Saturday, September 03, 2005

Subterranean Homesick Blues

yet another of those little pieces for city limits...

should have prefaced it with -
Before you came here, had you thought of a place like this?

The ruins of Firoz Shah Kotla on a Thursday evening – a bit like reading Borges, maybe? A labyrinth with illusions most seductive and truths most elusive…

In the dark crisscrossing passages under the ruined mosque, ghostly candles shine through thick swirls of incense. There are no graves here, no inscriptions, no tangible memorial; people come here and pray to djinns, and to write them letters. These tunnels and chambers connect to a narrow passage hidden within the western wall of the mosque, which leads to the pyramid shaped building on top of which the Ashokan Pillar stands. Also known, once upon a time, as Bhimsen's laat; the inscriptions on which are not in deciphered brahmi, but are the alchemical formula to turn base metal into gold, to be revealed only when there is no evil left in the world.

Not hard to believe then, that the secret passages lead all the way to Agra. A more probable tunnel? One leading from Firoz Shah Kotla to the Ridge, where another Ashokan Pillar was relocated, and where a Tughlak hunting lodge is now remembered as the memorial to a vanished saint, Pir Ghaib. Next to it, a dilapidated baoli and the entrance to a tunnel, now encroached upon and inaccessible.


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