A column on Delhi’s hidden parks and a fun thing to do around them.
Cross the threshold of Qila Rai Pithora park, a much needed respite from the cacophony of Malviya Nagar Market and surrounding what the Archeological Survey of India has certified as a heritage site, and you’ll come to a cemented slab with the words ‘First City of Delhi’ carved into it. This, tells us a kind stranger with a face like a raisin, is the first of the seven legendary cities that are said to have laid the foundations of an infant Capital.
A bit of digging and we find out more: Qila Rai Pithora was constructed under the supervision of Prithviraj Chauhan III aka Rai Pithora, whose effigy still towers over the site. And it was this city – with its walled ramparts that extend all the way from Lal Kot to the neatly paved walkways that now crisscross a spotless lawn – that Qutbu’d-in-Aibak eventually captured (in AD 1192) and established as his capital.
Green Thumbs Up
Even if the history doesn’t interest you, there’s plenty here that you’ll be charmed by: tall shrubs of pink and white bougainvillea, for instance, which march along the periphery of the park; fussy wrought iron benches perfect to while away an evening on; and what looks from a distance like a gazebo but turns out to be a well, covered up now, possibly gone dry. Don’t also forget to walk the grassy slopes leading to the well: sweet smelling, freshly mowed and thanks to the wind on this summer’s day, almost completely covered in pink and ivory bougainvillea blossoms.
Getting there: Qila Rai Pithora Park, Press Enclave Road, Malviya Nagar, 5:30 am – 7:30 pm, entry free.
What Lies Beneath
Also stop by the small (and blissfully air-conditioned) museum inside the park, which features a stone sculpture at its heart and plaques with tidbits of cool information: the story behind Sher Shah Suri’s Darwaza; the legends of Humayun’s and Sikander Lodi’s tombs; the original plans for Mehrauli and Nizamuddin; and even pictures – little miniatures that have been blown up, of Khusraw and Nizamuddin Auliyah.
There’s also a reading room that stocks newspapers and magazines and a small library, certainly no more than 2000 books strong, populated by children’s and adult titles, fiction and non-fiction, in Hindi and English. Those who want to stick with the historical theme should pick up Romila Thapar’s Early India, Alam & Subramanyam’s The Mughal State, several anthologies of essays detailing the reign of the Cholas, the Cheras, the Mughals, the Mauryas. But if you’re anything like us you’ll go for Enid Blyton’s The Wishing Chair, for what is better to read in the park than that?
Getting there: Qila Rai Pithora Park, Press Enclave Road, Malviya Nagar, 11:30 am – 5:45 pm, membership required.