top of page
Rambles and recollections of an Indian official!
Major-General Sir W. H. Sleeman, K.C.B.
The Old City of Delhi

On the 21st we went on eight miles to the Kutb Mīnār, across the range of sandstone hills, which rise to the height of about two hundred feet, and run north and south. The rocks are for the most part naked, but here and there the soil between them is covered with famished grass, and a few stunted shrubs; anything more unprepossessing can hardly be conceived than the aspect of these hills, which seem to serve no other purpose than to store up heat for the people of the great city of Delhi.

We passed through a cut in this range of hills, made apparently by the stream of the river Jumna at some remote period, and about one hundred yards wide at the entrance. This cut is crossed by an enormous stone wall running north and south, and intended to shut in the waters, and form a lake in the opening beyond it. Along the brow of the precipice, overlooking the northern end of the wall, is the stupendous fort of Tughlakābād, built by the Emperor Tughlak the First[1] of the sandstones of the range of hills on which it stands, cut into enormous square blocks.[2]

On the brow of the opposite side of the precipice, overlooking the southern end of the wall, stands the fort of Muhammadābād, built by this Emperor's son and successor, Muhammad, and resembling in all things that built by his father.[3]

These fortresses overlooked the lake, with the old city of Delhi spread out on the opposite side of it to the west. There is a third fortress upon an isolated hill, east of the great barrier wall, said to have been built in honour of his master by the Emperor Tughlak's barber.[4]

The Emperor's tomb stands upon an isolated rock in the middle of the once lake, now plain, about a mile to the west of the barrier wall. The rock is connected with the western extremity of the northern fortress by a causeway of twenty- five arches, and about one hundred and fifty yards long.

This is a fine tomb, and contains in a square centre room the remains of the Emperor Tughlak, his wife, and his son. The tomb is built of red sandstone, and surmounted by a dome of white marble. The three graves inside are built of brick covered with stucco work. The outer sides of the tomb slope slightly inwards from the base, in the form of a pyramid; but the inner walls are, of course, perpendicular.[5]

The impression left on the mind after going over these stupendous fortifications is that the arts which contribute to the comforts and elegancies of life must have been in a very rude state when they were raised. Domestic architecture must have been wretched in the extreme.

The buildings are all of stone, and almost all without cement, and seem to have been raised by giants, and for giants, whose arms were against everybody, and everybody's arm against them. This was indeed the state of the Pathān sovereigns in India—they were the creatures of their armies; and their armies were also employed against the people, who feared and detested them all.[6]

The Emperor Tughlak, on his return at the head of the army, which he had led into Bengal to chastise some rebellious subjects, was met at Afghānpur by his eldest son, Jūnā, whom he had left in the government of the capital. The prince had in three days raised here a palace of wood for a grand entertainment to do honour to his father's return; and when the Emperor signified his wish to retire, all the courtiers rushed out before him to be in attendance, and among the rest, Jūnā himself.

Five attendants only remained when the Emperor rose from his seat, and at that moment the building fell in and crushed them and their master. Jūnā had been sent at the head of an army into the Deccan, where he collected immense wealth from the plunder of the palaces of princes and the temples of their priests, the only places in which much wealth was to be found in those days. This wealth he tried to conceal from his father, whose death he probably thus contrived, that he might the sooner have the free enjoyment of it with unlimited power.[7]

Only thirty years before, Alā-ud-dīn, returning in the same manner at the head of an army from the Deccan loaded with wealth, murdered the Emperor Fīrōz the Second, the father of his wife, and ascended the throne.[8] Jūnā ascended the throne under the name of Muhammad the Third;[9] and, after the remains of his father had been deposited in the tomb I have described, he passed in great pomp and splendour from the fortress of Tughlakābād, which his father had just then completed, to the city in which the Mīnār stands, with elephants before and behind loaded with gold and silver coins, which were scattered among the crowd, who everywhere hailed him with shouts of joy. The roads were covered with flowers, the houses adorned with the richest stuffs, and the streets resounded with music.

He was a man of great learning, and a great patron of learned men; he was a great founder of churches, had prayers read in them at the prescribed times, and always went to prayers five times a day himself.[10] He was rigidly temperate himself in his habits, and discouraged all intemperance in others. These things secured him panegyrists throughout the empire during the twenty-seven years that he reigned over it, though perhaps he was the most detestable tyrant that ever filled a throne.

He would take his armies out over the most populous and peaceful districts, and hunt down the innocent and unoffending people like wild beasts, and bring home their heads by thousands to hang them on the city gates for his mere amusement. He twice made the whole people of the city of Delhi emigrate with him to Daulatābād in Southern India, which he wished to make the capital, from some foolish fancy; and during the whole of his reign gave evident signs of being in an unsound state of mind.[11]

There was at the time of his father's death a saint at Delhi named Nizāmuddīn Aulia, or the Saint, who was supposed by supernatural means to have driven from Delhi one night in a panic a large army of Moghals under Tarmasharīn, who invaded India from Transoxiana in 1303, and laid close siege to the city of Delhi, in which the Emperor Alā-ud-dīn was shut up without troops to defend himself, his armies being engaged in Southern India.[12]

It is very likely that he did strike this army with a panic by getting some of their leaders assassinated in one night. He was supposed to have the 'dast ul ghaib', or supernatural purse' [literally, 'invisible hand'], as his private expenditure is said to have been more lavish even than that of the Emperor himself, while he had no ostensible source of income whatever.

The Emperor was either jealous of his influence and display, or suspected him of dark crimes, and threatened to humble him when he returned to Delhi. As he approached the city, the friends of the saint, knowing the resolute spirit of the Emperor, urged him to quit the capital, as he had been often heard to say, 'Let me but reach Delhi, and this proud priest shall be humbled'.

The only reply that the saint would ever deign to give from the time the imperial army left Bengal, till it was within one stage of the capital, was 'Dihlī dūr ast'; 'Delhi is still far off'.

This is now become a proverb over the East equivalent to our 'There is many a slip between the cup and the lip'.

