Tag: heritage

Hast Minar – A Mughal Site Struggling for Its Existence

Once bustling with the presence of Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan, an unfortunate Mughal era structure is today desperately waiting for its upheaval. Famous as Chota Qutub Minar, this historical site is situated in Hastsal Village in Delhi’s Uttam Nagar.

Its original name is Hast Minar. Made with brick and red sandstone, this Mughal era building is also known as Kaushal Minar. It is quite astonishing that this has been completely forgotten. I, myself, got to know about it recently.

Shah Jahan commissioned Hast Minar’s construction as his hunting lodge in the 17th century. That time, it was a five-storey building with internal stairway leading to the chhatri (dome-shaped pavilions) at the top. But with the passage of the time, now only three storeys have remained. For this, much of the blame goes to government negligence.

Two-wheeler or walking is the best bet to reach here. If you plan visiting this place by car then you will have to park it to a safer place, which is quite difficult to find. Reason being, the way proceeding to the minar is too narrow. 

After entering the minar, I had huge disappointment with the view. All efforts in crossing the narrow lanes only to cover this minar instantly went in vain. How can such a historical site be consigned to oblivion?

The surrounding dense population has become a serious threat for its existence. Few years back, Delhi government’s archaeology department took the responsibility of its restoration. However, that does not seem to make much difference to its plight. Iron poles have been erected all around it. At present, the minar is acting like a shelter for pigeons and chickens. In addition, people living nearby have made it a dumping ground.
In such conditions, how can one believe it to be related to Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan? The sheer government indifference and locals’ careless attitude have made the minar sustaining itself quite difficult. The Hast Minar, which once used to be Mughals’ one of the favourite recreational sites, today is waiting for urgent attention.

वजूद के लिए संघर्षरत ऐतिहासिक हस्त मीनार 

कभी मुग़ल बादशाह शाहजहां की मौजूदगी से आबाद ये इमारत आज अपने कायापलट के लिए तरसती नज़र आती है। छोटा क़ुतुब मीनार के नाम से मशहूर ये ईमारत दिल्ली के उत्तम नगर के हस्तसाल गांव में मौजूद है।

हालाँकि इसका वास्तविक नाम हस्त मीनार है। ईंट और रेड सैंडस्टोन से बनी इस मुग़ल कालीन इमारत को कौशल मीनार के नाम से भी जाना जाता है। हैरानी की बात है कि इस ऐतिहासिक इमारत को आज बिलकुल भुला दिया गया है। खुद मुझे इसके बारे में हाल ही में पता चला है।

17 वी  सदी में शाहजहां ने इसे अपने शिकार गाह के तौर पर बनवाया। उस वक़्त इसमें 5 मंज़िले थी और सबसे ऊपर एक छतरी भी।  लेकिन कुछ तो समय के साथ और उससे कहीं ज़्यादा प्रशासनिक अनदेखी के चलते आज इसकी 3 मंज़िले ही रह गई हैं।

यहाँ अगर पहुंचना है तो कार को थोड़ी दूर पार्क करना होगा। वैसे इसके लिए टू व्हीलर या पैदल चलना ही बेहतर है। वजह मीनार की ओर जा रहे रास्ते में बेहद संकरी गलियां होना।

मीनार के अंदर पहुंचकर वहां के नज़ारे से बेहद मायूसी हुई। तंग गलियों को पार कर यहाँ पहुँचने में जितने ऍफ़र्ट्स लगाए, वो सब बेकार लगने लगे। कोई भला कैसे ऐसी ऐतिहासिक इमारत को उपेक्षित रख सकता है?

आस पास की घनी रिहाइश इसके अस्तित्व के लिए एक खतरा बन चुकी है। हालाँकि कुछ साल पहले दिल्ली सरकार का आर्किओलॉजी डिपार्टमेंट इसकी रेस्टोरेशन का ज़िम्मा ले चुका है।
सरंक्षण के नाम पर मीनार को सपोर्ट देने के लिए लोहे के खम्बे लगाएं गयें हैं। फ़िलहाल तो ये मीनार कबूतरों और मुर्गियों की पनाहगार बनी हुई है। उस पर यहाँ के लोगों ने इसे नुकसान पहुँचाने में कोई कसर नहीं छोड़ी है। मीनार में मौजूद कचरे का ढेर इसकी तसदीक कर रहा था।
ऐसे में भला कोई कैसे यकीन करे कि ये इमारत मुग़ल बादशह शाहजहाँ की देन है। सुस्त प्रशासन और लोगों की लापरवाही ने इसके अस्तित्व को चोट पहुंचने में कोई कसर नहीं छोड़ी है। एक ज़माने में मुग़लिया सल्तनत की चकाचौंध से रोशन ये हस्त मीनार आज सरकार की मेहरबानी की मोहताज है।

Getting Back to My Roots

I remember visiting my native place in Uttarakhand in 1998. It was my distant cousin’s wedding. Since then, I never seriously thought of going there. Gradually, the cosy lifestyle of this city dweller overpowered that thought.

