Vandalism at Mughal Mausoleums in Delhi’s Mehrauli Area Sparks Outrage

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Journalist Sunit Arora wrote on X: “Reporting vandalism at Zafar Mahal in Delhi’s Mehrauli village.” He quoted the guard as informing him that “8 days ago, vandals destroyed” part of the jali in front of the tombs of three Mughal emperors and Bahadur Shah II’s empty tomb.

Team Clarion

NEW DELHI — Heritage lovers and historians have expressed their outrage and serious concern over incidents of vandalism at the mausoleums of three Mughal emperors and the empty tomb of Bahadur Shah Zafar’s at Zafar Mahal in Delhi’s southern Mehrauli village.

A part of the railing in front of the tombs of three Mughal emperors has been broken as part of the vandalism, drawing sharp criticism from several individuals on social media.

William Dalrymple, a scholar-historian based in New Delhi and a Visiting Fellow at All Souls College, Oxford, took to social media platform X (formerly Twitter) and posted a terse comment: “Appalling- and appalling negligence by the ASI”. He was referring to the Archaeological Survey of India.

Dalrymple, author of The Last Mughal and several other acclaimed books, commented on a tweet that carried a picture showing the broken railing in front of what appears to be a grave. The picture carries a caption that read, “Someone has attacked and destroyed India’s last Mughal tomb. One jali us [sic] completely smashed and the other is damaged.”

Confirming the incident, journalist Sunit Arora wrote on X on Sunday, “Reporting vandalism at Zafar Mahal in Delhi’s Mehrauli village.”

Arora quoted the guard as informing him that “8 days ago, vandals destroyed” part of the railing in front of the tombs of three Mughal emperors and Bahadur Shah II’s empty tomb.

Since Bahadur Shah Zafar is buried at Yangon in Myanmar, the historian’s remarks generated a debate of sorts on the micro-blogging site.

Some users expressed surprise over the claim it was the emperor’s burial site, while others questioned which Indian institution was responsible for its care.

In reply to a question about whether the place is not owned by waqf, Dalrymple said ASI looks after the monument.

Adjacent to Moti Masjid are the graves of the Mughal royal family. According to monumentsofdelhi.com, two predecessors of Bahadur Shah Zafar — his father Akbar Shah II and grandfather Shah Alam II — are buried there. Besides, one of Bahadur Shah Zafar’s sons is also said to be buried there.

It is said that Bahadur Shah Zafar wanted to be buried next to his father in the Sardgah, the marble enclosure, at Zafar Mahal. However, in 1858, he was exiled to Yangon in the British-controlled Burma, where he died on Nov 7, 1862.

Zafar Mahal was built by Akbar Shah II in the 18th century, according to a report published by The Wire. The building was then called Lal Mahal and Rang Mahal. Later, Bahadur Shah Zafar built the Hathi Gate and eventually, gave it its present name, the Zafar Mahal.

The ASI earlier reportedly said it would restore Zafar Mahal in October, but it never did. “This is so sad! Legal action should be taken against ASI for this negligence. They have let the palace to ruin for years! This needs to stop,” one X user said.

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