Flirting With History. The Ruins of Farrukhnagar

Farrukhnagar Photo-Essay for National Geographic Traveller. (sanjay austa      sanjayausta@gmail.)


(National Geographic Traveller: September 2012)

Pictures :  Sanjay Austa 

Text : Colin Fernandes.

Just 21 kilometres beyond the shadow of the skyscrapers of Gurgaon, and bordering the Sultanpur Bird Sanctuary, are the unattended ruins of a glorious Mughal past. Built by the Nawab Faujdar Khan, a governor of emperor Farrukhsiyar in 1732, the town of Farrukhnagar flourished for 200 years on the strength of the salt trade.

Brine was extracted from the wells around the town and dried to get the salt that paid for the construction of a beautiful palace and a fort. However, it fell to ruin when the British levied high taxes and shifted the main salt works to Rajasthan. Farrukhnagar also played a role in India’s independence story. Nawab Ahmed Ali Khan, a descendent of Faujdar Khan, took part in the revolts of 1857 along with the rulers of neighbouring principalities. They were later tried and executed and their estates gifted to loyalists of the British.

But all this seems distant on the short drive along double-barrelled Basai Road, which makes its way through the villages of Dhankot and Chandu and past Sultanpur Bird Sanctuary, undulating through multi-coloured fields of mustard, wheat and marigolds. The drive is a pleasure; the road is in good condition and lined with fruit sellers peddling seasonal wares right from the orchards. Farmland lines the road, retreating into gentle hillocks that mark the beginning of the Aravalli Hills. Farrukhnagar appears in a traffic jam of lorries, buses and cycles resembling most small Indian towns until one reaches the old quarter with its distinctive Mughal architecture.

National Geographic : Photoessay on Farrukhnagar. (sanjay austa      sanjayausta@gmail.)



 Havelis have stories. At the busy bus stand-cum-market the road splits into three. The middle path leads to Dilli Darwaza, an imposing bastion abutting a vegetable stall, which is one of the five ancient gated entrances to the Farrukhnagar Fort. Only three remain now, and this one is in relatively the best condition, having received some attention from the Archaeological Survey of India. Just inside the gate there is a jumble of stalls sitting across the corridor from each other, selling everything from plastic buckets and locks to bangles and footballs. The massive wooden gates lie propped forlornly against the walls, their bristling spikes dulled by century-old rust.Beyond the gate, the road narrows into a lane that is often congested, so it is recommended to walk the rest of the way.

Instantly, one is transported back a few centuries, albeit with modern day advertising signs. Almost every second house flaunts the intricately-carved façade of a Mughal haveli, with distinctive jharokhas and even some intact stained glass windows.There is even the proverbial haunted haveli with tales of a secret treasure hoard guarded by a tenacious spirit. Anil Kumar, a long-time resident and my guide around town, tells me that every few decades, some rebellious youth will learn of the legend and break into the abandoned mansion, only to be evicted blinded and screaming in pain. “Bachhe kabhi nahi seekthe,” he shakes his head sadly. I almost believe him.

Further down the lane is the Sheesh Mahal, which was once the palace of the Nawab of Farrukhnagar. The entrance on the bustling street bears a decidedly decrepit air, which belies the ocean of calm inside. The caretaker notes my name and phone number in a carefully stapled register. Built in 1711 by Faujdar Khan out of sandstone, Mughal bricks and stone from nearby Jhajjar, the palace gets its name from the decorative interiors that are studded with elaborate mirror inlay work. After the chatter of the street, it is eerily quiet inside with just the chirruping of bats echoing through the hooded halls of the baradari. The baradari or pavilion has 12 doors and opens out on to a large courtyard with a water channel in the centre that was fed by a nearby baoli (stepwell). Ironically, a modern water tank now looms over the structure, almost mocking the aridity of the defunct fountain.

Take a break from the exploring and try ghewar, a traditional Rajasthani sweet, that’s available at Radhe Sweets, next to the ATM. The ghewar available here is a deep fried, layered cake made from oil and flour, which is the dipped in sugar syrup. This massive sugar rush is available I two variants: the regular ghewar and the one stuffed with khoya and nuts. It is a delicate, crumbly, melt-in-your-mouth sweet that can make a glutton out of the most abstinent people.

