Away from the chaotic traffic and behind the towering Hanuman statue in Jhandewalan lies the forgotten Bhuli Bhatiyari ka Mahal. An uphill walk leads one to the 14th Century hunting lodge, recently conserved by the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH), Delhi.
“We began work here in May-June last year and finished it in eight months. The area was covered in dense undergrowth. When we removed it, we realised that the monument was quite damaged. The stones were displaced… so we had to retrieve the monument,” said Ajay Kumar, director (projects), INTACH.
It’s one of the many hunting lodges built by Firoz Shah Tughlaq, who ruled Delhi between 1351 and 1388. INTACH (Delhi) convener Swapna Liddle said, “He built hunting lodges at several places — Peer Ghaib near Hindu Rao Hospital, Malcha Mahal, one near Mahipalpur, one near Teen Murti grounds, and Bhuli Bhatiyari ka Mahal.”
A metal gate, recently installed at the entrance, opens into a square courtyard, with enclosures on either side; and up a flight of stairs is a small courtyard. “The walls were a mess, we had to use mild ammonia to clean them… there were also creepers that had completely taken over the main boundary wall. Also, missing portions of the floor had to be fixed,” said Kumar.
The word “haunted” finds itself on a board that names the monument. According to Kumar, the “haunted” label is attached to certain monuments to “discourage anti-social elements from visiting, encroaching or vandalising”. Inside the monument, its walls are covered with distasteful graffiti — mostly names of lovers and friends engraved.
There is some ambiguity about how the hunting lodge came to be known as Bhuli Bhatiyari ka Mahal. Sair-ul Manazil by Sangin Beg mentions that “…in various history books this has been described as the palace of Deval Rani, whose tale is famous.”
A list of monuments compiled by Maulvi Zafar Hasan in the early 1900s states that “…the palace is known to have been occupied by one Bu Ali Bhatti, after whom it was called Bu Ali Bhatti ka Mahal.”
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