Pretty much in the heart of Lutyens’s Delhi is the imposing mansion known as Teen Murti Bhawan (named for the three bronze statues that stand on the traffic island in front—the statues commemorate the Indian cavalry regiments that fell in battle during World War I). Teen Murti Bhawan was designed in the 1930s as a residence for the Commander in Chief; when India became independent, it was made the residence of Jawaharlal Nehru, the first Prime Minister.
So what does this have to do with medieval structures in Delhi? Simply that, within the grounds of Teen Murti Bhawan stands a much older monument: a shikargah (hunting lodge) built by Firuz Shah Tughlaq, one of the most prolific builders amongst Delhi’s rulers.
Known as Kushak Mahal, the shikargah was built in the mid-14th century and stands right opposite the Nehru Planetarium. It’s a small structure, made of rubble masonry (building material consisting of bits and pieces of various stones, bound together with mortar). The Sultan and his courtiers would visit the shikargah and live here for a couple of days at a time, while hunting in the area around—which, during Firuz Shah’s time, probably teemed with game such as blue bull and other species of deer.
Kushak Mahal stands atop a high platform—steps lead up to it—and consists of several small chambers. A flight of steps ascend to the plain, flat roof above. Originally, the precincts of the hunting lodge also included an embankment used to retain water; this has long since disappeared. The lodge, both inside and outside, is very typical of Tughlaq buildings: it’s functional, not ornamental.
(The Tughlaqs built so many buildings in such a short span of time, they didn’t bother to waste energy and time on prettifying structures too much). Kushak Mahal, therefore, is not a place with beautifully carved stone, incised plaster, or any other very prominent decorative elements. Some—like painted plaster—may of course have been originally part of the building, but if so, it’s no longer there.
Kushak Mahal was one of several shikargahs built by Firuz Shah Tughlaq in and around Delhi. Pir Ghaib, within the compound of Hindu Rao Hospital on the Delhi Ridge, was probably once part of a hunting lodge similar to Kushak Mahal. Pir Ghaib, however, is falling apart, whereas Kushak Mahal has recently been repaired and renovated.