Razia Sultan's tomb crumbling in neglect

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New Delhi, Dec 9: Far from the magnificent red sandstone mausoleums of the great Mughals and other rulers of Delhi lie the crumbling and neglected tomb of Razia Sultan, Delhi's only woman ruler.

A narrow winding ally from the bustling Sitaram bazar in the older part of the city leads to a small courtyard, said to be the resting place of the 13th century slave dynasty queen. No vehicle, not even a cycle-rickshaw, can pass through the lane and the only option for visitors is to walk the distance.

The tomb is one of the two stone slabs on a raised platform, unprotected by a roof. But for the fact that a part of the premises is being used as a mosque, the structure would have long ago fallen victim to commercial interests, local people say.

Pigeons flock to the platform, attracted by the clay bowls of water and bird-seed provided by well meaning devotees to the mosque.

However, the birds end up dirtying the premises with their droppings while rats have managed to burrow holes in the stone slab.

Plastic water tanks storing water for devotees' ablutions, a shed-like structure covered in blue plastic sheet and electrical wiring further mar the ambience of the grave.

This historical structure is under the charge of Archaeological Survey of India (ASI). However, except for two stone slabs In which a brief history of the monument is etched in English and Hindi and a warning not to damage this already ruined structure, there is not much that the ASI has done for its upkeep.

Asked about the deteriorating condition of the tomb, Delhi Circle ASI Head A K Sinha told the sources, ''The area where the tomb is located is very congested. The structure has become a victim of modern habitations. It is very difficult to maintain archaeological sites in these crowded Old Delhi localities.'' ''The local people have turned the structure into place of worship. We do not want to evict them keeping in view their religious sentiments. However, we have tried our best to keep the premises of the tomb clean, worth the status of the Queen,'' Mr Sinha said.

''We have provided a wooden cupboard for the Imam of the mosque and the Namazis to keep their belongings in it, which otherwise used to be scattered around,'' he added.

Nominated by her father Sultan Iltutmish as the next Sultan of Slave Dynasty, Razia ascended the Delhi throne in 1236 AD and ruled successfully for three years. However, as a result of a conspiracy she was killed in 1240 AD at Kaithal in present-day Karnal district in Haryana while suppressing a revolt by one of her nobles. It is said that she was even buried there. But according to another version, her body was brought to this place by her brother and successor Behram Shah who built the tomb.

On any plans to develop the structure, Mr Sinha said,'' The ASI has plans to develop such areas into heritage sites but it has its handicaps. The area around the tomb belong to private owners and not the government due to which we cannot bring it fully under control.'' Mohd Safdar, who stays in the mosque, said, ''the structure is occasionally visited by the government officials on duty or a handful of foreigners.'' ''The structure is deteriorating day by day. We can just clean it but cannot repair it as it is a government protected structure, '' he said.

He also alleged that they were being prevented from carrying out large-scale maintenance work by government officials who say that the ancient monument has to be preserved as such.

''If they cannot rebuild the dilapidated tomb, at least the surrounding areas can be kept clean'' he added.


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