Context: During the renovation work at Siri Fort, conducted by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), a tomb-like structure dating back to the 13th century was unearthed.
The Magnificent Siri Fort
Siri Fort, located in New Delhi, stands as a testament to the city’s rich history and architectural prowess. It was built around 1303, during the reign of Alauddin Khilji, the second ruler of the Khilji Dynasty.
Defence against Mongol onslaught:
- Alauddin Khilji, known for his dominion extension into Southern India, established Siri as the second city of Delhi.
- The fort was strategically designed to mimic massive Turkish forts, serving as a seat of power during Alauddin’s territorial expansion campaigns.
- Its construction aimed to counter the frequent Mongol invasions of West Asia and protect Delhi from their onslaught.
Architectural Marvel and Strategic Design:
- The fort is situated northeast of the iconic Qutub Minar and was meticulously planned and built with an oval-shaped layout.
- The fort was a symbol of civic pride, housing the grand Hazar Sutan palace with its marble floors and exquisite stone decorations.
- Unique additions like flame-shaped battlements, and bastions showcased the innovative architectural style of the Khilji’s.
- Hauz Khas village was an extension of the fort, which was designed to meet the water needs of the army. The fort is currently in ruins and the only structure that remains is its boundary walls.
The Legacy of Siri:
- Beyond Siri Fort, Alauddin Khilji’s vision extended to the fortifications of Jahanpanah, connecting Siri to the larger defence network. Siri was also known as ‘Darul Khilafat’ or the ‘Seat of the Caliphate’.
- The fort’s strength and grandeur attracted the attention of Timur, the Mongol ruler who invaded Delhi in 1398.
- In his memoirs, Timur described Siri as a city surrounded by lofty buildings and formidable stone and brick fortifications.
Contributions and Destruction:
- The craftsmen of the Seljuq dynasty played a significant role in shaping the architectural monuments of Delhi during this era.
- Unfortunately, the decline of Siri Fort began with the removal of its stones and artifacts by local rulers for their buildings.
- Sher Shah Suri, used materials from Siri to construct his city.
Khilji Dynasty Architecture
During the Khilji dynasty, which was the second Muslim dynasty ruling the Delhi Sultanate from 1290 to 1320, the Indo-Islamic architectural form was still in its formative stage but witnessed some progress in the late 13th century.
- One of the key figures during this period was Ala-ud-din Khilji, who ascended the throne of Delhi in 1296. He emerged as a prominent patron of Islamic architecture and spearheaded crucial developments in the field.
- His notable architectural endeavors included the expansion of the Qutb-mosque. The proportions of the minaret were doubled compared to those established a century earlier.
- Another remarkable architectural achievement of this period is the Alai Darwaza, which was completed in 1305. It stands out for its inventive arches, walling techniques, dome support systems, and surface decorations. The Alai Darwaza incorporates indigenous features seamlessly into its design, skillfully merging Indian and Islamic architectural elements.
- Jamaat Khana Masjid was built at the tomb of Nizam-ud-din Auliya, a renowned saint of the period, and was erected towards the end of Khilji rule.
- Several other buildings were also constructed in the Qutb area, including a college and the tomb of Ala-ud-din Khilji.
About Alauddin Khilji
The Khilji dynasty held sway over large parts of the Indian subcontinent for nearly thirty years. The dynasty was established by Jalalud din Firoz Khilji, and Alauddin Khilji eventually seized power and assumed the role of Sultan by eliminating his predecessor.
- He conducted raids in the Deccan Peninsula, particularly in Deogiri, the capital of the state of Maharashtra, plundering their treasures.
- In the initial years of his reign, Alauddin successfully repelled a major Mongol invasion at the Battle of Jaran-Manjur in 1298. This victory not only consolidated his power but also enhanced his reputation, ensuring stability during his rule.
- To secure a trade route to Gujarat, Ayn-al-Mulk Multani was sent to conquer the Paramar kingdom of Malwa. Despite facing strong resistance from the Rajput army, Multani emerged victorious and became the governor of the province.
- Subsequently, in 1299, Nusrat Khan was dispatched to conquer Gujarat itself, defeating its Solanki king. Nusrat Khan looted the chief cities of Gujarat and desecrated temples, including the famous Somnath temple, which had been rebuilt in the twelfth century.
- In 1308, Alauddin’s trusted lieutenant, Malik Kafur, captured Warangal and overthrew the Hoysala Empire south of the Krishna River.
- Alauddin Khalji’s expansionist ambitions extended into South India. With the assistance of commanders like Malik Kafur, he launched campaigns to subdue various kingdoms, accumulating substantial war booty, known as Anwatan, from their conquests.
- Alauddin’s commanders collected spoils of war from the defeated kingdoms and paid a fifth of the loot (khums) to Sultan’s treasury, strengthening the Khalji rule.
- Despite his lack of formal education, Alauddin Khalji displayed a remarkable appreciation for art and education. His court attracted renowned figures such as Amir Khusrau and Mir Hasan Dehlvi, who contributed to the cultural vibrancy of his reign.