A Walk Around Kotla Firoz Shah

In the mid 14th century, when Firoz Shah Tughlaq ascended the throne of Delhi, he (like many of his predecessors and successors) decided to leave his mark by building his own city, Firozabad, with its accompanying citadel. Little remains of Firozabad the city. This is largely because two subsequent cities were built – Sher Shah’s capital in the 16th century and Shahjahanabad in the 17th, overlapping or closely adjoining its boundaries on the south and north respectively. Firozabad’s buildings were consequently broken up to supply building materials for these new cities. Only a few structures survived: the more important ones being the Kalan Masjid which fell within the walls of Shahjahanabad, and the citadel (Firoz Shah Kotla) and its prominent buildings. Also known as Kushak-e-Firoz, Firoz Shah Kotla was built in 1354 and lay along the banks of the river Yamuna (the river has since changed its course eastwards). The main palaces held pride of place along the riverfront, to which a flight of stairs led down. All around were enclosing walls (parts of which are still there), 15m high and pierced by a double row of arrow slits, with circular bastions at the corners. You can still see the ruins of the palaces, pillared halls, mosques, a pigeon-tower and a baoli (stepwell) in the citadel. Sometime in the twentieth century (according to one source, only in the 1970s) this fortress developed a curious reputation as the abode of spirits to whom petitions could be addressed, and who had to be appeased. Every Thursday hundreds of local people from the neighbourhood come to offer milk and grain, light candles and incense, and leave little strips of thread or coloured cloth, often with petitions scribbled on bits of paper, at various places within the complex.

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