The name Shah Jahan immediately brings to mind the Taj Mahal, the iconic monument which is a symbol of love and stands tall in all its white glory.
However, very few people know that the same emperor had also built a minaret, which served as his hunting lodge, just a few kilometres away from Delhi. A fascinating aspect of this mostly-ignored minaret is its resemblance to the world-famous Qutub Minar.
About 25 km from the well-manicured lawns of Qutub Minar in New Delhi, where thousands flock every day to look at the UNESCO world heritage site and click pictures, lies what we can call its neglected cousin—the Kaushal Minar, also known as the Hastsal Minar or Chhota Qutub Minar.
The Kaushal Minar is a 17th-century minaret and a mostly unknown heritage site located in the urban village of Hastsal in Uttam Nagar, Delhi.
The village itself used to be a thick forest, abundant with vegetation and wildlife. The lanes where scooters, auto rickshaws and cars struggle to find space, once were ruled by elephants—hence the name, Hastsal (evolved from Hast-Sthal meaning the land of elephants).
Shah Jahan, the Mughal Emperor who ruled Delhi between 1628 and 1658, had used this spot to build a hunting lodge.
The five-storeyed minaret of Kaushal Minar is architecturally similar to the Qutub Minar. It is made of brick masonry and red sandstone, and once featured a domed ‘umbrella’. Today, only three of those five storeys remain. The upper two stories and the domed chhatri are believed to have been ruined in the 18th century but what remains today is not in a good condition either.
Observing this and understanding its importance, the Delhi government is planning to restore it and has taken the minaret under the Phase IV of its project to protect lesser known monuments.
Speaking to the Times of India, an official said, “Our primary focus will be to consolidate the structure because we are concerned that decades of neglect may have weakened the foundation of the minar.”
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The newfound importance given to the Kaushal Minar will surely ensure that it is restored with the help of professional attention. Chemicals will now clean its stonework, which now has gaps, holes and disintegration thanks to centuries of neglect.
Conservationists refrain from recreating missing portions of historical monuments unless they have archival materials, and so, the lost storeys will not be coming back. However, it is heartwarming to see the concern of the government to restore and preserve what they can of the nearly-lost Kaushal Minar.
(Edited by Gayatri Mishra)