Such houses are a common sight in my village

I always felt nostalgia for my village. For, it was the place where I had spent many beautiful moments of my life. But the availability of very limited basic amenities discouraged me to consider the very idea of visiting it.

A house on way to my home

It was in November 2019 when I had to rush to my village due to my mother’s sudden illness. At that time, my parents were staying there for the reconstruction of our old house.  

The beautiful flowers seemed like welcoming me

The place brought me back to those beautiful days of my life. I could see many changes but what actually struck me was the fresh air and clean sky – a rarity in cities like Delhi.

Early mornings can never be as perfect as this one

Morning bloom

I still cherish those childhood memories when I, with my siblings, used to roam around the entire village and have unlimited fun. Like other houses in the village, ours, too, bore a traditional look.

My ancestral house in a dilapidated condition

Few years ago, it collapsed and now has been replaced by a new house – a concrete one. Still, there are traditionally-built houses in the village but the sign of modernisation can be easily felt. Now, villagers prefer concrete houses over traditional ones as they require less time, efforts and money. Moreover, they are easy to maintain. The architecture of Uttarakhand is based on locally and easily available materials like stone, clay and wood. It represents the rich cultural heritage of the state. That’s why, I believe this trend of concrete houses should be the reason for concern seeing Uttarakhand’s distinctive heritage.

A traditional house in neighbourhood

Once reaching there, I did not leave a single chance to explore things around my village. After having tea at my uncle’s house, I went on to discover the surroundings.

A usual day in the village

On my way back, I met a lady who was returning after collecting fodder for her cattle from fields. She invited me to her house. Both of us along with her husband had a fantastic conversation over tea. After some time, I took their leave and came back.

The hospitable couple

But perhaps, I was not done yet. So, I went on meeting people in my neighbourhood. The usual busy urban routine hardly allows us to think about life’s other beautiful aspects. I had this realisation while visiting these naïve people.

Happy in their own world

The generosity of the village people touched me. I found them to be simple and affable. It came to me as a big surprise that they are happy in their own world, caring little about the superfluous things. One may think of them being complacent but I will definitely call them contented people.

Village people have their own extraordinary charm

The simple life of a village, however, comes with many challenges. Living in a rural area with few basic facilities is really a tough deal. Water scarcity is still a huge challenge here. There are many households which have piped water supply in their houses. Others fetch water from hand pumps or water tanks (locally called diggi) which are almost 1 km from the village. Humongous task indeed!

Villagers store water in all possible ways

Migration is another huge problem here. Most of the houses in this village are either abandoned or occupied by older people. In my case, my grandfather and father left this village owing to their respective jobs in Delhi. Eventually, they permanently settled there. Therefore, my siblings and I had our upbringing in Delhi only. So, we never really had that much connection to this place except from attending few family events and spending some school holidays.

An abandoned house after its only occupant died few years ago

Once farming used to be a major source of livelihood in this village. But with the passage of time, people moved to big cities desiring a comfortable and prosperous life. Villagers here grow few grains, vegetables and fruits for their basic needs. But the constant threat of monkeys and langurs often result in the destruction of their crop. Today, almost all vegetables, fruits, etc. here come from other states.

Farm animals are still an integral part of the village

Another challenge which I personally experienced here is the limited transport options. Usually, sumo jeeps are easily available in every 15-20 minutes but getting them on public holidays can be a reason for inconvenience. However, efforts towards the overall development of this village are on.

Solar lights have proven to be a big help for villagers

A government school in the village

The place proved to be a perfect retreat for me from a mundane city life. Summers here are not too hot, whereas winter season is extra cold.

Nights here are equally amazing

The mesmerising beauty of this place is something to be experienced. Seeing people living such a simple life gave me many valuable life lessons. I can say that I have imbibed little bit of their qualities towards leading a less complicated life.

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