Minar can be seen between Moti Masjid and Dargah Gumbad.
Masjid & Dargah
View of chhatri, from one level down
View of chhatri, as seen from the roof of the Zafar Mahal
View from roof
View of Corridor (Galiara), from where the royal elephants used to enter.