Modern Indian History-Events and Personalities

Anti-encroachment drive in historic city of Mehrauli


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Mehrauli

Mains level: History of Delhi


The Delhi Development Authority (DDA) carried out an anti-encroachment drive in the nearby villages of Mehrauli and Ladha Sarai leaving hundreds of families in uncertainty about their future.

History of Delhi

  • Purani Dilli, commonly referred to as Old Delhi, is a misnomer as the city’s history dates back to before the establishment of Shahjahanabad.
  • The oldest evidence of habitation in Delhi, dating back to the Iron Age (around 1100-800 BC), is the painted grey ware fragments found in Purana Quila.
  • Historians recognize seven cities of Delhi, from the 11th century onwards, namely Lalkot/Quila Rai Pithora/Mehrauli, Siri, Tughlaqabad, Firozabad, Shergarh (Old Fort), Shahjahanabad, and New Delhi.
  • However, depending on what is considered a city, this number can be as high as 11.

In focus: City of Mehrauli

  • Mehrauli is widely considered to be the oldest ‘city’ of Delhi and is the oldest area of the metropolis to be continuously inhabited.
  • It was first built by a ruler called Anangpal II in the 11th century, and it was called Lalkot.
  • Later, it was known as ‘Quila Rai Pithora’ and was fortified by the Chauhans.
  • The Mamluk dynasty took control of the city in 1192, and Qutubudin Aibak, the first ruler of the dynasty, built the Qutub Minar and the Quwwat-al-Islam mosque (oldest mosque in North India).
  • In the following century, more buildings like tombs, step wells, palaces, and fortifications were constructed during the reigns of Iltutmish, Razia Sultan, and Alauddin Khilji.

Continued relevance and inhabitation

  • Even as the newer cities came up and the seat of power shifted northwards, Mehrauli witnessed building activity as late as the Mughal and British periods.
  • Due to its location on the lap of the Aravallis hills, the area was preferred as a summer retreat.
  • Two Mughal summer palaces (Zafar Mahal and Jahaz Mahal) and a summer abode of Sir Thomas Metcalfe (Dilkhusha) are situated here.
  • Mehrauli lay on a historic trade route, as the number of sarais (Ladho Sarai, Ber Sarai, Neb Sarai) around the area would suggest. A sarai was a resthouse for weary travellers.

Cultural significance of Mehrauli

  • Mehrauli is also a spiritual centre. Sufi saint Hazrat Qutubuddin Bakhtiar Kaki (1173 -1235 AD) was buried in the city and his dargah remains popular till date, across religious lines.
  • Some historians cite the dargah as a reason for the city surviving the test of time – despite power shifting elsewhere, the dargah remained a revered destination for pilgrims far and wide.
  • Another spiritual centre for the community is the Yogmaya mandir, believed to be one of the oldest in the city.
  • Yoginis (semi-divine deities) have been an integral part of Indian folklore and this temple dedicated to them is believed to have been constructed by the Pandavas.

How it ended up in encroachments?

  • Like much of the rest of Delhi, the Partition brought many changes to Mehrauli too.
  • Many refugees from the West found sanctuary here. The city has also seen sectarian tensions.


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