Delhi is a City that encourages transition, and one space within the City that has found itself re-inventing itself, based on the needs of its inhabitants is the area of Haus Khas. From a literal water-well, to a space of learning, to a creative hub. Haus Khas has had many versions. This is its centuries old journey compressed for easy consumption.
Haus-Khas owes in equal parts to the Islamic rulers of Delhi’s past as much as it does to the urban cultural elite of Delhi’s present, for its current avatar.
Originally built in 1284 the lake as we know it today was a much larger excavated water tank, known as Haus-i-Alai created by Alla-ud-din Khilji to provide a steady supply for the inhabitants of the city Siri (Delhi’s third incarnation). As the Khilji dynasty came to an end in 1315 the water tank soon began to dry up and fill up with silt.
It was only after 1351 when Feroz Shah Tughlak came into power and became the Sultan of Delhi that he re-excavated the site, renaming it Haus-Khas (the Royal Tank). He built a Madarsa (an Islamic Educational Institution) around the water body, converting the site into a centre for Islamic Learning during the medieval times in India. Tughlak rests in the complex in the tomb he built for himself, overlooking the lake and the ruins of the once active Madarsa.
In addition to the lake, Tughlak’s tomb, and the Madarsa, Haus Khas has urban structures competing for the landscape. Be it Trendy boutiques, Indie Bookstores, Artist Studios, Galleries, elaborate Grafiiti, and the numerous restaurants offering a wide range of national and international cuisine, Haus-Khas is no longer a centre for structured learning, it is a centre for experiential learning.
Bringing together the curious and the experimental Haus Khas and its many avataars are a personal favourite of mine. With musical performances, dance schools and evenings filled with poetry-readings and hipster vernacular, this haloed ground for the young and creative is a must see space when visiting Delhi. As I was pondering a way to regroup and recharge from almost a month of work and travel, what better space to spend my first Sunday back – emmersing myself in the sights, sounds, smells – grabbing inspiration where it germinates!