The Violent History of Khooni Darwaza in Firozabad
There are many names that are given to this Darwaza, such as the Kabuli Darwaza and the Lal Darwaza, but most know this gate as the Khooni Darwaza, which stands on Bahadur Shah Zafar Marg, at a place which connects New Delhi and Shahjahanabad/ Firozabad (Old Delhi). Not a lot of people know that this gate was actually built by the Afghan ruler, Sher Shah Suri as a part of his city Shergarh that we today know as Purana Qila or Dinpanah. Sher Shah gave the name Kabuli Darwaza to this gate as caravans to Afghanistan passed through this gate towards the northern gate of Sher Shah’s city. In the book Monuments of Delhi (1919) by Maulvi Zafar Hasan and Delhi: Its Monuments and History (1943) by TGP Spear, this gate has been referred to as Kabuli Darwaza or Lal Darwaza because of the red sandstone that has been used in the gate’s construction.
This gate has a history of gory murders attached to it. This gate was used to display the heads of the criminals that were given the death penalty. In particular, this gate was used because it was on 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. It is also said that Emperor Aurangzeb also displayed his brother, Dara Shukoh’s head at this gate after he had killed him in a war of succession for the throne.
One of the bloodiest stories related to this gate is that of the sons of Bahadur Shah Zafar and their killing by British General Major Hodson on 22nd September, 1857. These sons of Bahadur Shah were Mirza Mughal, Mirza Khizr Sultan, and his grandson Mirza Abu Bakr. All 3 of them were being taken in a bullock cart to the Qila e Moalla (Red Fort). As the procession went towards the fort, the citizens of Delhi who had white cloth tied to their heads joined them. “Kafan Baandh kar nikle h”, became a very famous saying in Delhi, after the white cloth became very famous. Arsh Taimuri, a direct descendant of Bahadur Shah describes this scenario in his book Qila Mualla Ki Jhalkiyan. He gives a description originally given by Mirza Qumqamuddin who was pulling the cart which carries Mirza Mughal and others. He wrote this description in his book Muzaffarnama. According to Mirza Qumqamuddin, when the cart was approaching the jailhouse, Major Hodson stopped it and asked who is the Commander in Chief of the Mutiny and Mirza Mughal replied, ‘I am’. Hodson pulled him out of the cart and shot him. Next, he asked, “Who is the colonel”? Mirza Khizr Sultan said, ‘I am’. He was shot next. Mirza Abu Bakr unable to see the condition of his uncles, shouted in anger, but Major Hodson came to him and dragged and shot him too. All of this took place at the Khooni Darwaza. Mirza Qumqamuddin has written in his book, that he was shivering while all of this was happening, as he thought he would be shot next but he was spared by Hodson. The heads were cut off from the bodies and Hodson took the bodies with him to Chandni Chowk where he left them to rot in the sun in front of the Kotwali for days.
In 1947, during the partition, many refugees were also killed when they were passing this gate towards the Purana Qila for shelter. Today, the gate is kept locked due to the horrific 2002 case when a student of Maulana Azad Medical College was raped here. For now, we only read and listen about its bloody history that owes up to its name.
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