Farrukhnagar near Gurgaon will soon be transformed into a heritage village.
A large octagonal baoli, Sheesh Mahal, Jama Masjid, three ancient gates that lead to the town, Sitaram Mandir and a war memorial… For over 300 years now, history has been a part of life at Farrukhnagar, a sleepy township near Gurgaon. And if all goes as per the plans initiated by the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (Intach) along with the state archaeological department, the local administration and the Archaeological Survey of India, Farrukhnagar will soon be transformed into a heritage village.
“As the town has tremendous tourism potential, we proposed it be developed by restoring the heritage buildings including the Sheesh Mahal that was built in 1711, the Ali Gosh Khan baoli constructed during the Jat occupancy of Suraj Mal of Bharatpur and the Jama Masjid that was built of Agra redstone. In fact, two slabs of red sandstone on a wall in the courtyard of this mosque are inscribed with Arabic legends and date back to the time of Ghiyas-ud-din Balban. The principal secretary (tourism and culture), Government of India, has promised to visit Gurgaon soon to discuss the proposal for the restoration of Sheesh Mahal and make it a part of the tourist circuit. In the meanwhile, we have been advised to continue with our efforts to complete the restoration of Delhi Gate by meeting local officials and getting various issues resolved. Issues delaying completion include the sewage drain that is eroding the base of the Gate, encroachment by shopkeepers and the ugly construction of a toilet right in front of the Gate,” informs Intach’s Gurgaon chapter convener Atul Dev.
He adds Intach has already prepared a report on its development but the works can only be initiated when it has enough funds. “We would require around `5 crore and expect monetary assistance from the Centre, the state government or the corporates,” says Dev.
Farrukhnagar is around 25 km from Gurgaon, 6 km from Sultanpur Lake and 45 km from the National Capital. The town founded by the Baluch chief Faujdar Khan, a governor appointed by the Mughal emperor in 1711. The five gates that surround the town came up in the same year. Named after the Mughal emperor Farrukhsiyar, this town was once enclosed by a high wall which is now in ruins. Farrukhnagar was once an important trading centre for salt extracted from nearby saline wells. It was called Sultanpur Salt, the most important salt works of the region. The area saw steep rises in the land prices beginning 1990s due to rapid urbanisation and industrialisation in Gurgaon district. As a result, a small section of land owners amassed great wealth in a short period which encouraged public splurging. In 2007, the town made global news when a local farmer hired a private helicopter to ferry his son to his wedding, barely 20-km away.
Sheesh Mahal, built by Nawab Farrukh Shah for his wife around 1793, is a double storey structure in red sandstone, Mughal bricks and Jhajjar stone common during that period. It had decorative interiors of elaborate mirror inlay work, from where it got its name. The estate of Farrukhnagar was confiscated in 1858 after its nawab took part in the 1857 War of Independence. Needless to say the Brits wreaked havoc upon most of its historic buildings including Sheesh Mahal. What really catches a visitor’s eye here is the extensive decorative element: Cusped arches with intricate foliage patterns, decorative brackets, long slender columns with floral patterns and the mirror inlay in the front hall.
Further, apart from the bazaar that exists along the road leading to the monument, there is massive construction work in progress next to the wall of the monument. The entry exists even today but the original iron and wooden gate has been replaced by a shoddily done up wooden version with an asbestos sheet covering. The narrow entry gate opens onto a large courtyard with a water channel in the centre that was fed by a nearby baoli and later led to the palace. Most walls of the monument have been badly defaced by unknown lovers who find no place better than our historical sites to express their love.
An ASI official who worked on the restoration project of the complex said that during the clearing of the debris, a fountain was discovered at the Darbar-e-Aam. It was here that water would be made to reach through underground channels connected to a well, situated at a distance of around 50 m. The well, situated at one corner of the Sheesh Mahal complex, is at a height of about 25 ft from ground level. Water was drawn from the well in leather bags and poured in the channels connected to various fountains.
ASI also discovered an underground tunnel that connected the Sheesh Mahal to a baoli, around a kilometre away. This was apparently used by the nawab’s wife and other women to reach the baoli for bathing purposes. This tunnel lies closed today and no efforts have been made to open it. Some locals claim it was connected to Jhajjar district and is several kilometres long. Sheesh Mahal also has a memorial dedicated to the martyrs of 1857 in its premises as well.
Intach has also undertaken the task of restoring three of the five gates in Farrukhnagar including the Dilli Darwaza, the Patli Darwaza and the Jhajjari Darwaza. “We have already repaired the front and rear sides of the Delhi Gate at `5.5 lakh. Of the said amount, `4 lakh were provided from the MP local area development fund. We’ll soon take up the other gates,” informs Dev. Meanwhile, the road connecting Gurgaon to Farrukhnagar has been re-carpetted and a flyover has been sanctioned to ease traffic around the town. The place is indeed worth a visit, especially if you happen to be a heritage-lover.