AKPIA-Medieval Studies Lecture in Medieval Islamic Architecture


Thursday, April 2, 2020, 6:00pm to 7:30pm


Sackler Auditorium, 485 Broadway

Sunil Kumar (Delhi University), Reconstituting the Archive of Hazrat-i Dehli: The Sultans, the Sufis and the Riverine Plain of Delhi. Co-sponsored by the Committee on Medieval Studies, the Harvard Aga Khan Program for Islamic Architecture, and the Harvard Committee on Inner Asian and Altaic Studies. CANCELLED

The study of Sultanate Delhi has been robustly framed by the evidence surrounding some of its primary power brokers—the Sultans, their amirs and the Sufis. Depending upon the narrator, the epithet for the city, Hazrat-i Dehli, the auspicious, magnificent city of Delhi, is attributed to the contributions of its powerful monarchs or the benign grace of its mystics. This talk complicates this archive by focusing on some of the Sultanate city’s water bodies—its seasonal streams, tanks and stepped wells (baolis)—to underline the careful investment made by different regimes into their planning and management. Although rendering the region populated and prosperous (abād) obviously motivated the interventions of the Delhi Sultans, the Persian chronicles of the time were unusually silent on this subject. This void was filled by the mystics of the city, whose records mentioned their interaction with these water bodies—random associations perhaps, but carefully memorialised as defining moments in later literature. This talk draws out the complicated politics of associations, forgetting and remembering that became a part of the history of Sultanate Delhi. As much as the vital need to investigate the hoary details lost in the historian’s archives, it draws attention to the range of epistemologies that has sustained this amnesia, and the possibilities (if we are more self-reflexive) for recognising the politics that sustains our research.