Gateway to the past: Khooni Darwaza

Context: In the book ‘Delhi’: Unknown Tales of a City’ by Ronald Vivian Smith, the description has been of Khooni Darwaja, which was built by Sher Shah Sur.

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Khooni Darwaja

  • Khooni Darwaza, located near the Delhi Gate, was constructed during Sher Shah Suri’s reign in the 16th century (1540-45). 
  • Initially known as Lal Darwaza, it was later renamed Khooni Darwaza due to a tragic event that took place in 1857. Lieutenant Hodson shot and killed Bahadur Shah Zafar’s sons and grandson there, after the British forces recaptured Delhi and the last Emperor sought shelter in Humayun’s Tomb

Architectural features

  • The architectural design of Khooni Darwaza showcases a combination of Mughal and Afghan influences. Constructed using quartzite stone, the gate stands tall with three stories. 
  • It features three arched entrances, with the central one being the largest.
  • The upper floors of the gate boast balconies known as jharokhas, offering panoramic views of the surrounding area.
  • In the past, the gate’s expansive courtyard served as a gathering space for the public, as believed by historians. Enclosed by a tall wall, the courtyard encompasses various chambers and rooms. 
  • Additionally, on either side of the gate, there are rectangular windows with decorative overhanging edges known as chajjas, supported by intricately carved brackets. 

Kangura structure:

  • The Kangura or Kungura battlement is an important aspect of Indian monuments which serves both military and aesthetic purposes.
  • While the petal shaped roof boundary looks regal, it also served as a place for soldiers to guard and defend the building.


  • Below the Kangura battlement, there are three hole-like openings. These are called damaaga.
  • The damaagas were also structure built for defence, and could be used to pour boiling oil on enemies scaling the gate.


  • The main entrance have two wonderfully carved pishtaq, or niches. 
  • These niches could be used to keep lamps to light up the entrance in the dark.
  • The frames of the window are made from red sandstone. 
  • It is a protected monument under the Archaeological Survey in India. 

Establishment of Sur Dynasty

  • Battle of Chausa (1539): In this battle Sher Khan defeated Humayun due to his superior political and military skills.
  • Humayun arrived at Agra after the defeat and assembled his army with the support of his brothers Askari and Hindal to counter Sher Khan. The final encounter took place at Kanauj. 
  • Battle of Kanauj (1540): Humayun’s army was completely routed by Sher Shah.

Sur Dynasty (1540-1555)

  • Founded by Sher Shah. 
  • Through his ability and efficiency, he emerged as the chief of Afghans in India. His military capability and diplomacy made him victorious over Humayun and many other Rajput rulers.
  • Malwa fell without a fight and Rana Uday Singh of Mewar surrendered without resistance.
  • End of the dynasty:
  • Sher Shah’s next venture to capture Kalinjar failed as a gunshot caused his death in 1545. 
  • Sher Shah was succeeded by his second son Islam Shah who ruled till 1553. His death at a young age led to a state of confusion about succession. Humayun used this opportunity to regain Delhi and Agra from the Sur rulers.

Architecture during Sher Shah

Indian Architecture during the reign of Sher Shah Suri can be divided into two separate time periods. The first phase which runs from 1530 to 1540, a group of tombs were constructed taking the Lodi style to its ultimate expression. During the second phase from 1540 to 1545, when Sher Shah Suri wrested control from Humayun, he patronized a list of architectural innovations which represent an important development in the gestation of the subsequent Mughal Architecture.

1. First phase (1530-1540): 

  • The initial phase of constructing tombs in Sasaram, Bihar, clearly demonstrated Sher Shah Suri’s ambition to create a monument grander than anything found in Delhi.
  • To bring his vision to life, he enlisted the expertise of Aliwal Khan, a master builder trained in the Imperial tradition. 
  • The construction began in 1525 with the tomb of Hasan Sur Khan, Sher Shah Suri’s father, following a fairly conventional Lodi design. 
  • However, Khan’s subsequent masterpiece, the tomb of Sher Shah Suri, is a breath-taking architectural marvel.
  • It is an immense and majestic structure situated in a picturesque tank. 
  • Crafted from the finest Chunar sandstone, this remarkable monument left a significant impact on the evolution of Indo-Islamic funerary architecture.

2. Second Phase (1540-1545):

  • Sher Shah Suri gained control from Humayun and supported a range of innovative architectural endeavours that played a crucial role in the development of subsequent Mughal architecture.
  • Purana Qila or old fort is one of the oldest forts in Delhi India. The construction began in the time of Humayun and continued under Sher Shah Suri.
  • Purana Qila, served as a defensive citadel and the focal point of his sixth city in Delhi, called Shergarh. He added several more structures in the fort during his reign. 
  • The fort also includes overhanging balconies or jharokhas, topped with pillar pavilions or chhatris which is a feature of Rajasthani architecture. 
  • Sher Mandal, an interior structure in the Old Fort is credited to Sher Shah.
  • The Qila-i-Kuhna Masjid, the royal chapel of Sher Shah Suri, constructed around 1542, had a far greater influence on the subsequent Mughal architecture.
  • It exhibits four-centred arches within definite rectangular frames, adorned with delicate spearhead fringes and merlons.
  • The composition is harmoniously completed by the horizontal line of the projecting chajja, resulting in a cohesive and integrated structure.

Practice MCQ

Q. With reference to the medieval Indian history, consider the following statements:

1.The Purana Qila, located in Delhi was built entirely during the reign of Sher Shah Sur.

2.The architectural features that developed under Sur dynasty was completely based in Afghan style.

Which of the statements given above is/are correct?

(a)1 only

(b)2 only

(c)Both 1 and 2

(d)Neither 1 nor 2

Scroll down for answer










Answer: (d)

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