The Mosque attached to the Old Fort
Author: Metcalfe, Sir Thomas Theophilus (1795-1853)
Medium: Ink and colours on paper
[From 'Reminiscences of Imperial Delhi’, an album consisting of 89 folios containing approximately 130 paintings of views of the Mughal and pre-Mughal monuments of Delhi, as well as other contemporary material, with an accompanying manuscript text written by Sir Thomas Theophilus Metcalfe (1795-1853), the Governor-General’s Agent at the imperial court. Acquired with the assistance of the Heritage Lottery Fund and of the National Art-Collections Fund.]
of Behar, obtained possession of the Fort of Chunar and of the still more important Fortress of Rohtas. The latter taken by treachery, having persuaded the Rajah or Chief to give an asylum to his family, he introduced armed soldiers in the covered litters which were supposed to conceal the females.
In AD 1535/6, the Emperor Hoomaioon found it necessary to march in person to check if not subdue this ambitious soldier. Success in part followed the Royal Army, until the spirit of the soldiers sunk under the moist and sultry climate of Bengal and their numbers were thinned by the sickly season that followed the periodical and heavy rains. No sooner were the roads suited for travelling, than the troops deserted in numbers. The Emperor was compelled to retreat, but was intercepted by Shere Shah, and after a delay of several months, the Emperor’s camp was completely surprised and dispersed. Hoomaioon had not a moment for deliberation, but plunged at once on horse back into the Ganges. Before he could reach the opposite bank, the horse was exhausted and sunk into the stream, and the Emperor must himself have met with the same fate if he had not been saved by a water carrier who was crossing the river with the aid of the skin used to hold water and which inflated as a bladder, supported the King’s weight as well as his own.
Hoomaioon fled to Dehly in AD 1539, but in the next year again took the field against the Shere Shah. A general action ensued in which he was entirely and finally defeated. His army driven into to the Ganges, himself in imminent danger, his horse wounded and he must have been either killed or taken, if he had not fortunately found an elephant on which he mounted, and compelled one of those whom he found with the animal to take to the stream. The opposite bank was too steep for the elephant to ascend and Hoomaioon must still have perished had not two soldiers who happened to have gained that part of the shore, tied their turbans together and by throwing one end to the Emperor, enabled him to make good his landing. Hoomaioon fled to Lahore and eventually to Persia.
The ultimate success of the Teemoor family has occasioned Shere Shah to be considered an usurper; yet as he was born in India, and expelled a foreign family who had only been fourteen years in possession, his claim was in reality more conformable to justice than those of most founders of Dynasties in that country. Having taken possession of all Hoomaioons Dominions, Shere Shah, for he now assumed the title of King, next proceeded to conquer Malwa. From thence he invaded Marwar, took Chittour and laid siege to Kalingur. Here as he was superintending the batteries, he was involved in the explosion of a Magazine which had been struck by the
enemies’ shot, and was so scorched that he expired a few hours afterwards.
In the midst of the agonies he continued to direct the operations of the siege and when intelligence was brought to him that the place was taken, he exclaimed “Thanks be to Almighty God,” and never spake again.
Shere Shah was a Prince of consummate prudence and ability. His ambition was too strong for his principals, but his measures were as benevolent in their intentions as were those in conduct.
The mosque attached to the Old Fort, built at the same time and by the same individual.
[The Mosque in the Old Fort (Purana Qila) known as the Qila-i-Kuhna Masjid was built in 1541 by Sher Shah (r.1540-55). This superbly proportioned structure, built in Afghan style, was important in the development of Indian-Islamic architecture. Red sandstone and marble have been used in the mosque, which is richly decorated with calligraphy, inlay and carving.]
Inscribed: naqsha-i masjid-i qil‘a-i kuhna andarun-i qil‘a. ‘amal-i Mazhar ‘Ali Khan.