Delhi: Have you ever seen any historical structure on the campus of a hospital? We are not talking about a film set, Pir Ghaib is situated on the campus of Delhi’s Bara Hindu Rao hospital. Hardly anyone in Delhi knows about this small ruin and rubble structure of North Delhi. As one can expect from the name, many spooky stories are associated with it.
Pir Ghaib is one of the monuments that are not on the list of tourists and remains uncovered on travel guides. According to the Archaeological Survey of India, this monument was built by Firoz Shah Tughlaq in the 14th century as a hunting lodge. It was also damaged during the revolt of 1857 when it served as a stage for a battle between the Britishers and Indians (sepoys). The building also has some elements that give rise to unfounded speculations that it was an astronomical observatory.
The local lore says that a Pir (Sufi Saint) had made this building his home. The story further says that one fine day the saint vanished without a trace from the building, while he was meditating. From that time this place came to be known as Pir Ghaib.
According to the Archeological Survey of India display board at the site, a cenotaph lay east-west in the northern chamber. According to tradition, it commemorated a Saint (Pir) who had used this room as his 'chillagah' (worship-place) but had vanished mysteriously from which this monument derived its present name.
According to RV Smith's book 'The Delhi that No-one knows', people believed that the Saint belonged to a noble family during the time of Tughlaq. He decided to end his life after his wife's demise. However, he was dissuaded from doing so by a mendicant who converted him to Sufism and helped him establish an intimate relationship with God. One fine day when his devotee went to the hilltop they found it deserted.
His fame grew as a saint and the ruler Firoze Tughlaq also met him while he was on one of his hunting trips. One fine day, when his devotees went to search for him, he was nowhere to be found. Some believe he disappeared into thin air, while others believe he decided to embrace invisibility.
As per the account by Smith, Firoze built two chambers around the hilltop(which still exist). The southern one also had astronomical instruments.
Centuries later, the structure remains forgotten and neglected. It is covered with an iron grill. You can climb up with the help of two narrow and few broken stairs. The walls of the second storey has names inscribed by some local lovers. There are two rooms with openings on the east and mehrabs on the eastern wall. The architecture includes domes within domes. There are incense sticks placed in the room which shows that people come here for worship.
Moving upstairs the roof, you would find a beautiful view of Kamla Nehru ridge. Here your attention will also be grabbed by a small hollow cylindrical structure. This could perhaps be the Southern chamber. this is the reason why many people believe that this place is built as an astronomical observatory. They believed that a hollow cylindrical structure has a zenith tube that may be used for various astronomical calculations. However, there is no documentary evidence regarding this.
How to reach
To reach Pir Ghaib, the closest metro station is Tis Hazari, Red Line. You need to reach the Bara Hindu Rao Hospital which local all auto-rickshaw drivers know. Once you reach, pass through the gates of the hospital and move forwards towards the hostel campus. On your way, you will find a Baoli(stepwell), next to it lies the Pir Ghaib, perhaps giving sermons(invisibly) to the many monkeys in the area.