It is probable that the saint had some understanding with the son in his plans for the murder of his father; it is possible that his numerous wandering disciples may in reality have been murderers and robbers, and that he could at any time have procured through them the assassination of the Emperor.

The Muhammadan Thugs, or assassins of India, certainly looked upon him as one of the great founders of their system, and used to make pilgrimages to his tomb as such; and, as he came originally from Persia, and is considered by his greatest admirers to have been in his youth a robber, it is not impossible that he may have been originally one of the 'assassins', or disciples of the 'old man of the mountains', and that he may have set up the system of Thuggee in India and derived a great portion of his income from it.[13]

Emperors now prostrate themselves, and aspire to have their bones placed near it [scil. the tomb]. While wandering about the ruins, I remarked to one of the learned men of the place who attended us that it was singular Tughlak's buildings should be so rude compared with those of Iltutmish, who had reigned more than eighty years before him.[14]

'Not at all singular,' said he, 'was he not under the curse of the holy saint Nizām-ud-dīn?'

'And what had the Emperor done to merit the holy man's curse?'

'He had taken by force to employ upon his palaces several of the masons whom the holy man was employing upon a church,' said he.

The Kutb Mīnār was, I think, more beyond my expectations than the Tāj; first, because I had heard less of it; and secondly, because it stands as it were alone in India—there is absolutely no other tower in this Indian empire of ours.[15]

Large pillars have been cut out of single stones, and raised in different parts of India to commemorate the conquests of Hindoo princes, whose names no one was able to discover for several centuries, till an unpretending English gentleman of surprising talents and industry, Mr. James Prinsep, lately brought them to light by mastering the obsolete characters in which they and their deeds had been inscribed upon them.[16]

These pillars would, however, be utterly insignificant were they composed of many stones. The knowledge that they are cut out of single stones, brought from a distant mountain, and raised by the united efforts of multitudes when the mechanical arts were in a rude state, makes us still view them with admiration.[17] But the single majesty of this Mīnār of Kutb-ud-dīn, so grandly conceived, so beautifully proportioned, so chastely embellished, and so exquisitely finished, fills the mind of the spectator with emotions of wonder and delight; without any such aid, he feels that it is among the towers of the earth what the Tāj is among the tombs—something unique of its kind that must ever stand alone in his recollections.[18]

It is said to have taken forty-four years in building, and formed the left of two 'mīnārs' of a mosque. The other 'mīnār' was never raised, but this has been preserved and repaired by the liberality of the British Government.[19]

It is only 242 feet high, and 106 feet in circumference at the base. It is circular, and fluted vertically into twenty-seven semicircular and angular divisions. There are four balconies, supported upon large stone brackets, and surrounded with battlements of richly cut stone, to enable people to walk round the tower with safety. The first is ninety feet from the base, the second fifty feet further up, the third forty further; and the fourth twenty-four feet above the third.

Up to the third balcony, the tower is built of fine, but somewhat ferruginous sandstone, whose surface has become red from exposure to the oxygen of the atmosphere. Up to the first balcony, the flutings are alternately semicircular and angular; in the second story they are all semicircular, and in the third all angular.

From the third balcony to the top, the building is composed chiefly of white marble; and the surface is without the deep flutings. Around the first story there are five horizontal belts of passages from the Korān, engraved in bold relief, and in the Kufic character. In the second story there are four, and in the third three. The ascent is by a spiral staircase within, of three hundred and eighty steps; and there are passages from this staircase to the balconies, with others here and there for the admission of light and air.[20]

A foolish notion has prevailed among some people, over-fond of paradox, that this tower is in reality a Hindoo building, and not, as commonly supposed, a Muhammadan one. Never was paradox supported upon more frail, I might say absurd, foundations.

They are these: 1st, that there is only one Mīnār, whereas there ought to have been two—had the unfinished one been intended as the second, it would not have been, as it really is, larger than the first; 2nd, that other Mīnārs seen in the present day either do not slope inward from the base up at all, or do not slope so much as this.

I tried to trace the origin of this paradox, and I think I found it in a silly old 'munshī' (clerk) in the service of the Emperor. He told me that he believed it was built by a former Hindoo prince for his daughter, who wished to worship the rising sun, and view the waters of the Jumna from the top of it every morning.[21]

There is no other Hindoo building like, or of the same kind as this;[22] the ribbons or belts of passages from the Korān are all in relief; and had they not been originally inserted as they are, the whole surface of the building must have been cut down to throw them out in bold relief.

The slope is the peculiar characteristic of all the architecture of the Pathāns, by whom the church to which this tower belongs was built.[23] Nearly all the arches of the church are still standing in a more or less perfect state, and all correspond in design, proportion, and execution to the tower.

The ruins of the old Hindoo temples about the place, and about every other place in India, are totally different in all three; here they are all exceedingly paltry and insignificant, compared with the church and its tower, and it is evident that it was the intention of the founder to make them appear so to future generations of the faithful, for he has taken care to make his own great work support rather than destroy them, that they might for ever tend to enhance its grandeur.[24]

It is sufficiently clear that the unfinished mīnār was commenced upon too large a scale, and with too small a diminution of the circumference from the base upwards. It is two-fifths larger than the finished tower in circumference, and much more perpendicular. Finding these errors when they had got some thirty feet from the foundation, the founder, Shams-ud-dīn (Īltutmish), began to work anew, and had he lived a little longer, there is no doubt that he would have raised the second tower in its proper place, upon the same scale as the one completed.

His death was followed by several successive revolutions; five sovereigns succeeded each other on the throne of Delhi in ten years.[25] As usual on such occasions, works of peace were suspended, and succeeding sovereigns sought renown in military enterprise rather than in building churches. This church was entire, with the exception of the second mīnār, when Tamerlane invaded India.[26] He took back a model of it with him to Samarkand, together with all the masons he could find at Delhi, and is said to have built a church upon the same plan at that place, before he set out for the invasion of Syria.

The west face of the quadrangle, in which the tower stands, formed the church, which consisted of eleven large arched alcoves, the centre and largest of which contained the pulpit. In size and beauty they seem to have corresponded with the Mīnār, but they are now all in ruins.[27]

In the front of the centre of these alcoves stands the metal pillar of the old Hindoo sovereign of Delhi, Prithī Rāj, across whose temple all the great mosque, of which this tower forms a part, was thrown in triumph. The ruins of these temples he scattered all round the place, and consist of colonnades of stone pillars and pedestals, richly enough carved with human figures, in attitudes rudely and obscenely conceived.

The small pillar is of bronze, or a metal which resembles bronze, and is softer than brass, and of the same form precisely as that of the stone pillar at Eran, on the Bīnā river in Mālwā, upon which stands the figure of Krishna, with the glory around his head.[28]

It is said that this metal pillar was put down through the earth, so as to rest upon the very head of the snake that supports the world; and that the sovereign who made it, and fixed it upon so firm a basis, was told by his spiritual advisers that his dynasty should last as long as the pillar remained where it was. Anxious to see that the pillar was really where the priests supposed it to be, that his posterity might be quite sure of their position, Prithī Rāj had it taken up, and he found the blood and some of the flesh of the snake's head adhering to the bottom.

By this means the charm was broken, and the priests told him that he had destroyed all the hopes of his house by his want of faith in their assurances. I have never met a Hindoo that doubted either that the pillar was really upon this snake's head, or that the king lost his crown by his want of faith in the assurance of his priests.

They all believe that the pillar is still stuck into the head of the great snake, and that no human efforts of the present day could remove it. On my way back to my tents, I asked the old Hindoo officer of my guard, who had gone with me to see the metal pillar, what he thought of the story of the pillar?

'What the people relate about the "kīlī" (pillar) having been stuck into the head of the snake that supports the world, sir, is nothing more than a simple historical fact known to everybody. Is it not so, my brothers?' turning to the Hindoo sipāhīs and followers around us, who all declared that no fact could ever be better established.

'When the Rājā,' continued the old soldier, 'had got the pillar fast into the head of the snake, he was told by his chief priest that his dynasty must now reign over Hindustan for ever.

'"But," said the Rājā, "as all seems to depend upon the pillar being on the head of the snake, we had better see that it is so with our own eyes."

'He ordered it to be taken up; the clergy tried to dissuade him, but all in vain. Up it was taken—the flesh and blood of the snake were found upon it—the pillar was replaced; but a voice was heard saying: "Thy want of faith hath destroyed thee—thy reign must soon end, and with it that of thy race."'

I asked the old soldier from whence the voice came.

He said this was a point that had not, he believed, been quite settled. Some thought it was from the serpent himself below the earth, others that it came from the high priest or some of his clergy.

'Wherever it came from,' said the old man, 'there is no doubt that God decreed the Rājā's fall for his want of faith; and fall he did soon after.'

All our followers concurred in this opinion, and the old man seemed quite delighted to think that he had had an opportunity of delivering his sentiments upon so great a question before so respectable an audience.

The Emperor Shams-ud-dīn Īltutmish is said to have designed this great Muhammadan church at the suggestion of Khwāja Kutb-ud-dīn, a Muhammadan saint from Ūsh in Persia, who was his religious guide and apostle, and died some sixteen years before him.[29]

His tomb is among the ruins of this old city. Pilgrims visit it from all parts of India, and go away persuaded that they shall have all they have asked, provided they have given or promised liberally in a pure spirit of faith in his influence with the Deity. The tomb of the saint is covered with gold brocade, and protected by an awning—those of the Emperors around it he naked and exposed.

Emperors and princes lie all around him; and their tombs are entirely disregarded by the hundreds that daily prostrate themselves before his, and have been doing so for the last six hundred years.[30] Among the rest I saw here the tomb of Mu'azzam, alias Bahādur Shāh, the son and successor of Aurangzēb, and that of the blind old Emperor Shāh Alam, from whom the Honourable Company got their Dīwanī grant.[31]

The grass grows upon the slab that covers the remains of Mu'azzam, the most learned, most pious, and most amiable, l believe, of the crowned descendants of the great Akbar. These kings and princes all try to get a place as near as they can to the remains of such old saints, believing that the ground is more holy than any other, and that they may give them a lift on the day of resurrection.

The heir apparent to the throne of Delhi visited the tomb the same day that I did. He was between sixty and seventy years of age.[32]

I asked some of the attendants of the tomb, on my way back, what he had come to pray for; and was told that no one knew, but every one supposed it was for the death of the Emperor, his father, who was only fifteen years older, and was busily engaged in promoting an intrigue at the instigation of one of his wives, to oust him, and get one of her sons, Mirza Salīm, acknowledged as his successor by the British Government.

It was the Hindoo festival of the Basant,[33] and all the avenues to the tomb of this old saint were crowded when I visited it. Why the Muhammadans crowded to the tomb on a Hindoo holiday I could not ascertain.

The Emperor Īltutmish, who died A.D. 1235, is buried close behind one end of the arched alcove, in a beautiful tomb without its cupola. He built the tomb himself, and left orders that there should be no 'parda' (screen) between him and heaven; and no dome was thrown over the building in consequence. Other great men have done the same, and their tombs look as if their domes had fallen in; they think the way should be left clear for a start on the day of resurrection.[34]

The church is stated to have been added to it by the Emperor Balban, and the Mīnār finished.[35] About the end of the seventeenth century, it was so shaken by an earthquake that the two upper stories fell down. Our Government, when the country came into our possession, undertook to repair these two stories, and entrusted the work to Captain Smith, who built up one of stone, and the other of wood, and completed the repairs in three years. The one was struck by lightning eight or nine years after, and came down. If it was anything like the one that is left, the lightning did well to remove it.[36]

About five years ago, while the Emperor was on a visit to the tomb of Kutb-ud-dīn, a madman got into his private apartments. The servants were ordered to turn him out. On passing the Mīnār he ran in, ascended to the top, stood a few minutes on the verge, laughing at those who were running after him, and made a spring that enabled him to reach the bottom, without touching the sides.

