The tomb of Nasiruddin Mahmud, eldest son of Iltutmish, is arguably the first monumental islamic tomb to have been constructed on Indian soil. Tucked away from public view, barely a hundred meters off the Mehrauli Mahipalpur Road, this monument is a splendid example of early sultanate architecture in Delhi. It was constructed around 1231 AD, on a site that was probably occupied by a temple. Numerous architectural elements (including columns and lintels) originally belonging to the temple were used in its construction. The presence of an octagonal crypt serving as the tomb chamber throws open the possibility of a part of of the temple’s original spatial layout being appropriated and integrated into the new structure.
This heritage walk focused on exploring these numerous questions that this unique monument throws open. Having been repaired in the mid 1300s by Firoz Shah Tughlaq, this structure has a richly layered architectural history. Here’s the walk description below:
“Tombs are perhaps some of the most commonly found structures of medieval Islamic architecture in India. Across the subcontinent, we find magnificent examples of monumental funerary structures, erected in the memory of the departed. Tomb architecture greatly evolved through the Sultanate and Mughal periods, producing jewels such as the Tomb of Humayun in Delhi or the Tomb of Sher Shah Suri at Sasaram, and reaching its peak, one may say, with the celebrated Taj Mahal at Agra.
The evolution of tomb architecture in India, however, had very humble beginnings. The earliest monumental Islamic tomb on Indian soil was erected in Delhi by Iltutmish, a few miles away from Qila Raipithora, the fortress of the early Sultans. The tomb, popularly known as Sultan Ghari, is that of Nasiruddin Mahmud, the eldest son of Iltutmish, who died in battle while attempting to conquer Lakhnauti in modern Bengal. Constructed in 1231 AD, this structure stands today as one of the most splendid and architecturally significant examples of early Sultanate tomb building. It is also one of the very few surviving Islamic monuments constructed in India before the ‘true arch’ became a common structural device.
Drawing upon the related theoretical framework and historical context, this walk will take participants on an architectural journey to the modest beginnings of tomb building in the country. It will also explore the ruins of a village that had emerged around this tomb, including the remains of what are believed to be the oldest surviving examples of residential architecture in Delhi.”
And here are a few glimpses of the walk: