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May 19th, 2012

Cycling (vicariously) through Old Delhi

A few weeks ago, in my review blog, I featured a guest post from a Twitter friend of mine –  it was a review of a restaurant and his mouth-watering tweets caught my eye, and he kindly agreed to be a guest blogger for me.  This week, @alltough shares with us a cycle ride he took at dawn through the streets of Old Delhi, in search of an ancient tomb.

Which he found.

But I musn’t spoil the tale.

Read on, oh armchair cyclists !

5.25 am. Getting ready for a long cycling ride to Old Delhi and to the banks of the Yamuna to see a wrestling match at an Akhada.

At the entrance of Delhi’s sixth city, built by Sher Shah Suri in the 15th C. Two dogs, a lone elephant and my bicycle.

6.06 am. Paying homage to the Purana Qila on cycle. This is where Emperor Humayun slipped from his library steps & died

When Delhi sleeps, @alltough is rising, shining and pedalling on its empty streets. You may sleep & let me conquer it.

Though known as Kabuli Darwaza as it faced Afghanistan, it is popularly known as Khooni (Bloody) Gate for a reason.

During the revolt of 1857, Captain Hudson shot 2 sons & a grandson of the Last Mughal Emperor near these gates in front of a gathered crowd.

This lone monument on the road is barricaded in a steely boring garb because the modern day Indian will occupy it.

Read the story of Khooni Darwaza’s bloody past in Hindi here:


Entering the last Mughal city of Shahjanabad through the historic Delhi Gates in search of Razia Sultana’s tomb.


Not through the gates (as they are barricaded) but from the boring roads on the sides. nothing looks as old as it should be. time builds up.

(Graphic image) when you see the way raw food is transported, you will become a vegetarian for life.


Says he is 18, his boss says he is 28. God knows who is baking biscuits for old Delhi. This place smells delicious


Connected in a heap of wires, a bylane, where I am told I will find Razia’s modest tomb. Ammi shares her name with her.



I am on a wild goose chase, being sent in all kinds of directions. This brave queen and her elusive tomb eludes me.

Asked to up a steep incline. It is very quiet here except for the hum of air coolers. Let’s see where this leads.

If you die here I wonder how they carry the coffin out of here or a stretcher to come in. This is Old Delhi’s lanes.


A mongoose on the way. I think I am getting closer to her tomb. Even Dharavi in Bombay does not have lanes like these.


Hallelujah! I found the tomb of the great Razia Sultana, daughter of Iltutmish, who ruled from 1236 – 1240 AD.


So the ASI has not barricaded it yet, Razia Sultana’s tomb is a living monument. An unknown man sleeps in the corner.


This is a bit freaky, the mongoose is hovering around me and the tomb. It looks me in the eye and surreptitiously runs behind the tomb.

After over a year of being in Delhi and coming to Old Delhi so many times, this is the first time I have managed to find her grave. Amen

Razia Sultana died in a battle fighting a rebellion spearheaded by her own brother Muizzuddin Bahram Shah who took over


Just to give you context, it was Razia Sultana’s father, Sultan Iltutmish, who built the towering Qutub Minar we see today in South Delhi.

One tomb we know, three we don’t, and if you look closer, you will spot my bicycle posing outside the tiny gate.


A modern day appliance of comfort looks rather incongruous & occupational in a 12th century ruin. But pigeons add life


Look at the artistry on these Old Delhi balconies. Please, someone take notice, fund this and preserve this design.


For Razia Sultana’s tomb, come to Turkman Gate and ask for directions to Bulbuli Khana. Walk up a steep incline through a narrow alley.

A rather nice door if it wasn’t for the coat of paint on it. Someone commission me to do a book on doors of Delhi.


Old Delhi wakes up. The sounds, the sounds, the sounds, this is where you come to fine tune your ear drums.


At the tomb of the great Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, the Indian Muslim who opposed the Partition of this country in 1947.


Sorry folks, battery almost dead. There is much to see but there won’t be any live-tweeting. See you online later in the afternoon.

I will now take permission to part with you, for now, with this glimpse of the majestic Jama Masjid built in 1640s AD.


Can’t help but sap the last of the battery. Sadly, the door to this small masjid is locked in Chawri Bazaar. Next time.

The good folks at Karim’s let me charge my phone while I dipped into their Nihari gravy, leaving the meat out, with 2 giant tandoori rotis.


10.30 am. Back home. Exhausted. Exhilarated. Had left home at 5.30 am. Five hours of pure pleasure pedalling on the smooth roads of Delhi.


Now, wasn’t that fun ?  As he live-tweeted them, @alltough‘s descriptions were so vivid, I for one, felt as though I had done the 5 hour exciting trip with him.

I must go visit Razia Sultana’s tomb, now that the groundwork has so kindly been done.

And I can’t wait for the next Twitter trip through Delhi.

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