An eye-witness told me that he kept his erect position till about half-way down, when he turned over, and continued to turn till he got to the bottom, when his fall made a report like a gun. He was of course dashed to pieces. About five months ago another fell over by accident, and was dashed to pieces against the sides. A new road has been here cut through the tomb of the Emperor Alā-ud-dīn, who murdered his father-in-law-the first Muhammadan conqueror of Southern India, and his remains have been scattered to the winds.[37]

A very pretty marble tomb, to the west of the alcoves, covers the remains of Imām Mashhadī, the religious guide of the Emperor Akbar; and a magnificent tomb of freestone covers those of his four foster-brothers. This was long occupied as a dwelling-house by the late Mr. Blake, of the Bengal Civil Service, who was lately barbarously murdered at Jaipur.

To make room for his dining-tables he removed the marble slab, which covered the remains of the dead, from the centre of the building, against the urgent remonstrance of the people, and threw it carelessly on one side against the wall, where it now lies.

The people appealed in vain, it is said, to Mr. Fraser, the Governor-General's representative, who was soon after assassinated; and a good many attribute the death of both to this outrage upon the remains of the dead foster-brother of Akbar. Those of Alā-ud-dīn were, no doubt, older and less sensitive. Tombs equally magnificent cover the remains of the other three foster- brothers of Akbar, but I did not enter them.[38]


1. The Sultan, called by the author 'the Emperor Tughlak the First', as being the first of the Tughlak dynasty, was by birth a Karaunīah Turk, named Ghāzī Bēg Tughlak. He assumed the style of Ghiyās-ud-dīn Tughlak Shāh when he seized the throne in A.D. 1320, and he reigned till A.D. 1325.

2. This gigantic fortress is close to the village of Badarpur, about four miles due east of the Kutb Mīnār, and ten or twelve miles south of the modern city. The building of it occupied more than three years, but the whole undertaking 'proved eminently futile, as his son removed his Court to the old city within forty days after his accession.' (Thomas, Chronicles of the Pathān Kings of Delhi, 1871, p. 192.)

The fort is described by Cunningham in A.S.R., vol. i, p. 212, whose description is copied in the guide-books. See also Fanshawe, Delhi Past and Present (John Murray, 1902), p. 288 and plate. That work is cited as 'Fanshawe'.

3. Also called Adilābād. It is described in A.S.R., vol. i, p. 21; Carr Stephen, The Archaeology and Monumental Remains of Delhi, Ludhiana, 1876, p. 98; and Fanshawe, p. 291.

4. 'The Barber's House. This lies to the right of the road from Tughlākābad to Badarpur, and is close to the ruined city. It is said to have been built for Tughlak Shāh's barber about A.D. 1323. It is now a mere ruin.' (Harcourt, The New Guide to Delhi, Allahabad, 1866, p. 88.)

5. This fine tomb was built by Muhammad bin Tughlak (A.D. 1325- 51). It is described by Cunningham in A.S.R., vol. i, p. 213. See also Ann. Rep. A. S., India, 1904-5, p. 19, fig. 11; H.F.A., p. 397, fig. 234; and Fanshawe, p. 290, with plate. Thomas (Chronicles, p. 192) and Cunningham both say that the causeway, or viaduct, has twenty-seven, not only twenty-five, arches, as stated in the text. The causeway is 600 feet in length. The sloping walls are characteristic of the period.

6. The blunder of calling the Sultāns of Delhi by the name Pathān, due to the translators of Firishta's History, has been perpetuated by Thomas's well-known work, The Chronicles of the Pathān Kings of Delhi, and in countless other books.

The name is quite wrong. The only Pathān Sultāns were those of the Lodī dynasty, which immediately preceded Bābur, and those of the Sūr dynasty, the rivals of Bābur's son. 'He (scil. Ghiyās-ud-dīn Balban) was a Turk of the Ilbarī tribe, but compilers of Indian Histories and Gazetteers, and archaeological experts, turn him, like many Turks, Tājzīks, Jāts, and Sayyids, into Pathāns, which is synonymous with Afghan, it being the vitiated Hindī equivalent of Pushtūn, the name by which the people generally known as Afghans call themselves, in their own language. . . . It is quite time to give up Dow and Briggs' Ferishta.' (Raverty, in J.A.S.B., vol. lxi (1892), Part I, p. 164, note.)

7. The murder of Ghiyās-ud-dīn Tughlak by his son Fakhr-ud-dīn Jūnā, also called Ulugh Khān, occurred in the year A.H. 725, which began on 18th December, 1324 (o.s.). The testimony of the contemporary traveller Ibn Batūtā establishes the fact that the fall of the pavilion was premeditated. (Thomas, Chronicles, pp. 187, 189.) The murderer, on his accession to the throne (1325), assumed the style of Muhammad bin Tughlak Shāh.

8. Jalāl-ud-dīn Fīrōz Shāh Khiljī was murdered by his son-in-law and nephew Alā-ud- dīn at Karrā on the Ganges in July, A.D. 1296. The murderer reigned until A.D. 1315 under the title of Alā-ud- dīn Muhammad Shāh, Sikandar Sānī.

9. As already noted, his proper style is Muhammad bin Tughlak Shāh. The word bin means 'son of'. The Sultan is never called 'Muhammad the Third'.

10. A Muhammadan must, if he can, say his prayers with the prescribed forms five times in the twenty-four hours; and on Friday, which is their sabbath, he must, if he can, say three prayers in the church masjid. On other days he may say them where he pleases.

Every prayer must begin with the first chapter of the Korān—this is the grace to every prayer. This said, the person may put in what other prayers of the Korān he pleases, and ask for that which he most wants, as long as it does not injure other Musalmāns. This is the first chapter of the Korān: 'Praise be to God the Lord of all creatures—the most merciful—the King of the day of judgement. Thee do we worship, and of Thee do we beg assistance.

Direct us in the right way—in the way of those to whom Thou hast been gracious; not of those against whom Thou art incensed; nor of those who go astray.' [W. H. S.] The quotation is from Sale's version. The last clause may also be rendered, 'The way of those to whom Thou hast been gracious, against whom Thou art not incensed, and who have not erred,' as Sale points out in his note.

