“Qasr-i-Hazar Sutun” – the palace of a thousand pillars built by Ala-ud-din Khilji in Jahanpanah-fourth medieval city of Delhi, no longer exists, but its memories and traces reverberate through time.
The exquisitely carved wooden pillars of the palace could not with stand the vagaries of time, but their traces are embedded in the sands of time. Lying scattered on the ground, near Bijai Mandal, the palace of Muhamamd bin Tughlaq, there is a series of rectangular stone blocks. These are pillar bases present in significant numbers all around the existing halls. These pillar bases have led to the identification of the mystical ‘Hazar Sutun’, the hall of thousand pillars.
Pillar bases-holes in rectangular stone blocks
Excavations conducted in 1934 have revealed wooden pillar bases attributed to the Hazar Sutan Palace.
Debate is still on, that whether the Hazar Sutan Palace cited as existing during Allauddin Khilji’s reign and also during Tugluq’s time are one and the same palace. As of yet there is no conclusive answer. A plausible hypothesis is that the stone hall of the palace was built by Allauddin Khilji while the tower adjoining the stone buildings was surely built by Mohammed bin Tughluq.
Some of the most extensive descriptions of this hall and rest of Mohamed Tughluq’s palace appear in the travelogue of Ibn Battutah-the Moroccan explorer of Berber descent. He is known for his extensive travels, accounts of which were published in the Rihla. As quoted:
“At the time, Muhammad Shah ibn Tughluq was ruling the greatest empire India had known in 800 years (the eponymous “hall” is the hazar sutun, Muhammad Shah’s audience chamber in Delhi)”.
Ibn Battuta spent a few years at Mohd Tughluq’s court and gives a vivid description of everything he sees. Many a stories in his account are set in the public audience hall of Jahanpanah, the Hazar Sutun.
Each pillar of Hazar Sutoon was a mute witness to a trail of blood, treachery, ecstasy, pain, grandeur, happiness, pride, jealousy, anxiety….. entire human emotions.
Hazar Sutun as a testimony of treachery:
Malik Kafur the eunuch of Mubarak Shah Khilji the third son of Ala-ud-din-Khilji, had placed Mubarak in prison in the Hazar Sutun (the palace of a thousand pillars) and tried to blind him.
Anxiety to see the novel Hazaar Sutun:
In 1398, Timurs ladies had visited ‘Hazar Sutun’. As chronicled: “…the ladies of our harem were anxious to see Qasr-i-Hazaar Sutoon. We allowed them to be escorted thither while we proceeded to Ghiyaspur to fulfil our vow to pray besides the tomb of Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya…”
The memory of Tughlaq audience hall (Hazaar Sutun) still lingered in the Mughal period. As exemplified by Abul Fazl who in his description of Sultanate Delhi, upgrades it to a” lofty hall (buland iwani) with a thousand collumns of white marble (hazar sutun az sangiye rukham)”.
(Ain-i- Akbari Volume 1. Persian text)
Abul Fazal’s vivid portrayal of Tughlaq hall may have influences Emperor Shahjahan’s decision to have his hall redone in stone ”made marble with white plaster”.
(Muqarnas: An Annual on Islamic Art and Architecture).
Such anecdotes about the enchanting Hazar Sutun are many, some chronicled, some as folklore. Time may have obliterated Hazar Sutun, but its memories and stories will go on forever.