Farrukhnagar Photo-Essay for National Geographic Traveller. (sanjay austa austa)


Outside the Fort

To see the stepwell, retrace your steps to Dilli Darwaza and turn left to get on the road to Jhajjar. An incongruous narrow arch over the road indicates the Jhajjar Darwaza. Park by the side of the road, and enter via the left gate, through a tunnel. The temperature drops as you duck under the low concave ceiling, and the smell of wet earth assails the nostrils. It’s an unfamiliar yet comforting sensation. The caretaker encourages us to go ahead and explore. “Jao, dekho, dekho,” he says, puffing his chest proudly; and understandably so. For a forgotten structure, he keeps it spick and span with a lathi handy to drive away village graffiti artists and plastic litter bugs.

The massive octagon of the Baoli Ghaus Ali Shah reveals itself angle by angle. Each of the eight sides of the baoli has three archways, the middle one being the highest. Four staircases lead to the bottom of the well, which is now dry. I descend to the foot of the baoli and underestimate the height of the stairs, straining my ankle. The neatness of the rest of the area is explained by the profusion of plastic bags that litter its bottom.

A few yards away from the baoli is Setthani ki Chattri. An elaborate cenotaph now engulfed by weeds, the roof of this two-storied pillar pavilion is covered with Rajasthani-style frescoes that date back to 1861.

The railway station is even sleepier than the town but of immense historical significance, as it was built on the first metre gauge railway track in India. Running from Delhi to Rewari, this line was laid exclusively for the salt trade in 1873. It was converted to broad gauge later, and now just one train runs in the afternoon, connecting Farrukhnagar to Sahranpur via Delhi. It’s almost always empty on the run to Delhi.

Modern day Farrukhnagar doesn’t have many attractions of its own. There is the dog shelter run by an Anglo-Indian couple living in Delhi, Maneka Gandhi’s monkey shelter, and an emu farm.


Currently the only accommodation in the area is the Rosy Pelican Guesthouse within the Sultanpur Bird Sanctuary, which is run by Haryana Tourism and features a bar and restaurant. Service is often sluggish but it is usually always fully booked September through March (0124-2015670/ 9212461776; doubles from 3,500, including all means for 1 night/2 days and entry pass to the sanctuary). It’s best to get to Farrukhnagar early in the day with enough time to wander through the town and grab lunch at Rosy Pelican Guesthouse before driving back to Delhi.



Farrukhnagar is 60 kilometres southwest of Delhi. The Sultanpur Bird Sanctuary comes up first, about 13 km before Farrukhnagar.

Getting there & around

Road The driving time from Delhi to Farukhnagar is up to two hours, depending on traffic. The section from Gurgaon on the MDR 136 (Basai Road)—after the curving Basai Flyover—is fantastic with well-tarred roads and light traffic apart from trucks. Private taxis charge approximately Rs 2,000 for a round trip from Gurgaon. Regular bus services are available from the Gurgaon bus stand in Sector 14, and tickets cost Rs 18-20. Using your own car or hiring a taxi is most convenient as the only means of transport within Farrukhnagar are communal autorickshaws that ply on fixed routes.

6 Responses to “Flirting With History. The Ruins of Farrukhnagar”

  1. farah khan says:

    I love to read this because i like art history. especially, from rajasthan with beautiful pictures.

      • Dipika says:

        Dear Sanjay,

        Warm hello!

        Very interesting read. I am doing a research on Farrukhnagar and will be going to Gurgaon soon. I was wondering if you still have your contacts specially of the guide Mr. Anil Kumar who can help me go around and narrate interesting folklores of the place.

        Also do you know of any historians whom I can speak to about Farrukhnagar, hisotry, architecture, etc?

        I would really appreciate a positive reply from you.

        Thank you!

        Best regards,

  2. Syed Naseer Ahamed, Guntur, Andhrapradesh. says:

    If u have any picture or photo of Nawab of Fharukknagar Mr Ahamed Ali Khan who revolted against British in 1857 and hanged by British at Chandini Chowk, Delhi on 1858 Jan 24. Kindly help me Madam orlese kindly let me know the source.
    With Regards
    Syed Naseer Ahamed
    + 91 9440241727

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