Delhi 101: #12 The gate with a bloody history – Khooni Darwaza

No single archway in India has so much blood on its hands as the Khooni Darwaza (literally meaning the Bloody Gate). It is actually not a gate, but just an arch outside the Firoz Shah Kotla, and built by the Lion King Sher Shah Suri (1540-45), founder of the Suri dynasty.

Delhi 101: Cover image of book by Ajay JainThis post has been taken from Delhi 101, a book written by Ajay Jain. It is about 101 surprising ways to discover Delhi, one of the most amazing cities in the world for travelers. To know more about the book and to order one, click here.

His reign barely spanned five years, but is a landmark in the history of the sub-continent. With his deep knowledge and practical experience, he made many brilliant additions and improvements to the existent system. Sher Shah was a capable military and civilian administrator. He set up reforms in various areas. The third Mughal emperor Akbar later built on these reforms and extended them further. Many of these reforms pertained to the army, but the principal reforms for which he is remembered are those connected with revenue administration. Numerous civil works were carried out during his short reign. Sher Shah was a practical and farsighted ruler who was way ahead of his contemporaries, best remembered in history for the numerous reforms that he undertook to strengthen the government. He was in truth the greatest ruler that sat upon the throne of Delhi.

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Going back in time, the fourth Mughal emperor Jahangir executed the sons of Abdul Rahim Khan-i-Khana after assuming power; the latter was a favoured noble of his late father, Akbar, and was supposedly opposed to Jahangir being appointed Emperor. The bodies were left here to rot to be preyed upon by birds. His grandson Aurangzeb, who forcibly seized the throne from his father Shahjahan, killed his own elder brother Dara Shikoh and put his head here on public display.


During the Great Revolt of 1857, the British secured the surrender of the then Emperor Bahadurshah Zafar. On 22 September, Captain Hodson was taking the Emperor’s sons Mirza Mughal and Mirza Khizr Sultan and grandson Mirza Abu Bekar from Humayun’s Tomb when a huge crowd gathered around Khooni Darwaza as they were crossing it. Fearing they would attack and free the princes, the captain stripped them to the waist and shot them point blank. The bodies were subsequently left to rot for days in the sun in front of the kotwali (police station) in Chandni Chowk.

The gate also saw mayhem during the partition of India and Pakistan in 1947; many refugees were murdered here by rioting crowds while on the way to the safety of Purana Qila (Old Fort) where the government had set up a camp for them.

The gate may look docile, but it sure has gory stories to tell. Carry some smelling salts if they are too much for you.

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