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Maulana Azad Medical College and Associated Hospitals: An Outline History of the Campus from Early Times

- Dr. Ravi Nehru
from Spandan 1993

The Maulana Azad Medical College and Associated Hospitals' Campus, or rather the place where it is now situated has been part of beautiful capitals of one monarch or another through history. It has also seen some of the worst famine and pestilence brought about by the ravages of war. Battles have been fought right here which have changed the course of history, not only that of Delhi but the history of India as a whole. Within the Campus and around stand in mute testimony, the ruins of some of the most marvelous architectures of the world and lie buried, some of the most learned men in theology and literature who contributed immensely to the composite culture of that nation, which to the world is known as India and of which we, as informed Indians are so proud. Some of the most tragic killings have taken place here, and martyrs have happily walked up the gallows so that you and I could breathe free.

That the place is now named after one of the intellectual giants of Indian history, Maulana Abul Kalam Azad is a fitting tribute to the times immemorial from which "at the stroke of the midnight hour," 14-15 August 1947, India woke to freedom and emerged as the largest democratic secular state in the world.

The earliest reference to a settlement at Delhi is found in the Mahabharat, which mentions a city called Indraprastha built along the banks of the river, Yamuna, between Kotla of Feroze Shah and Humayun's tomb. According to the eminent archaeologist and numistalist Cunningham, Indraprastha was occupied by Yudhishtra in the 15th century B.C. The epic relates how the original inhabitants of the place, the Nagas and the Tashakas were subdued and expelled by the Pandavas to renovate the ruined city and built palaces and forts to look like Arnravati, the abode of the sovereign of immortals - Indra.

Circumstantial evidence indicates that Indraprastha was one of the five extended places or Prasthas around which the great Mahabharat war was fought. The sites of four of these places are known - Panipat, Sonepat, Baghpat and Tilpat. Delhi would obviously make a natural site for the fifth. The area where the Purana Qila built by Humayun (1530-38 AD) and Sher Shah (1538-48 AD) stands is believed to be Indraprastha. The campus lay outside the Imperial fort but perhaps within the outer walls and ramparts of the city of Indraprastha.

Ptolemy, the celebrated geographer from Alexandria, who visited India during the 2nd century AD indicated in his map of India the existence of Indraprastha and the place where it was located at that time.

Strangely, however, there is no reference of Indraprastha or Dilli in the works of the Greek writers who chronicled the campaigns of Alexander the Great in the 4th century BC. It is fairly certain that Dilli, as it was known during the 1st and 2nd century AD, was a city of little importance during the time of the Mauryas, whose capital was Pataliputra or Patna. Even the third Mauryan Emperor, Ashoka the Great (273-236 BC) did not consider the old Pandava capital worthy of his monolithic sand-stone pillars bearing his Mauryan precepts, though nearby places like Meerut and Topra (near Ambala) were selected.

Dilli was thus for several centuries little more than a hinterland under the Mauryas and the succeeding dynasties. According to reliable tradition Dilli was founded in 736 AD by the Tomars, a Rajput clan who ruled over the Haryana country with Dhillika (Delhi) as their capital. The first inscriptions, dated 1328 AD giving a sketch of the history of Delhi from the earliest times to the date of inscriptions, appear during the reign of Mohammed Bin Tughlag (1325-51 AD).

After the Tomars, followed in succession the Chauhans, the Slave or Mamluk dynasties, the Khiljis and the Tughlaqs. Among the 11 rulers of the Tughlaq dynasty, only the first three were interested in architecture and each built a new capital in the city (1351-88 AD)

Ferozshah Tughlaq, the third ruler built his new capital Ferozabad, also known as Ferozeshah Kotla, the ruins of which stand today a little distance from Maulana Azad Medical College, across Bahadur Shah Zafar Marg. The campus was at that time part of a new and magnificent city. There were thus at the same time two flourishing cities a few miles apart - old Delhi at Qutab and the new city at Ferozabad. Thus, after a period of centuries since the Pandava capital of Indraprastha the Maulana Azad Medical College Campus again emerged as a place of historical importance and subsequently remained so.

Prithviraj Chauhan, the last Hindu ruler of India was killed during the second invasion of Muhammad Shahib-ud-din of Ghor, and during the succeeding dynasty, lltutmish (1211-36 AD) formally made Delhi the capital. From this time onwards "Delhi rises and Lahore begins to sink gradually". Razia Sultana (1236-40 AD) who succeeded her father lltutmish, is perhaps the only woman who sat on the throne of Delhi. India waited for over 700 years for another woman to rule the country - Indira Gandhi. Razia Sultana fell victim to intrigues of the nobles. Her tomb is located in the crowded Bulbuli Khan just behind Turkman Gate. She established the Madrasa Nasaryya in 1237 in memory of her brother Nasir-ud-din.

