Feroz Shah Kotla: Of djinns, faith and history

Spirits fulfilling prayers

Tourism

July 24, 2021

/ By / New Delhi

Feroz Shah Kotla: Of djinns, faith and history

Feroz Shah Kotla fort attracts not just those seeking divine interventions, it is also a haven for those looking for supernatural experiences (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

Built in glory, existed in obscurity, present in belief. That is the story of Feroz Shah Kotla, a 14th century fort in Delhi, once a glorious monument, which faded into oblivion for centuries, and then finally gained relevance again in the mid-20th century because of devotees’ faith.

Feroz Shah Kotla fort was built by Sultan Feroz Shah Tughlaq in 1354, as the core of the new imperial capital of Firozabad in today’s south Delhi. However, with change of dynasties, Kotla fell into obscurity and it was only in the latter half of 20th century that it became relevant to the locals once again.

Every week on Thursday’s dozens of adherent and hopeful devotees come to offer prayers to the djinns. Even when the fort entry is closed to the outsiders, as it has been all through the pandemic, some locals still gather there to offer prayers at the Dargah inside the fort.

“It all started when Laddu Shah Baba came in the 1950s and this place started to gain significance. He told everyone that your dua (wish) will be accepted here,” says Umair, who has been selling flowers and incense sticks at the entrance to the fort for year.

“If you come here for 7 Jumerat (Thursday), your wish will be granted and if your wish is fulfilled, then you can offer a chadar (decorated sheet) in the dargah,” Umair adds.

He says that if a devotee’s wishes are not fulfilled in seven such visits, then they need to visit it for longer period.  “If your wish doesn’t come true then you can come for 21 or 51 weeks, until your wish is accepted,” he says.

“Walking down this road, little by little a person starts to have faith themselves, so they start believing in it. That’s up to them if they want to keep coming or not but 99 pc do come back.”

He talks of his own experience. His mother had two miscarriages and then she came here to pray, and soon after she had him, he says.

The fort attracts not just those seeking divine interventions, it is also a haven for those looking for supernatural experiences as legend has it that the wishes are fulfilled by the djinns or holy spirits.

A story of a folklore passed down from generation to generation (MIG photos/Aman Kanojiya)

Umair says he is a staunch believer in djinns. “People leave behind letters with their wishes on it and after midnight, the djinns residing here emerge to read the wish lists and accord them,” Umair tells Media India Group.

This belief seems to be widespread among the locals. These are stories that have been passed down the generations.

No matter who you interact with in the area, you will soon come to realise that the stories about the all-knowing, all seeing djinns have become a part of local folktale, cherished and kept alive by both who believe and those who do not alike.

Madhabi Katoch, an art historian from Palampur, explains the origins of these myths. “During the sultanate period, the slave dynasty brought myths from the Arabic and African world where they had this theory of souls that could be trapped or controlled through which humans could do superhuman activities,” Katoch tells Media India Group.

“In that area, long-long ago in various chapters of the Mahabharat you can find that the villages that were given to the Pandavs initially, where the maya palace was created by Vishwakarma, that is the first bit of (the signs of) magic and esoteric knowledge comes into play.”

She goes on to explain that when the Sufi and Islamic world collided with the already existing folklore around the area where forts like Feroz Shah Kotla, Red Fort and the Old Fort stand today, it gave birth to a whole new lore and stories about the supernatural.

“They are a mixture whose origins can be traced to Sufism that reached here from Iran and Turkey, combined with, the cultures of Africa. So, it is not as if it were a very demarcated thing that Islam and the Hindu cults would not mix now that they all lived in the same area,” she adds.

Feroz Shah Kotla is palpable to be shrouded in enigma. Centuries of history has left the fort with more than just mystery, it has created myth, hope, and faith.

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