Have you watched a horror movie? Every scene gives a feel of a thriller waiting beneath the surface. There’s a breeze, a rustle, the sound of footsteps, a fleeting movement and then some paranormal activity. All the while, the music builds a crescendo till you can take it no more. The breathing gets heavier, you cover your eyes or hold onto the edges of your seats. Immersed in its viewing, you believe it could happen to you. Once it’s over, it’s a sigh of relief and you thank god you’re not stuck in some spooky place where mysteries are embedded in its foundation. While reading about the Bhuli Bhatiyari Mahal, I came across a number of articles that have listed this hunting lodge as haunted. Is it? I set out to explore on my own.
Pocketed between the bustling Jhandewalan Road and Vandemataram Marg, lies a narrow lane that escapes from the maddening crowd into the woods. With the Central Ridge forest on either side, the rather quiet road leads on till we reach the Mahal on the right. All is serene except for the chirping of the birds. Standing secluded in the shadows of the bygone era, the Bhuli Bhatiyari Mahal tells its own tale of yesteryears.
History of the Mystery
The era of Sultan Firuz Shah Tughlaq saw the construction of many hunting lodges. Since a major part of Delhi was blanketed with forests in the 14th Century, hunting was a recreational activity. Bhuli Bhatiyari was a Shikargah or a hunting lodge where the Sultan would rest for days during his expeditions with his entourage. Other Shikhargahs like the Malcha Mahal in Chanakyapuri and Kushk-i-Shikar or Kushak Mahal in Teen Murti Bhavan that still exist, were built during his reign as well.
Built with the red quartzite stone from the Aravalis and using rubble masonry, the Mahal is an archetype of the architecture of that time.The entry gate opens to a rectangular courtyard with low-ceiling and small rooms along the inner walls. On one end, the stairs in the courtyard lead up to another smaller courtyard. Under the Archeological Survey of India, restoration work is underway. An embankment (Bund) fortifies the entire monument. However, a few portions lie dismantled and the workers are working to uplift the place.
Like the verbal game of Chinese Whispers, the story of Bhuli Bhatiyari has been passed on through years and have their own versions as to how the Mahal got its name. One story goes that Firuz Shah during one of his hunting expeditions was thirsty. The parched Sultan looked around till his eyes fell on a beautiful girl carrying a pot of water. Belonging to the Rajasthani Bhatiyari tribe, she had herself lost her way. He requested her to quench his thirst and once she did, he gifted her the shikargah which later became an inn or sarai for weary travelers.The name Bhuli Bhatiyari then means, ‘the palace of the lost Bhatiyari’. Another version states that the monument derived its name from Bu-Ali Bhatti, the caretaker of this monument when it was built.
Haunted or not?
I strolled leisurely, soaking in the ambiance of the Mahal. Resting on its boundary walls, I looked deep into the forests of the Ridge. Tales of paranormal activity and ghost murmurs, flash through my mind.The secluded Mahal could well be a haunted place. As I questioned the guard on this, he shakes his head disapprovingly and assures me all is safe. He has been guarding the property for more than a year and he has never heard or seen anything uncanny.
What happened in the times of yore will be dusted with layers of ambiguity and we will never know for sure. Who did this belong to? A gypsy girl or a caretaker? Why was it ever haunted? This place that has rested many a tired traveler lies barren today with very few visitors. In the numerous places that I have visited in my project “Dilli ki Dibbi”, this one gives me ample time to sit and ponder about our monuments that are getting lost in time. We do not have enough sources to study nor the evidence to back the myths attached to them. I am not a historian but this project encourages me to search more and chronicle all that I can find. How time changes people, places, and situations! With the restoration work in progress, the fresh look will hopefully change the mindset of people and it will once again be filled with the chit chatter that must have reverberated its walls many years ago. It had happened in Chor Minar which I visited a few days ago too. With these happy thoughts, I gave the Mahal one last look and drove away.
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