Feroz Shah Kotla

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This page is about the fortress. For the cricket ground, see Feroz Shah Kotla Ground.
Ashoka Pillar at Feroze Shah Kotla, Delhi, 1861

The Feroz Shah Kotla (Hindi: फ़िरोज़ शाह कोटला, Punjabi: ਫ਼ਿਰੋਜ਼ ਸ਼ਾਹ ਕੋਟਲਾ, Urdu: فروز شاہ کوٹلا) or Kotla (Hindi: कोटला, Punjabi: ਕੋਟਲਾ, Urdu: کوٹلا) was a fortress built by Sultan Feroz Shah Tughlaq to house his version of Delhi city called Ferozabad. A pristine polished sandstone pillar from the 3rd century B.C. rises from the palace's crumbling remains, one of many pillars of Ashoka left by the Mauryan emperor; it was moved from Pong Ghati Ambala, Punjab (currently in Haryana) to Delhi under orders of Firoz Shah Tughlaq of Delhi Sultanate, and re-erected in its present location in 1356.

The original inscription on the obelisk is primarily in Brahmi language, with some Pali and Sanskrit added later. The inscription was successfully translated in 1837 by James Prinsep.[1] This and other ancient lats (pillars, obelisk) have earned Firoz Shah Tughlaq and Delhi Sultanate fame for its architectural patronage.[2]

History[edit]

The Ashoka pillar at Firoz Shah Kotla

Feroz Shah Tughlaq (r. 1351–88), the Sultan of Delhi, established the fortified city of Ferozabad in 1354, as the new capital of the Delhi Sultanate, and included in it the site of the present Feroz Shah Kotla. Kotla literally means fortress or citadel. The pillar, also called obelisk or Lat is an Ashoka Column, attributed to Mauryan ruler Ashoka. The 13.1 metres high column, made of polished sandstone and dating from the 3rd Century BC, was brought from Ambala in 14th century AD under orders of Feroz Shah. It was installed on a three-tiered arcaded pavilion near the congregational mosque, inside the Sultanate's fort. In centuries that followed, much of the structure and buildings near it were destroyed as subsequent rulers dismantled them and reused the spolia as building materials.[3][4]

In the pre-independence era, due to lack of auditoriums in the capital, most classical music performances were staged here or at Qutub complex. Later Ebrahim Alkazi, then head of NSD, staged his landmark production of Dharamvir Bharati's Andha Yug here and its premiere in 1964 was attended by Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru.[5]

Script on stone[edit]

The inscription on Ashoka pillar at Firoz Shah Kotla.
A close up of the inscription on the lat (obelisk).

The Sultanate had wanted to break and reuse the Ashoka pillar for a minaret. Firoz Shah Tuhglaq decided to erect it near a mosque instead. At the time of re-installation of the obelisk in Delhi, in 1356, no one knew the meaning of the script engraved in the stone.[6]

About five hundred years later, the script was deciphered by James Prinsep in 1837 with help from scripts discovered on other pillars and tablets in South Asia.[1]

Translation[edit]

The inscription on the 3rd century pillar describe King Devanampiya Piyadasi[7] policies and appeal to the people and future generations of the kingdom in matters of dharma (just, virtuous life), moral precepts and freedoms. Some extracts of the translation, per James Prinsep, are as follows:[1]

Among high roads, I have caused fig trees to be planted that they may be for shade to animals and men...

—-Inscription on Ashoka Pillar[1]

...And let these and others the most skillful in the sacred offices discreetly and respectfully use their most persuasive efforts, acting on the heart and eyes of the children, for the purposes of imparting enthusiasm and instruction in dharma (religion).

—-Inscription on Ashoka Pillar[1]

And whatsoever benevolent acts have been done by me, the same shall be prescribed as duties to the people who follow after me, and in this manner shall their influence and increase be manifest - by service to father and mother, by service to spiritual pastors, by respectful demeanor to the aged and full of years, by kindness to learned, to the orphan and destitute and servants and minstrel tribe.

—-Inscription on Ashoka Pillar[1]

And religion increaseth among men by two separate processes - by performance of religious offices, and by security against persecution. (...) And that religion may be free from the persecution of men, that it may increase through the absolute prohibition to put to death (any) living beings or sacrifice aught that draweth breath. For such an object is all this done, that it may endure to my sons and sons' sons - as long the sun and the moon shall last.

—-Inscription on Ashoka Pillar[1]

Let stone pillars be prepared and let this edict of dharma (religion) be engraven thereon, that it may endure unto the remotest ages.

—-Inscription on Ashoka Pillar, Translated by James Prinsep in 1837[1]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h Prinsep, J (1837). "Interpretation of the most ancient of inscriptions on the pillar called lat of Feroz Shah, near Delhi, and of the Allahabad, Radhia and Mattiah pillar, or lat inscriptions which agree therewith". Journal of the Asiatic Society 6: 600–609. 
  2. ^ William Jeffrey McKibben, The Monumental Pillars of Fīrūz Shāh Tughluq, Ars Orientalis, Vol. 24, (1994), pp. 105-118
  3. ^ "West Gate of Firoz Shah Kotla". British Library. 
  4. ^ "Pillar of Firoz Shah at Delhi". British Library. 
  5. ^ "Capital's cultural affair began in 50s". Hindustan Times. November 16, 2011. 
  6. ^ HM Elliot & John Dawson (1871), Tarikh I Firozi Shahi - Records of Court Historian Sams-i-Siraj The History of India as told by its own historians, Volume 3, Cornell University Archives, pp 352-353
  7. ^ another name for Ashoka


28°38′16″N 77°14′35″E / 28.63778°N 77.24306°E / 28.63778; 77.24306Coordinates: 28°38′16″N 77°14′35″E / 28.63778°N 77.24306°E / 28.63778; 77.24306

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