11. This mad tyrant, among other horrible deeds, flayed his nephew alive. He attempted to invade China through the Himālayas, and for three years issued a forced currency of brass and copper, which he vainly tried to make people take as equal in value to silver. Strange to say, he was allowed to reign for nearly twenty-seven years, and to die peacefully in his bed.

The hunts of the 'innocent and unoffending people' were organized rather to gain the benefit of 'sending infidels to hell' than for 'mere amusement'. Daulatābād was the name given by Muhammad bin Tughlak to the ancient fortress of Deogīr (Deogiri, Deoghur), situated about ten miles from Aurangābād, in what is now the Hyderabad State.

12. In the original edition the Moghal leader's name is printed as 'Turmachurn', the Tarmasharīn (with variations in spelling) of Muhammadan authors (see E. and D., iii. 42, 450, 507; v. 485; vi. 222). The name Turghi is given by Thomas, who says he invested Delhi in A.H. 703, corresponding to A.D. 1303-4; and refers to an article in J.A.S.B., vol. xxxv (1866), Part I, pp. 199-218, entitled 'Notes on the History and Topography of the Ancient Cities of Delhi', by O. Campbell. (Chronicles, p. 175, note.) Campbell writes the leader's name as Turghai Khān. Apparently Tarmasharīn was identical with Turghi or Turghai Khān, but I am not sure that he was. The Moghals made several raids during the reign of Alā-ud-dīn Muhammad Shāh.

13. The tomb of Nizām-ud-dīn is further noticed in the next chapter of this work. It is situated in an enclosure which contains other notable tombs. The following extract from the author's Ramaseeana (p. 121) gives additional particulars concerning this saint of questionable sanctity:

'Nizām-ud-dīn Aulia.—A saint of the Sunnī sect of Muhammadans, said to have been a Thug of great note at some period of his life, and his tomb near Delhi is to this day visited as a place of pilgrimage by Thugs, who make votive offerings to it. He is said to have been of the Barsot class, born in the month of Safar [633], Hijrī, March A.D. 1236; died Rabī-ul-awwal, 725, October A.D. 1325. [The months as stated do not correspond.—Ed.]

His tomb is visited by Muhammadan pilgrims from all parts as a place of great sanctity from containing the remains of so holy a man; but the Thugs, both Hindoo and Muhammadan, visit it as containing the remains of the most celebrated Thug of his day.

He was of the Sunnī sect, and those of the Shīa sect find no difficulty in believing that he was a Thug; but those of his own sect will never credit it. There are perhaps no sufficient grounds to pronounce him one of the fraternity; but there are some to suspect that he was so at some period of his life.

The Thugs say he gave it up early in life, but kept others employed in it till late, and derived an income from it; and the 'dast-ul-ghaib', or supernatural purse, with which he was supposed to be endowed, gives a colour to this. His lavish expenditure, so much beyond his ostensible means, gave rise to the belief that he was supplied from above with money.'

The 'old man of the mountains' with whom the author compares Nizām-ud-dīn (or at least the original 'old man of the mountains', Shaikh-ul Jabal), was Hasan-ibn-Sabbāh (or, us- Sabbāh), who founded the sect of so-called Assassins in the mountains on the shores of the Caspian, and flourished from about A.D. 1089 to 1124. Hulākū the Mongol broke the power of the sect in A.D. 1256 (Thatcher, in Encycl. Brit., 11th ed., 1910, s. v. 'Assassin').

14. Shams-ud-dīn Īltutmish, who had been a slave, reigned from A.D. 1210 to 1235. His Turkish name is variously written as Yulteemush, Altamsh, Alitmish, &c. The form Īltutmish is correct (Z.D.M.G., 1907, p. 192). His tomb is discussed post.

15. This is not quite accurate. A similar mīnār, or mosque tower, built in the middle of the thirteenth century, formerly existed at Koil in the Alīgarh district (A.S.R., i. 191), and two mosques at Bayāna in the Bharatpur State, have each only one mīnār, placed outside the courtyard (ibid., vol. iv, p. ix). Chitor in Rajputānā possesses two noble Hindoo towers, one about 80 feet high, erected in connexion with Jain shrines, and the other, about 120 feet high, erected by Kumbha Rānā as a tower or pillar of victory. (Fergusson, Hist. of Indian and Eastern Architecture, ed. 1910, vol. ii, pp. 57-61.)

16. The short life of James Prinsep extended only from August 20, 1799, to April 22, 1840, and practically terminated in 1838, when his brain began to fail from the undue strain caused by incessant and varied activity. His memorable discoveries in archaeology and numismatics are recorded in the seven volumes of the J.A.S.B. for the years 1832-8. His contributions to those volumes were edited by B. Thomas, and republished in 1868 under the title of Essays on Indian Antiquities.

Sir Alexander Cunningham, who was one of Prinsep's fellow workers, gives interesting details of the process by which the discoveries were made, in the Introduction to the first volume of the Reports of the Archaeological Survey. No adequate account of James Prinsep's remarkable career has been published. He was singularly modest and unassuming. A good summary of his life is given in Higginbotham's Men whom India has Known, 2nd ed., Madras, 1874. See also the editor's paper, 'James Prinsep', in East and West, Bombay, July, 1906.

17. The monolith pillars alluded to in the text are chiefly those of the great Emperor Piyadasi, Beloved of the Gods, also known by the name of Asoka. So far from being memorials of a time when 'the mechanical arts were in a rude state', the Asoka columns exhibit the arts of the stone-cutter and sculptor in perfection. They were erected about 242 to 230 B.C., and the inscriptions on them contain a code of moral and religions precepts. They do not commemorate conquests, although the Asoka pillar at Allahabad has been utilized by later sovereigns for the recording of magniloquent inscriptions in praise of their grandeur.

The best-known of the Asoka pillars are the two at Delhi, and the one at Allahabad. Many scholars have devoted themselves to the study of the inscriptions of Asoka, which may be said to form the foundation of authentic Indian history.

