Special Reports

Qudsia Bagh to become Aggarwal Park!

By Firoz Bakht Ahmed

As Delhi’s famous Qudsia Bagh is going to be named “MM Aggarwal Park” (thanks to the MCD commissioner), a lot of ill-will has been created among the connoisseurs of history and lovers of this old-time wonderful garden built in 1748 by Qudsia Begum,  wife of the Mughal king Mohammed Shah Rangila. The garden has been recorded as a protected monument in the  ASI records as per the list of eminent historian Hasan Zafar (volume II, p. 295, No. 11).

Qudsia mosque inside the garden

History must not change and changing the names of historic places is a dangerous game that stinks of communal bias. Tomorrow, the Muslims of "Bara Hindu Rao" area might coax the MCD to change the name of their locality to "Bara Muslim Rao" as they are in a majority there. "Such a malicious thought process must stop as it will mar the otherwise fraternal and beautiful relations between the two communities," states Vinod Dua, a media critic.

Some Residents Welfare Association approached the MCD commissioner, who without any concern over the repercussions of this act of renaming a historical garden, reassured that the name would be altered after the committee meeting sometime this month (October).

Enchroachment inside the protected area

Built at the Delhi ISBT (Inter State Bus Terminus) near Kashmiri Gate and just adjacent to the western edge of the present Yamuna Marg, Qudsia Bagh used to be the rendezvous of the Mughal royals who used to come here during the evenings accompanied by their begums who used to come in palanquins. The garden is set in a typical Persian Charbagh style. The only remains of the Bagh are its imposing western gateway, the Qudsia Mosque and a couple of pavilions in carved sandstone. There used to be waterways and a huge palace apart from other buildings in this almost 50-acre area of green lung. Its impressive gateway is a really huge structure measuring 20.7 meters north to south and 13.25 m east to west. There are 4.9 m wide arched openings in the east and west sides and flanking chambers on both sides. The roof is made of Lakhori bricks. The Qudsia mosque was built by Qudsia Mahal Begum, also known as Adham Bai, also in 1748 in her garden enclosed by a wall and had a grand palace facing the river front. She was a fairly wise woman who advised otherwise a hedonist Mohammed Shah.

Entrance

A connoisseur of history will appreciate the niches, floral patters, battlements on parapet and domed roof. There are onion-shaped domes on the top of the Qudsia mosque. On each dome a carved lotus is clearly visible. The Qudsia Mosque was the private mosque of the emperor and his wife, and had been built in a very simple style surmounted by three-storied high walls. It was destroyed during the 1857 war. The gateway and the mosque were recently restored by the ASI. There is a pavilion which was used for lodging by the royal families, known as the Barahdari. During the Mutiny of 1857, the British camped here and fired cannons at the three-storeyed high wall to kill the revolutionaries. They also damaged the walls of Qudsia Bagh. British-style of architecture is reflected in the Barahdari, built with lakhori bricks, which is much thinner and finer than what we see today. The name Barahdari was given because it had twelve doors. Qudsia had also constructed a moat around the palace in order to prevent enemies from crossing the river. The premises also has a small cottage made by a British officer known as Smith. There’s also a very impressive water tank built in the Mughal ambience known as Vuzukhana, meaning a place for ablutions. There was a time when this entire area was known for jackal hunting as in those days the Barahkhamba monument was known for fox hunting by the Englishmen.

Taj Mohammed, the councillor from Mustafabad, Nehru Vihar piques, "The MCD is going to deprive us of even the names of our monuments. No body objected when one “Masonic Club” was established without the proper permission of the ASI and other concerned authorities. The rich and affluent come here to be massaged and relieved of the day’s stress. Illegal buildings have also found a place here as the one by CPWD, complains Mahmood Zia, another councillor from Jama Masjid.

Just across the “protected” monument, we find the stinking Maharaja Lal Lane that has been used as a dumping ground by the residents of the nearby Civil Lines residents. Maulana Naseer Ahmed, the Imam of the Qudsiya mosque who has been leading the prayers here for the last 25 years told us that prior to him his elder brother was the Imam for 31 years. He complained that the entire Qudsiya Bagh is a protected monument and so many new structures, especially the Masonic Club for the entertainment of the generation X, the lawn tennis courts, the PWD offices etc are all illegal structures as according to the ASI regulations no new structure must come up within 200 meters of a protected monument.

M Atyab Siddiqui,  a legal expert who had fought PILs to save many Delhi monuments, said that even earlier historic names have been changed and since no one had objected, the process continues as in the case of "Phatak Habash Khan", the chemical market in old Delhi’s spice bazaar, Khari Baoli, that had been changed to "Tilak Bazaar". If other personalities are to be honoured, historic names shouldn’t be sacrificed for that, he said.

Even during the time of the NDA government, efforts were made to turn Lucknow into "Lucknauti", Aligarh into "Harigarh" and Ahmedabad into "Amdavad" besides many other examples. This is undemocratic, says Aziz Burney, editor of the Rashtriya Sahara Urdu daily.

Councillor Taj Mohammed says that the MCD authorities’s move might end up in communal conflagration and the news has reached almost all the communally sensitive areas throughout the capital and beyond.

The author is an activist and a community worker who may be contacted at

This article appeared in The Milli Gazette print issue of 16-31 October 2009 on page no. 17

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