Write a letter to the Djinns of Feroz Shah Kotla, and your wishes might come true!
Wait, I’m not kidding. Many of you know or have heard of Feroz Shah Kotla as the cricket stadium where Anil Kumble made a record by taking 10 wickets in a single innings, but there is more to this place, then meets the eye!
Located right next to this famous Feroz Shah Kotla Cricket Stadium, (off Bahadur Shah Zafar Marg) are the ruins of Feroz Shah Kotla. FerozShah Kotla was the imposing citadel of Ferozabad, the ‘Fifth city’ of Delhi. The great builder and Emperor Firoz Shah Tughlaq (1351-88) built the city of Ferozabad with its citadel in 1354.
Djinns are said to be found in these ruins. Every Thursday, one can witness people gather in hundreds, to pray and write letters to the djinns hoping for their wishes to come true. So much so, that the ruins are open for anyone to visit free after 2pm on Thursday. (On other days, the entry fee is a meagre Rs. 5)
According to Islam, Allah made djinns out of smokeless fire before he made humans out of clay. Unlike ghosts, djinns are shapeless beings who can marry and have children. Unlike humans, they are formless and can ‘live’ for centuries. But like humans and ghosts — and unlike farishtey (angels) — they can be bad or moody. Legend has it that when Iblis, a djinn, refused to bow before Adam, Allah cast him out as Shaitan (devil), not unlike Lucifer who was rebuked as Satan.
The main attraction of the citadel is the 13 meters high sandstone Ashokan Pillar on a rubble-built three-tiered pyramidal structure. Firoz Shah Tughlaq brought this 27 tonne pillar to Delhi from Topar in Ambala, where the great Emperor Ashoka erected it. The more interesting story is about ‘How they got it here’? Well, its hard to believe, but at one point of time the Outer Ring Road we know today, was the location of river Yamuna . This pillar was in fact brought by the river, in one piece. But unfortunately broke while being positioned above the structure. Anand over at http://synchroni-cities.blogspot.com/2007/03/minareh-zarreen.html has a great story to tell.
The pillar is similar to the one fixed on the ridge, which was also brought by Firoz Shah. The transportation of both the pillars was done with much care and precautions to avoid any damage. Though made of sandstone, the pillar was so polished that till date it looks as if it is made up of some metal.
There are inscriptions on the Minar, and learned men were brought forward to read them. They could only read the latest ones, in Sanskrit. Some inscription on the pillar are only 250 years old and it is said to mention that Bisal Dev, Chohan, Rai of Sambhal, who came to worship certain idols on the banks of the Sarasvati River, and found this pillar in its present position. But the earliest inscriptions incised on the pillar remained bafflingly unreadable.
What is astounding about this place on a Thursday afternoon or evenings, is that, some people who come here, have been doing so since generations. Their families have come each Thursday and their prayers have been answered. A lady I met said five generations of her family have been coming here and they feel that by doing so, their prayers were herd and their lives are healthy.
There are others sights which one might see here, which can leave you baffled, slightly out of your comfort zone and sometimes down right creepy! Exorcism – is not just for the movies… the djinns here, people believe, help get rid of evil spirits.
With the place, almost resembling a scary movie at times, bats on the ceiling, dark dingy caves with lots of incense sticks burning, letters pinned against the walls and then suddenly a scream. I saw a girl hitting herself with her own hands in this sort of trance like fashion where all I could hear was a faint murmur.I didn’t want to be an uninvited guest, so I left. But as I said before, there are supposed to be good and bad djinns. According to folklore, the bad djinns pray on young women, if young women are left unguarded or especially drying their hair on the roof, it is said that these spirits/djinns tend to haunt them. And the oddest thing, they apparently like sweets! Stories people tell!!
The irony of it all is, as the day ends, and people clear and so do the letters, the cleaning staff of the ruins takes out the letters daily and makes sure the walls are clean for the next day. I just hope the djinns have quick reading skills. Aside from just writing letters, people also stick coins on the walls, this also represents a kind of wish that they make, and hope for it to come true someday!
The main pillar of the chief of djinns called Laat wale baba, (Lat is the Hindi word for pillar) is at the centre of a practice of writing letters to djinns who are supposed to reside here. It seems that the practice of writing to the djinns starts in the late 1970s, when a fakir named Laddoo Shah came and started living in these ruins at the end of the Emergency of 1975-77, a year after the demolitions at the nearby Turkman Gate locality, which had once been part of Firozabad.
Aside from the pillar, there is actually a functioning mosque within the grounds. This is said to be one of the largest mosques of the Tughlaq period. I met the Imam there, and asked him the one question I had since I entered this place, ‘Has anyone really seen a djinn?’. He to my surprise said he had! One day while he was reading the namaz, he saw a couple of people sitting behind and reading it with him. A while later when he looked back he saw that one person sitting in front had gone. He asked the other person who was sitting next to him, where the man went, and to the Imam’s surprise the answer he got was that ‘no one sitting there at all’! The Imam said that good djinns are those who are close to God and want to be closer, hence they live in or around areas where there are mosques.
Other than the djinns, bats, pillars and mosque, there is also a step well or baoli. Located in the centre of the garden, this is a circular baoli with a large underground drain for the water. Though one is not allowed to enter this now (most of these places in the city are chained, due to “accidental” deaths meaning, people accidentally wanting to end their lives! The area where the ruins exist is massive.
The one thing you have to love about old world architecture are the rocks; the way it was constructed, the expanse of the entire location is a visual delight. Even though its in ruins, try and take some time out to see something a little different next to the cricket stadium everyone loves, you might be surprised to see the other side !
(c) Photographs by Ritika Sabharwal