Historical Places in North Delhi
Take some time out to take this historical walk through Delhi University’s North Campus as it has several delights to offer. Are you aware that Bhagat Singh was held captive for a day at the vice-chancellor’s office in North Campus? The area, was once an important station for the British troops, and played a significant role during the revolt of 1857. Use the breaks between your classes to get acquainted with the hidden gems of history on campus and feel the old stone on your skin. You’ll love the experience!
Vice Regal’s Lodge
The erstwhile Vice Regal’s Lodge serves as the Delhi University Vice Chancellor’s Office today. The estate has a long colonial history and this mansion once hosted several parties and events. The lodge is a repository of history as the galleries within contain archives of its time and the region surrounding the Northern Ridge in Delhi which served as the British cantonment during the early 20th century. It was also a spot where several British officers and their families took refuge during the revolt of 1857. But even after entering the 20th century, the lodge had a role to play in the Indian freedom struggle. Bhagat Singh, along with two of his comrades, was imprisoned in the dungeons of the lodge. Initially, the lodge was part of the cantonment and then it was converted to a residence for the imperial rulers. The University of Delhi was established in the year 1922 and the lodge estate was handed over to the University in 1933. Presently, it houses the Delhi University Vice-Chancellor’s office. The parks surrounding the estate are open to all, so you can enjoy a view of the estate and its colonial past from one of these green patches.
The mutiny memorial in front of the Old Telegraph Building in Civil Lines is a memorial built for British soldiers who were killed, wounded or went missing during the revolt or sepoy mutiny of 1857. It is dedicated to both British, as well as Indian soldiers, who fought in the Delhi Field Force. The written record at the panel placed around the base of the monument, there is a record of more than two thousand officers and men who were killed, wounded or went missing during the mutiny. It was commissioned by the public works department under the British Raj and was completed in 1863.
The hunting lodge of Feroz Shah Tughlaq is known as Pir Ghaib today. The Pir Ghaib is a 14th century two-storey structure, near the Hindu Rao Hospital campus. The holes carved out in the roof indicate that the structure may also have been used as an astronomical observatory, though with the amount of pollution in the city, one can hardly stargaze from here (or anywhere) anymore. Legend has it that the structure later became the site of refuge for a saint who ‘mysteriously vanished’ from within its walls – therefore giving the structure its name ‘Pir Ghaib’. Some believe that the saint’s spirit still haunts this monument.
A short walk away from the Pir Ghaib is a medieval era baoli or stepwell. The baoli was also built by Firuz Shah Tughlaq in 1351 AD probably as a part of his hunting palace called ‘Kushk-i-Shikar’ or the magnificent ‘Kushk-i-Jahan-Numa. It most likely fell under Firuzabad, the capital he built in the northern part of the city ‘. It served as the only source of water for the British during the sepoy mutiny and there was fear that the water might be poisoned by the ‘rebels’. Today the stepwell has fallen into disrepair and is often used as a public toilet despite it being a protected monument. It used to have the only recorded tunnel in Delhi, the purpose of which is still unknown.
Located in the Northern Ridge, this heritage site was constructed in the 14th century. Many say that it was built by Feroz Shah Tughlaq — a prominent ruler of the Tughlaq Dynasty. It’s name probably came from the four turrets that were once present around the main structure but now there’s only one. The Mughals later added few structures on to the building and during the days of the Revolt of 1857 this was used as a picket and ammunition store by the British!
Khooni Jheel is another significant remnant of the 1857 revolt. Located inside the northern Ridge, the lake was so named after the revolt as it was the site of many deaths during that period. British officers and their family trying to escape Delhi, as well as sepoys later trying to escape retribution were killed at this spot and in the surrounding areas of the forest and their bodies were dumped into the lake. It is said the water of the lake turned bloody, and that’s how the water body got its name. The lake is out of bounds after sunset. Some say the lake is haunted and best not explored at night. Given its bloody history, though, the association with a number of spooky and mysterious tales is not a surprise.
The Flagstaff Tower is also located inside the northern Ridge. The single-storey structure was built around 1828 and was used as a signal tower. It was a part of the British cantonment during the colonial rule. It was here that several British officers and their families took refuge during the Delhi siege at the time of the revolt. They were later said to be rescued by a regiment from Punjab. Before forestation started in 1910, the area where the tower was built was the highest point on the ridge and was mostly barren, covered with low-lying shrub.
Qudsia Bagh, a garden complex near Kashmere Gate, is near DU’s Indraprastha (IP) College for Women. This structure was built for Qudsia Begum, wife of emperor Muhammad Shah. The bagh was fashioned after the Persian Charbagh style. As history has it, the river Yamuna used to flow near it. Parts of the mosque which were simple in design along with the other structures were almost destroyed in the barrage of shells that were aimed at the bagh by the mutiny soldiers. Ever since, nothing much remains, except the baradari (structure), the mosque, the gate and some unidentified old remnants of the structures. Today, one can just feast the eyes in the greenery of the place and the tweeting of the birds. In addition, the sound of prayers from the Qudsia Mosque within the complex creates a calming effect.