Qila Rai Pithora

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Qila Rai Pithora
Outer Wall of Lal kot and Rai Pithora.jpg
Outer Wall of Lal Kot and Rai Pithora
LocationDelhi, India
CoordinatesCoordinates: 28°31′09″N 77°11′27″E / 28.5192°N 77.1909°E / 28.5192; 77.1909
Original useFortress and jail
OwnerGovernment of India
Qila Rai Pithora is located in Delhi
Qila Rai Pithora
Qila Rai Pithora in Delhi
Qila Rai Pithora is located in India
Qila Rai Pithora
Qila Rai Pithora (India)
Qila Rai Pithora is located in Asia
Qila Rai Pithora
Qila Rai Pithora (Asia)
Qila Rai Pithora is located in Earth
Qila Rai Pithora
Qila Rai Pithora (Earth)

Qila Rai Pithora (literally "Rai Pithora's Fort") is a fortified complex in present-day Delhi, including the Qutb Minar complex. The term was first used by the 16th century historian Abu'l-Fazl in his Ain-i-Akbari, who presents Delhi as the Chahamana capital.

In the popular tradition, the construction of the fort is attributed to the 12th-century Chahamana king Prithviraj Chauhan (called "Rai Pithora" in Persian-language chronicles). In the mid-19th century, archaeologist Alexander Cunningham made a distinction between the ruins at the site, classifying them among them to older "Lal Kot" fortification built by the Tomaras and the newer "Qila Rai Pithora" built by the Chahamans.

However, there is no concrete historical evidence connecting the site to Prithviraj, whose capital was Ajmer, and later excavations have cast doubt on Cunningham's classification.


The term "Qila Rai Pithora" (Persian for "fort of king Prithviraj") was first used by the 16th-century Mughal court historian Abu'l-Fazl in his Ain-i-Akbari. The term is used to denote a fortified complex (including the include the Qutb Minar complex), where the early rulers of the Delhi Sultanate based themselves.[1]

Remains of the fort walls are scattered across South Delhi, visible in present Saket, Mehrauli around Qutb complex, Kishangarh and Vasant Kunj areas.[2]

Lal Kot and Qila Rai Pithora[edit]

Alexander Cunningham's classified the site into older ("Lal Kot") and newer ("Qila Rai Pithora") parts attributed to the Tomaras and the Chahamanas respectively, but later archaeological excavations have cast doubt on this classification.[3]

Carr Stephen (1876) considered "Lal Kot" only a palace, and used the name "Qila Rai Pithora" to describe the pre-Sultanate fortification at the site. B. R. Mani (1997) referred to the site as "Lal Kot", using the term "Qila Rai Pithora" to describe a fortification wall possibly built by the Chahamanas.[3]

Catherine B. Asher (2000) describes Qila Rai Pithora as Lal Kot enlarged with rubble walls and ramparts. She theorizes that Qila Rai Pithora served as a city, while Lal Kot remained the citadel. Qila Rai Pithora, which was twice as large as the older citadel, had more massive and higher walls, and the combined fort extended to six and a half km.[4]

Asher states that after the Ghurid conquest of the Chahamana kingdom in 1192 CE, the Ghurid governor Qutb al-Din Aibak occupied Qila Rai Pithora, and renamed it to "Dilhi" (modern Delhi), reviving the site's older name.[5] However, Cynthia Talbot (2015) notes that the term "Qila Rai Pithora" first appears in the 16th-century text Ain-i-Akbari, and the older texts use the term "Dehli" to describe the site.[1] Aibak and his successors did not extend or change the fort structure.[5]

Association with Prithviraj Chauhan[edit]

The texts contemporary or near-contemporary to Prithviraj place him in Ajmer: these texts include Sanskrit-language works such as Prithviraja Vijaya and Kharatara-gachchha-pattavali, as well as the Persian-language chronicles such as Taj al-Masir and Tabaqat-i Nasiri.[6] Later texts such as Prithviraj Raso and Ain-i-Akbari associate him with Delhi in order to present him as an important political figure, because when these texts were written, Delhi had become an important political centre, while Ajmer's political importance had declined.[7]

Although there is no doubt that some of the structures at the site were built before the Delhi Sultanate period, there is no evidence connecting the site to Prithviraj or any other Chahamana ruler. In the mid-19th century, archaeologist Alexander Cunningham divided the pre-Sultanate structures at the site into two phases, attributing the older "Lal Kot" to the Tomaras, and the newer "Qila Rai Pithora" to the Chahamanas. Cunningham cited Ain-i-Akbari to assert that Qila Rai Pithora was the second of "old Delhi's seven cities".[3] As late as in the early 21st century, modern scholars have used the term "Qila Rai Pithora" to denote Delhi's old citadel while referring to the older Persian-language chronicles, although these chronicles themselves do not use the term, instead calling the site simply "Dehli".[1]

Prithviraj's uncle Vigraharaja IV appears to have brought Delhi under Chahamana suzerainty, and Prithviraj may have been an overlord of the contemporary ruler of Delhi. However, there is no concrete evidence that Prithviraj himself lived in Delhi or even visited that city.[8] A short inscription on the Qutb Minar reads Pirathi Nirapa, which some writers read as vernacular for "King Prithvi", but this inscription is undated and its reading is uncertain, thus rendering it flimsy evidence.[9] Some coins, called "Dehliwalas" in the early sources of the Dehli Sultanate, were issued by a series of kings which include the Tomara rulers and a king called "Prithipala". Even if "Prithipala" is assumed to be a name of Prithviraj (although some scholars believe him to be a distinct Tomara king), it is possible that Prithviraja's coins were called "Delhiwalas" not because they were minted in Delhi, but because they were used in Delhi after the city became a major Ghurid garrison.[10]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Cynthia Talbot 2015, p. 95.
  2. ^ "Lal Kot or Quila Rai Pithora". Delhi Tourism. Retrieved 25 July 2013.
  3. ^ a b c Cynthia Talbot 2015, p. 96.
  4. ^ Catherine B. Asher 2000, p. 252.
  5. ^ a b Catherine B. Asher 2000, p. 253.
  6. ^ Cynthia Talbot 2015, p. 73.
  7. ^ Cynthia Talbot 2015, pp. 70-71.
  8. ^ Cynthia Talbot 2015, p. 90.
  9. ^ Cynthia Talbot 2015, pp. 96-97.
  10. ^ Cynthia Talbot 2015, p. 97.