Khooni Darwaza: A violent history

Few who pass by the Khooni Darwaza on Bahadur Shah Zafar Marg in Central Delhi, know of its bloody history. A monument bang in the middle of a busy street in cosmopolitan Delhi, it is a living legend of the gore and violence which our ancient history is steeped in.

Located opposite the Ferozeshah Kotla ruins, this is not just a ‘darwaza’ or a gateway, but a small fortress in itself. It is 15.5 metres high, made of quartzite stone and has three staircases leading to different levels of the gate. An open structure at one time,
today it is sealed for entry from all sides. This after a particularly beastly episode- the gangrape of a student of the adjacent Maulana Azad Medical College inside the monument. Hopefully this incident, which took place in the year 2002, will be the last in the scarred history of this notorious fortress. Kanika Singh, a PhD scholar of history and a member of the Delhi heritage walks club, informs, “The Khooni Darwaza was built during emperor Sher Shah Suri’s time in the 16th century. It was then known as the Kabuli Darwaza as caravans to Afghanistan used to pass through this northern gate of Suri's Capital city which had the Purana Qila as its central citadel. However, besides providing direction, this gateway served another purpose as well. Its walls were used to display heads of criminals since it was situated in the outskirts of the City.”

It particularly acquired the name ‘Khooni Darwaza’ during the Mughal time. This
after emperor Jahangir had the two sons of Abdur Rahim Khan-i-Khanan, a minister in his father Akbar’s court, killed and hung on this gate.

Jahangir was angry with Khanan for having supported his elder brother Khusrau’s claim to the throne after Akbar's death, and did this as an act of vengeance. The bodies of Khanan's sons were left to rot and be eaten by vultures. 

She says further, “History repeated itself when Aurangzeb, Jahangir’s grandson, defeated his elder brother Dara Shikoh in a war of succession and had his head displayed at this gate.

Later, in 1857, the sons of Bahadur Shah Zafar- Mirza Mughal and Mirza Khizr Sultan and grandson Mirza Abu Bekar, were murdered at the gate by Major Hodson- a British officer, after Bahadur Shah's surrender. Hodson was bringing the princes from
Humayun's Tomb in Nizamuddin. Near Khooni Darwaza he panicked, as a crowd of at least 3,000 had gathered by then, and shot the three princes without provocation. He then had the bodies of the princes stripped naked and laid in front of the Kotwali in Chandni Chowk for days, rotting in the sun”.

During the riots of 1947 as well the Khooni Darwaza saw much bloodshed as refugees were murdered here while they were moving towards a camp in Purana Qila.
Even today, residents claim to see blood stains on the walls of this monument, even though that is most probably just the red colour of the stones. However, given its blood-steeped history, the local residents can’t be blamed for imagining such things.  

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