The fall of the Khalifa of Baghdad made Delhi the asylum of many a Muslim crown and refuge of exiled princes. Islam did not come to India by fire and sword. It came by way of political compulsions and expediency, by way of trade and commerce, by way of exchange of ideas through art, literature and philosophy.

Feroze Shah Tughlak (Ruled 1351-88 AD) founded the city of Ferozabad in 1354. Essentially a man of peace, he recompensed those who suffered at the hands of his predecessors, reformed criminal law, solved the food shortage problem, built a canal from the Yamuna to the dry country west of Delhi called Hissar Firuzah. He built a Madarsa in 1392 AD which is praised eloquently by the chronicler Zia-ud-din Barni. Two Ashoka pillars, one found at Meerut and another at Topra (Ambala) were brought to Delhi under his orders and erected at Ferozabad and on the ridge respectively.

Traces of the outer wall of Ferozabad have disappeared but probably was a half hexagon, with the long side facing the Yamuna. The palace and citadel were provided with massive ramparts 18 metres high. The citadel is now in a very ruinous condition. Little is left of the palace walls and the great mosque. Ashoka's Pillar stands on a platform pyramidal in shape having three terraces, progressively decreasing in size. This monolith is 12.97 metres in height. It used to have a small golden dome on top of it but this was plundered by the Maharatthas and the Jats in the 18th century.

The five inscriptions on the "Ashok ki lat" were deciphered by James Princep only in 1837 AD The full compliment of Ashoka's seven pillars edict are inscribed. The most notable feature of the pillar is its gold colour. Mauryan craftsmen were so skilled that they knew how to impart bright polish to common sandstone. Tom Carvat impressed by the shining surface thought it to be made of brass, [Bishop Heber fell into a similar error. Timur visited the place after the sack of Delhi and declared that he had never seen any monument comparable to this in all the numerous lands he had traversed.

The ruined Jama Masjid of Ferozabad was described by Franklin in 1793 A D. and in detail similar to those of Khan-e-Jahan's mosque. This incidentally is one of the critical transition points in Indo Muslim architecture. Zia-ud-din Barni eulogized the mosque. Timur visited the building to offer prayers and was so impressed that he built a splendid mosque at Samarkand (Afghanistan) modeled on the same, employing masons whom he took along with him from India. Delhi however still remained the capital of the kingdom and according to Lane Pool "Ferozabad became the Windsor of London".

Probably the oldest surviving structure within the campus is the Masjid "Bhuri Bhatyari" adjacent to the Old Boy's Hostel Gate. Tradition has it that the Masjid was being used for Namaz by the special cavalry guards stationed at Ferozabad. Later, after the fall of the Mughal Empire the area was converted into a high security Central Jail and prisoners continued to use the Masjid for prayers. Another tradition holds that the Masjid Bhuri Bhatyari is not as old as Ferozabad but is of the late Mughal period. However, the former tradition appears to be more likely closer to the truth. The Masjid is named after one Bu Ali Khan Bhatti. Archaic in style with three simple adjacent archways in a row and "Chattri" style roof indicate the pre-Mughal period.

Earlier Sher Shah Suri made additions to the Purana Qila and founded a city extending up to Kotla Ferozeshah as marked by it's north and other gateways. One of it's approaches known as the "Khuni Darwaza" still stands in it's solitary grandeur exactly opposite the main gate of the Maulana Azad Medical College. Later when Shahjahan built his new capital Shah Jehanabad, he pulled down what was left of Ferozabad and the city of Sher Shah Suri (Incidentally Shah Jahan's great Jama Masjid was looted by the Rohilla Afgan Chief Gulam Kader and even a gold cupola was removed - the others being saved by Sepoy Commander Manihar Singh who considered it an outrage.)

The first shots of the great revolt of 1857 were fired at Meerut on May 10th. The morning of May 11th, the rebel troops crossed over the bridge of boats over the Yamuna. Regiment after regiment under command of the British officers refused to open fire on fellow Indians. The massacre of Europeans and Indian Christians began. Daryaganj, then largely inhabited by Europeans and Indian Christians was thoroughly scoured and every Christian was put to the sword.

Mirza Galib, the famous Urdu poet, was an eyewitness to the entire drama of the first war of independence and the subsequent restoration of British Authority. The British regrouped at various vantage points and one column was able to blast open the Kashmere Gate.

The Emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar and Begum Zeenat Mahal surrendered to Captain Hodsun on September 21st, 1857. The next day Captain Hodsun arrested the princes Mirza Mughal, Khizr Sultan and Mirza Abu Bakr at Humayun's tomb. Soon after, near the Khuni Darwaza he ordered the princes to take off their upper garments and killed them one by one. The three bodies were carried to the Kotwali and stripped off all the clothes except a rag around their loins, and laid on stone slabs outside the building before they were buried.

All excuses offered by Hodsun for his brutal conduct were dismissed and described even by English historians as an outrage against humanity. All the important mosques namely. Jama Masjid, Masjid Fatehpuri and Masjid Kalan were occupied by the British Forces. Jama Masjid was restored to the Muslims after a period of 5 years on making a payment of Rs. 2 lacs

Immediately after 1857, Delhi began to figure as the centre of the Wahabi Movement. The Muslim saint Shah Waliullah Muhaddis Dehlvi had earlier (1702-1760) repeatedly emphasized "all men are equal and every man regardless of faith or religion, colour or creed has an inherent and equal right to freedom and liberty." This saint lies buried in a graveyard in front of the college football field - "Kabaristan-e-Mehdian." Along with (he saint's dargah are also laid to rest several other theologians, scholars, philosophers and poets. In a joint declaration on the 5th August, 1942, Mufti Kifayat Ullah, Maulana Ahmad Sayeed, Maulan Hifzur-Rehman and Maulana Abdul Halim Siddiqi, gave the slogan "Angrezon Hindustan Chodo". On the 9th August 1942, the Bombay Congress, either knowing or by coincidence, adopted the slogan and gave notice to the British - Quit India. One of the great intellectual philosopher poets of India and a pillar of Urdu literature Hakim Momin Khan Momin is laid to rest in the same Kabaristan-e-Mehdian. Another great founder of Urdu poetry, Khwaja Mir Dard is buried in the area not far from Turkman Gate, in a mound showing traces of several graves. In one big circle, there are traces of three tombs. One of these is believed to be the tomb of Mir Dard. His memory is perpetuated by a road named after him and running right through the campus.

After the restoration of British authority in Delhi, the MAMC campus was converted into a high security Central Jail. Thousands of freedom fighters and revolutionaries were jailed and many were hanged, at times as many as six a day.

Revolutionary societies opened in Delhi with Rash Behari Bose as a central figure while Amir Chand (teacher in the Cambridge Mission High School in Delhi), J.N. Chatterji and Dina Nath were his associates. They were to quote the Sedition Committee Report 1918 "thinking of planning a huge action that should shake the entire establishment".

The opportunity came on the State Entry of Lord Hardinge and Lady Hardinge proceeding in procession through Chandni Chowk. A bomb was thrown from the premises occupied by the Punjab National Bank. It exploded in the Howdah killing one of the attendants and injuring the Viceroy who later became unconscious. Based on vague evidence, Basant Kumar Biswas, Amir Chand, Avadh Behari and Bal Mukund were convicted and sentenced to be hanged - two of them merely because of a secret conspiracy and not for actual crime.

This high security Jail and the Phansighar adjacent to the teaching block has the dubious distinction of featuring in the following cases:

Hardinge Bomb Case
Date of Execution
Master Amir Chand
Bhai Bal Mukund
Master Avadh Behar
Basant Kumar Biswas
Creating dissatisfaction in the Army
Havalder Jaleshwar Singh
Hindustan Socialist Republican Army
Mansa Singh
Allama Editor Murder Case
Shafiq Ahmed
Enemy Agent Act (INA)
Chatter Singh
Nazar Singh
Ajaib Singh
Satendra Nath Mazumdar
Zaheer Ahmed
Daroga Mal
Kisri Chand Sharma

The foundation stone of lrwin Hospital was laid by Baron lrwin of Kirby Underdale, British Viceroy and governor-general of India on 10th January, 1930. The hospital started functioning a few years later. The present O.P.D. block was opened by the then Hon'ble Minister of Health D. P. Karmarkaran on 5th April 1961. The hospital was renamed LNJPN on 6th Dec, 1977.

The Maulana Azad Medical College was opened by the then Prime Minister Jawahar Lal Nehru on Sunday, Feb 26th, 1961. G. B. Pant Hospital started functioning on 30th April 1964.

This is only a sketchy outline of the history of this area but it should be remembered that it is intrinsically inseparable from that of Delhi or of India as a whole. A fuller and comprehensive view and an insight into the true meaning of history can only be obtained through comprehensive readings in the history of the Indian nation and world history at large.

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Copyright (c) 2004, Nikhil Goyal. All rights reserved.