The reader interested in the subject should consult Senart, Les Inscriptions de Piyadasi, t. I and II, Paris, 1881, 1886; V. A. Smith, Asoka, the Buddhist Emperor of India, 2nd ed.. Oxford, 1909; and 'The Monolithic Pillars or Columns of Asoka' (Z.D.M.G., 1911, pp. 221-10). See also E.H.I., 3rd ed. (Oxford, 1914), chap. 6, 7, with Bibliography. Certain of the Gupta emperors in the fifth century A.C. also erected monolith pillars. Some of the pillars of the Gupta period commemorate victories; others are merely religious monuments.

18. Fergusson thought the Kutb Mīnār superior to Giotto's campanile at Florence in 'poetry of design and exquisite finish of detail'. He also held it to excel its taller Egyptian rival, the minaret of the mosque of Hasan at Cairo, in its nobler appearance, as well as in design and finish. To sum up, he held the Delhi monument to surpass any building of its class in the whole world. (Hist. of Indian and Eastern Architecture, ed. 1910, vol. ii, p. 206.)

19. Fergusson (ibid.) was mistaken in supposing that the Kutb Mīnār was intended for anything else than a māzina, or tower from which the call to prayers should be proclaimed. It is that and nothing else. Several examples of early mosques with only one mīnār each are known, at Koil and Bayāna, in India, as well as at Ghaznī and Cairo.

The unfinished mīnār of Alāuddīn near the Kutb Mīnār was intended for a distinct building, namely, his addition to the original Kutb mosque. There was no 'other mīnār' connected with the Kutb Mīnār.(Cunningham, A.S.R. iv (1874), p. ix.)

The current name of the Kutb Mīnār refers to the saint Khwāja Kutb-ud-dīn of Ūsh, who lies near the tower, and not to Sultan Kutb-ud-dīn Aibak or Ībak. The mīnār was erected, about A.D. 1232, by Sultan Shams-ud-dīn Īltutmish (V. A. Smith, 'Who Built the Kutb Mīnār?' East and West, Bombay, Dec. 1907, pp. 1200-5; B. N. Munshi, The Kutb Mīnār, Delhi, Bombay, 1911).

All the important monuments at or near Delhi are now carefully conserved, Lord Curzon having organized effective arrangements for the purpose.

20. The original edition gives a coloured plate of the Kutb Mīnār. The total height stated in the text, 242 feet, is said by Fergusson (p. 205, note) to be that ascertained in 1794; the present height of the mīnār, since the modern pavilion on the top has been removed, is 238 feet 1 inch, according to Cunningham. (A.S.R., vol. i, p. 196.) Originally the building was ten, or perhaps twenty, feet higher.

The deep flutings appear to have been suggested by the mīnārs of Mahmūd at Ghaznī, 'which are star polygons in plan, with deeply indented angles'. The Kutb Mīnār was built by Sultan Īltutmish alone about A.D. 1232. The statement in most books, including Fanshawe (pp. 265- 8, with plates), that it was begun by Sultan Kutb-ud- dīn, is erroneous.

21. The notion of the Hindoo origin of the Kutb Mīnār, which the author justly stigmatizes as 'foolish', was taken up by Sir Sayyid Ahmad Khān, the author of an Urdū work on the antiquities of Delhi, and by Sir A. Cunningham's assistant, Mr. Beglar, who wasted a great part of volume iv of the Archaeological Survey Reports in trying to prove the paradox.

His speculations on the subject were conclusively refuted by his chief in the Preface (pp. v-x) of the same volume. The mīnār was built by Hindoo masons, and, in consequence, some of the details, notably its overlapping or corbelled arches, are Hindoo.

22. This is correct. The Hindoo 'towers of victory' are in a totally different style.

23. On the misnomer 'Pathāns', see ante, previous note 6.

24. The Kutb mosque was constructed from the materials of twenty- seven Hindoo temples. The colonnades retain much of their Hindoo character. (Fanshawe, p. 259 and plate.)

25. The author's description of the unfinished tower is far from accurate. The tower was begun, not by Shams-ud-dīn Īltutmish, but by Alā-ud-dīn Muhammad Shāh, in the year A.H. 711 (A.D. 1311). It is about 82 feet in diameter, and when cased with marble, as was intended, would have been at least 85 feet in diameter, or nearly double that of the Kutb Mīnār, which is 48 feet 4 inches.

The total height of the column as it now stands is about 75 feet above the plinth, or 87 feet above the ground level. (A.S.R., vol. i, p. 205; vol. iv, p. 62, pl. vii; Thomas, Chronicles, p. 173, citing original authorities.) Carr Stephen (p. 67) gives the circumference as 254 feet, and the height as about 80 feet.

26. Alā-ud-dīn's additions were never completed. The sack of Delhi by Tīmūr Lang (Tamerlane) took place in December 1398. The Delhi sacked by him was the city known as Fīrōzābād.

27. The glory of the mosque is . . . the great range of arches on the western side, extending north and south for about 385 feet, and consisting of three greater and eight smaller arches; the central one 22 feet wide, and 53 feet high; the larger side-arches, 24 feet 4 inches, and about the same height as the central arch; the smaller arches, which are unfortunately much ruined, are about half these dimensions.'

The great arch 'has since been carefully restored by Government under efficient superintendence, and is now as sound and complete as when first erected. The two great side arches either were never completed, or have fallen down in consequence of the false mode of construction.' (Fergusson, Hist. of I. and E. Archit., ed. 1910, vol. ii, pp. 203, 204). The centre arch bears an inscription dated in A.H. 594, or A.D. 1198 (Thomas, Chronicles, p. 24).

28. Most of the description of the Iron Pillar in the text is erroneous. The pillar has nothing to do with Prithī Rāj, who was slain by the Muhammadans in A.D. 1192 (A.H. 588). The earliest inscription on it records the victories of a Rājā Chandra, probably Chandra-varman, chief of Pokharan in Rājputāna in the fourth century A.C. (E.H.I., 3rd ed., 1914, p. 290, note).

