Mehrauli Archeological Park: Delhi's Hidden Gem

 Wally overcame his fear of heights to shimmy along narrow ledges at the Rajon Ki Baoli stepwell in Mehrauli Archeological Park

Wally overcame his fear of heights to shimmy along narrow ledges at the Rajon Ki Baoli stepwell in Mehrauli Archeological Park

An ancient stepwell in the jungle is one of Delhi's lesser-known attractions.

 

Talk about off the beaten path — even our driver had to ask directions to find Mehrauli Archeological Park. But it's a fun adventure, especially the stepwell.

The park lies beyond the Qutb Minar complex and was the site of the first urban settlement in Delhi.

One false step, and you could plummet to almost certain demise.

We drove through a slum, taking a dirt road and arriving at Rajon Ki Baoli, a stepwell built by Dalat Khan during the reign of Sikander Lodi in 1516.

 

 Duke at the Rajon Ki Baoli stepwell in Mehrauli Archeological Park

Duke at the Rajon Ki Baoli stepwell in Mehrauli Archeological Park

Rajon Ki Baoli

The remains of ancient hydraulic systems, stepwells were of special importance as a source of water, a place to socialize and provide relief during extreme summer heat.

 Wally in the mosque atop the stepwell

Wally in the mosque atop the stepwell

We stepped into the cool recess of one of the porticoes located near the perimeter ledge and made our ascent up a pitch-black, narrow flight of stairs, the walls smoothened from the passing of a thousand hands. We arrived at a landing, which included a small, elevated tomb and mosque. Its inner walls contained marks of vandalism etched into the walls.

Warning: If you suffer from vertigo, like Wally, you could be at risk here. There aren't any guardrails, and some of the paths are narrow. One false step, and you could plummet to almost certain demise.

 

Jamali-Kamali Mosque

After we visited the stepwell, our driver took us to the Jamali-Kamali Mosque. Local lore holds that banished djinn haunt the mosque and converse with passersby in animal voices.

There's not a lot to see here. But two security guards unlocked an iron gate and led us to a rooftop courtyard, which included a mausoleum ornamented with the remains of cobalt blue-colored tile and some unmarked cenotaphs.

After we had a good look around, they led us back out, and we realized they were expecting baksheesh (a tip) as a reward.

 

Metcalf's Canopy

Built in 1850 by Charles Metcalf as an architectural folly — an ornamental structure intended to look old — Metcalf's Canopy sits atop a small grassy hill and overlooks the Jamali-Kamali Mosque.

While here we saw a couple being filmed. We didn't know if it was a scene from a Bollywood movie or an elaborate engagement video. 

Another highlight: We saw three puppies pile together to bask in the sunlight and take an afternoon nap. –Duke

Local lore holds that banished djinn haunt the mosque and converse with passersby in animal voices.