'Kushak-e-Firoz' on the banks of the Yamuna

Firoz Shah Kotla is the core of the city of Firozabad, established in 1354 as an imperial capital by the emperor Firoz Shah Tughlaq. Firozabad was an extensive city. According to the historian Shams Siraj Afif, who lived during Feroz Shah’s reign, the buildings of the city stretched in the north as far as the palace or hunting lodge constructed by Firoz Shah on the Northern Ridge (known today as Pir Ghaib). To the south the city extended to the site now marked by the Purana Qila or Old Fort.  It also grew to be quite populous, and might have contained a population of some 150,000. 

The earlier sites of substantial settlement in Delhi had been further south – Lal Kot/Qila Rai Pithora (now the area around the Qutub Minar), Siri a little to its north-east, and Tughlaqabad in the hills to the south-east. Firozabad was not only much further north than these three early settlements, it was also the first of the capitals to be built on the bank of the river Yamuna.

Map of Firoz Shah Kotla

Firoz Shah Kotla was the royal citadel of the city and as such it has some important buildings.  In the 14th century it was very grand and opulent.  Visitors such as the invader Timur, as well as other contemporary chroniclers have left behind glowing descriptions of its buildings. None of the costly stones and gilded and painted features described by them exist today. Apart from the vagaries of time the hand of man is responsible for this ruin. Building materials were plundered from here in later centuries for construction work for the cities to the south (Dinpanah and Shergarh) and to the north (Shahjahanabad). Ironically, material for the construction of Firozabad itself had come from some older cities like Siri, Jahanpanah and Lal Kot.

Gateway and Palace Ruins

Plan of Firoz Shah Kotla, showing the gateway and palace ruins with respect to the other structures
The ruins of the gateway

The walls of the citadel have a slight slope or batter on the outside. The top parapets or merlons have now disappeared; the arrow slits can however still be seen. On the inside, the ruins suggest that the gateway structure was once quite elaborate and would have had a large arcaded space on either side of the main entrance way. The material used in the construction is rough stones held together by mortar. It is likely that the surfaces were at one time covered by a fine limestone plaster which might have been decorated by carving and painting in various colours.

The palace ruins

Historians from the time of Firoz Shah listed many buildings in the fortress. There was ‘the palace of the clayey court’, which was meant for the emperor’s court attended by nobles, officials and distinguished literary men. ‘The palace of the wooden gallery/overhang’ was for the officers of the emperor, and the ‘central quadrangle’ or the ‘palace of the public court’, was where the emperor held court for the general public. The more private areas, meant for the residence of the emperor and his family, have not been mentioned but must also have existed. The buildings are too ruined to be identified individually.

Arch detail
Niche detail
Firoz Shah Kotla Citadel grounds


The interior of the Baoli

The baoli or well would have been an essential source of water for the citadel. Unlike more common step-wells this does not have steps leading down to the level of the water.  The circular well, open to the sky, has provision to lift water in a bucket on a pulley. Around this well two storeys of rooms are arranged. A complex system of pipes and channels pumped the water to the roof and from there to the outside, where presumably even animals could have drunk from it. The roof, topped by chhatris and surrounded by a railing, was probably a recreational space.

A closer look at the interior
A section through the baoli
Plan of the baoli
The Baoli as seen from the outside

Pyramid of Cells

This building was specially commissioned by Firoz Shah to hold the pillar he had transported to Delhi from Topra, near Ambala. This had originally been set up there by the great 3rd century emperor Ashoka, who had several edicts regarding his principles of government inscribed on it.

Under Firoz Shah’s orders this was brought to Delhi with great effort, and erected here. It was crowned by a capital of coloured stones and a golden globe with a crescent on top.

Plans of the pyramid of cells showing the layout at three levels
The Ashokan pillar atop the pyramid of cells
The Ashokan pillar
A closer look at the pillar

The building, now in ruins, originally had a railing and eight domed chhatris at the top, and a stone lion at each corner.

Jami Masjid

Jami Masjid Mihrab detail

The main congregational mosque of the citadel is now ruined but was in its time quite spectacular. The doorway was decorated with carved stones, which have since been plundered. In the middle of the courtyard was an octagonal domed structure on which a document known as the ‘Futuhat e Firoz Shahi’ was inscribed, listing the great works and achievements of the emperor. Timur was so impressed by this mosque that he is said to have had a similar mosque built in his capital Samarqand, putting to work craftsmen taken from India. An interesting feature is the chambers at the lower level.

A depiction of the Jami Masjid
Plan of the Jami Masjid
Jami Masjid facade
Credits: Story

All material for this exhibit has been taken from INTACH Delhi Chapter's publications.
CONVENOR — A G Krishna Menon
CO-CONVENOR — Swapna Liddle
PROJECT TEAM — Abhiram Sharma, Arpita Ghatak, Niharika Singh, Tanya Singh, Aditya Mehta, Deb Banerji, Pulkit Taneja

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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