The pillar is by no means 'small' when its material is considered; on the contrary, it is very large. That material is not 'bronze, or a metal which resembles bronze', but is pure malleable iron, as proved by analysis. It has been suggested that this pillar must have been formed by gradually welding pieces together; if so, it has been done very skilfully, since no marks of such welding are to be seen. . . .

The famous iron pillar at the Kutb, near Delhi, indicates an amount of skill in the manipulation of a large mass of wrought iron which has been the marvel of all who have endeavoured to account for it. It is not many years since the production of such a pillar would have been an impossibility in the largest foundries of the world, and even now there are comparatively few where a similar mass of metal could be tumed out. . . .

The total weight must exceed six tons.' (V. Ball, Economic Geology of India, pp. 338, 339.) The metal is uninjured by rust, and the inscription is perfect. An exact facsimile is set up in the Indian Section of the Victoria and Albert Museum at South Kensington, The pillar is shown, with the smaller arches of the mosque, in H.F.A. fig. 232. See also Fanshawe, pp. 260, 264, and plates. The inscription was edited by Fleet (Gupta Inscriptions, 1888, No. 32).

The dimensions of the pillar are as follows: Height above ground (total), 22 ft,; height below ground, 1 ft. 8 in.; diameter at base, 16.4 in.; diameter at the capital, 12.05 in.; height of capital, 3½ ft. At a distance of a few inches below the surface it expands in a bulbous form to a diameter of 2 ft. 4 in., and rests on a gridiron of iron bars, which are fastened with lead into the stone pavement. (A.S.R., vol. iv, p. 28, pl. v.)

This last prosaic fact, established by actual excavation, destroys the basis of all the current local legends and spurious traditions.

29. This name is printed Ouse in the author's text. The saint referred to is the celebrated Kutb-ud-dīn Bakhtyār Kākī, commonly called Kutb Shāh, who died on the 27th of November, A.D. 1235. Īltutmish died in April, A.D. 1236 (Beale).

30. The royal tombs are in the village of Mihraulī, close to the Kutb. See Carr Stephen, op. cit., pp. 180-4, and Fanshawe, pp. 280-4.

31. That is to say, the revenue administration of Bengal, Bihār, and Orissa in 1765.

32. He is now Emperor, having succeeded his father, Akbar Shāh, in 1837. [W. H. S.] He is known as Bahādur Shāh II. In consequence of his having joined the rebels in 1857, he was deposed and banished. He died at Rangoon in 1862, and with him ended the line of Emperors of Delhi. He was born on the 24th of October, 1775, and so was in his sixty-first year when the author met him. His father was about seventy-eight (eighty lunar) years of age at his death.

33. 'Basant' means the spring. The full name of this festival of the spring time is the Basant Panchamī.

34. According to Harcourt (The New Guide to Delhi, 1866), the tomb of Īltutmish was erected by his children, the Sultānas Rukn-ud-dīn and Razīa, who reigned in succession after him for short periods, that is to say, Rukn-ud- dīn Fīrōz Shāh for six months and twenty- eight days, and the Empress Razīa for about three years, from A.D. 1236 to 1239. (See Carr Stephen, p. 73.)

Īltutmish died in April, A.D. 1236, not in 1235. Fergusson observes that this tomb is of special interest as being the oldest Muhammadan tomb known to exist in India. He also remarks (p. 509) that the effect at present is injured by the want of a roof, which, 'judging from appearance, was never completed, if ever commenced'. Harcourt (p. 120) states that 'Fīrōz Shāh, who reigned from A.D. 1351 to A.D. 1385 [sic, 1388], is said to have placed a roof to the building, but it is doubtful if there ever was one, as there are no traces of the same. Cunningham and Carr Stephen (p. 74) both find sufficient evidence remaining to satisfy them that a dome once existed.

Fanshawe (p. 269) says 'that the chamber was intended to be roofed is clear from the remains of the lowest course of a dome on the top of the south wall; but, if it was built for her father by Sultan Raziya, as seems probable, it is quite possible that the dome was never completed'.

The interior, a square of 29½ feet, is beautifully and elaborately decorated, and in wonderful preservation considering its age and the exposure to which it has been subjected. The walls are over seven feet thick, the principal entrance being to the east. The tomb is built of red sandstone and marble; the sarcophagus is in the centre, and is of pale marble.

35. Sultan Ghiyās-ud-dīn Balban reigned from February, A.D. 1266 to 1286. I cannot discover any authority for the statement that he finished the Kutb Mīnār, and 'added the church'. It is not clear which 'church', or mosque, the author refers to. For a notice of Balban's tomb and buildings, see Carr Stephen, pp. 79-81, He certainly did not finish the Kutb Mīnār.

36. See A.S.R., vol. i, p. 199. 'Top of the Kutb Mīnār.—This octagonal stone pavilion was put up in A.D. 1826 over the Mīnār by Major Smith, of the Engineers, who had the superintendence of the repairs of the Kutb, but it was taken down by the order of Government' (Harcourt, The New Guide to Delhi, p. 123). This 'grotesque ornament' was removed in 1848 by order of Lord Hardinge, and bereft of its wooden pavilion, which had carried a flag-staff (Carr Stephen, p. 64; Fanshawe, p. 266). It has now been moved farther and more out of sight.

37. This alleged outrage does not appear to have really occurred. The author seems to have been misinformed about the position of Alā-ud-dīn's tomb, which still exits in the central room of a building, the eastern wall of which is in part identical with the western wall of the extension of the Kutb Mosque, built by Īltutmish (Carr Stephen, op. cit., p. 88). Fanshawe agrees (p. 272).

38. The tomb desecrated by Mr. Blake is on the right of the road leading from the Kutb Mīnār to the village of Mihraulī, and is either that of Adham Khān, whom Akbar put to death in A.D. 1562 for the murder of Shams-ud-dīn Muhammad Atgah Khān, one of the Emperor's foster fathers, or the neighbouring 'family grave enclosure' of his brothers, known as the Chaunsath Khambhā, or Hall of Sixty-four Pillars.

Adham Khān's tomb is still, or was until recently, used as a rest-house (Fanshawe, pp. 14, 228, 242, 256, 278; Carr Stephen, pp. 31, 200, pl. ii). The best-known of the 'kokahs', or foster-brothers, of Akbar is Azīz, the son of Shams-ud-dīn above mentioned. Azīz received the title of Khān-i-Azam (Von Noer, The Emperor Akbar, transl. by Beveridge, vol. i, pp. 78, 95; and Blochmann, Āīn-t-Akbarī, vol. i, pp. 321, 323, &c.).

The young chief of Jaipur died in 1834, and in the course of disturbances which followed, the Political Agent was wounded, and Mr. Blake, his assistant, was killed (D. Boulger, Lord William Bentinck, 'Rulers of India' series, p. 143). I cannot find mention in any authority of Imām Mashhadī. Mr. Fraser's murder has been fully described ante chapter 64.

The book




1893 1915




Annual Fairs held on the Banks of Sacred Streams in India


Hindoo System of Religion


Legend of the Nerbudda River


A Suttee on the Nerbudda


Marriages of Trees—The Tank and the Plantain—Meteors—Rainbows


Hindoo Marriages


The Purveyance System


Religious Sects—Self-government of the Castes—Chimneysweepers—Washerwomen —Elephant Drivers


The Great Iconoclast—Troops routed by Hornets—The Rānī of Garhā—Hornets' Nests in India


The Peasantry and the Land Settlement




The Silver Tree, or 'Kalpa Briksha'—The 'Singhāra', or Trapa bispinosa, and the Guinea-Worm


Thugs and Poisoners


Basaltic Cappings of the Sandstone Hills of Central India—Suspension Bridge—Prospects of the Nerbudda Valley—Deification of a Mortal


Legend of the Sāgar Lake—Paralysis from eating the Grain of the Lathyrus sativus


Suttee Tombs—Insalubrity of deserted Fortresses


Basaltic Cappings—Interview with a Native Chief—A Singular Character


Birds' Nests—Sports of Boyhood


Feeding Pilgrims—Marriage of a Stone with a Shrub


The Men-Tigers


Burning of Deorī by a Freebooter—A Suttee


Interview with the Rājā who marries the Stone to the Shrub—Order of the Moon and the Fish


The Rājā of Orchhā—Murder of his many Ministers


Corn Dealers—Scarcities—Famines in India


Epidemic Diseases—Scape-goat


Artificial Lakes in Bundēlkhand-Hindoo, Greek, and Roman Faith




Pestle-and-Mortar Sugar-Mills—Washing away of the Soil


Interview with the Chiefs of Jhānsī—Disputed Succession


Haunted Villages


Interview with the Rājā of Datiyā—Fiscal Errors of Statesmen—Thieves and Robbers by Profession


Sporting at Datiyā—Fidelity of Followers to their Chiefs in India—Law of Primogeniture wanting among Muhammadans




The Suicide-Relations between Parents and Children in India


Gwālior Plain once the Bed of a Lake—Tameness of Peacocks


Gwālior and its Government


Contest for Empire between the Sons of Shah Jahān


Aurangzēb and Murād Defeat their Father's Army near Ujain


Dārā Marches in Person against his Brothers, and is Defeated


Dārā Retreats towards Lahore—Is robbed by the Jāts—Their Character


Shāh Jahān Imprisoned by his Two Sons, Aurangzēb and Murād


Aurangzēb Throws off the Mask, Imprisons his Brother Murād, and Assumes the Government of the Empire


Aurangzēb Meets Shujā in Bengal, and Defeats him, after Pursuing Dārā to the Hyphasis


Aurangzēb Imprisons his Eldest Son—Shujā and all his Family are Destroyed


Second Defeat and Death of Dārā, and Imprisonment of his Two Sons


Death and Character of Amīr Jumla


Reflections on the Preceding History


The Great Diamond of Kohinūr


Pindhārī System—Character of the Marāthā Administration—Cause of their Dislike to the Paramount Power


Dhōlpur, Capital of the Jāt Chiefs of Gohad—Consequence of Obstacles to the Prosecution of Robbers


Influence of Electricity on Vegetation—Agra and its Buildings


Nūr Jahān, the Aunt of the Empress Nūr Mahal, over whose Remains the Tāj is built


Father Gregory's Notion of the Impediments to Conversion in India—Inability of Europeans to speak Eastern Languages


Fathpur-Sīkrī—The Emperor Akbar's Pilgrimage—Birth of Jahāngīr


Bharatpur—Dīg—Want of Employment for the Military and the Educated Classes under the Company's Rule


Govardhan, the Scene of Kriahna's Dalliance with the Milkmaids




Declining Fertility of the Soil—Popular Notion of the Cause


Concentration of Capital and its Effects


Transit Duties in India—Mode of Collecting them


Peasantry of India attached to no existing Government—Want of Trees in Upper India—Cause and Consequence—Wells and Groves


Public Spirit of the Hindoos—Tree Cultivation and Suggestions for extending it


Cities and Towns, formed by Public Establishments, disappear as Sovereigns and Governors change their Abodes


Murder of Mr. Fraser, and Execution of the Nawāb Shams-ud- dīn


Marriage of a Jāt Chief


Collegiate Endowment of Muhammadan Tombs and Mosques


The Old City of Delhi


New Delhi, or Shāhjahānābād


Indian Police—Its Defects—and their Cause and Remedy


Rent-free Tenures—Right of Government to Resume such Grants


The Station of Meerut—'Atālīs' who Dance and Sing gratuitously for the Benefit of the Poor


Subdivisions of Lands—Want of Gradations of Rank—Taxes


Meerut-Anglo-Indian Society


Pilgrims of India


The Bēgam Sumroo



Abolition of Corporal Punishment—Increase of Pay with Length of Service—Promotion by Seniority


Invalid Establishment


Thuggee and the part taken in its Suppression by General Sir W. H. Sleeman, K.C.B., by Captain J. L. Sleeman

Supplementary Note by the Editor

Additions and Corrections

Maps Showing Author's Route


bottom of page