The water-body in the picture is Hauz-i-Shamsi. A hauz is a water reservoir. This hauz was built in 1230 AD by Sultan Shamshudin Iltumish. Legend has it that Iltumish had a dream in which he was instructed by Prophet Muhammad to build a reservoir at a place marked by the hoof print of the Buraq. A Buraq is a winged horse on which Muhammad rode to the heavens. Sultan Iltumish is said to have actually found the hoof print of the Buraq when he inspected the site he had seen in his dream. It is around this spot that he had the hauz dug. This spot was marked by a domed pavilion which can be seen in the picture - jutting in from the right bank of the pond.
An imitation buraq, edge lit with white light, can be seen floating in the pond. This was part of a series of interventions that we are making at the Shamsi Talab (Shamsi Pond) and the parks and monuments around it. See more on this below.
Behind the pond are the Giant Wheels which are part of the annual fair erected on the occasion of the Phool Walon Ki Sair festival. Beyond the Giant Wheels, little to the right, one can see the arched structure of the Chhatarpur metro station on the elevated line. On the left-top, beyond the metro line, one can see the glowing red figure of the giant Hanuman statue near the Chhatarpur temple.
Hauz-i-Shamsi is located in Mehrauli. Mehrauli is one of the seven ancient cities that make up the present state of Delhi. This historic area is now a bustling locality with narrow winding lanes and busy market places dotted with neglected ruins and decaying palaces. The satellite image, above, shows the hauz hedged in by dense urbanity. It is an organic old world urbanity where shops and stalls, warehouses and workshops, residences and community areas are all packed together in a congested township. Mehrauli is a city within a city. While Delhi has been renewed by malls, multiplexes and the metro rail, Mehrauli finds itself trapped in a strange anachronism.
While New Delhi developed as a planned modern city, Mehrauli languished from lack of town planning. Here the garbage is always piled up and the drains overflowing. The hauz is thus littered with rubbish and plastic waste. Untreated sewage water seeps into it from various breaches. Hauz-i-Shamsi, considered one of the heritage components of the historic and traditional water management systems of the city, is struggling to keep face.
However, what Mehrauli lacks is appearance, it makes up in its vibrant spirit. Here the fairs and festivals are a big draw. The parks and community spaces are used round the year for celebrations and public events. In the midst of all this lies the pond, fenced-in and disused.
It is thus our endeavor, as residents of Mehrauli, to revive the hauz as a site of splendour and spectacle. The idea is to work with the community and the local administration to revive interest in this heritage water body.
Buraq @ Hauz-i-Shamsi (March 2010 - May 2011)
This installation consisted of a floating sculpture of the Buraq on the Shamsi Talab. Pamphlets were distributed to instruct people on how to interact with the Buraq and to explain its purpose. People were invited to call the Buraq from their mobile phones, from the edge of the pond, after sundown. Once they connected and spoke into their handsets, they could turn on the lights of the floating Buraq with their voice.
The idea was to create a spectacle to remind people about the legend of the pond.
People from around the world could also connect online with the Buraq via Skype video. While seeing the Buraq on live webcam, they could speak into their mike and make its lights turn on.
A song was also composed on the occasion and distributed as a mobile phone ringtone. Listen to the song Hai Re Shamsi Talab below or download it from here.
Art and Concept: Vishal Rawlley
Electronics: Melody Projects
tin construction: Iram Duct Works, Mehrauli
Electrical fittings: Arif Electricals, Mehrauli
Special Thanks: Abhinandita Mathur
Supported by Prohelvetia
Curated by Gitanjali Dang
Essayist: Anad Vivek Taneja
The project is part of Beam Me Up. As part of Beam Me Up people from anywhere in the world could see a live video of the Buraq on Skype and light it up with their voice.
After the Buraq was decommissioned, upon popular demand, a new installation was floated on the pond on the occasion of the Phool Walon Ki Sair Festival 2011 in November. This is a crocodile that threatens to eat people who dirty the pond. The pamphlet released on this occasion also had an old song about the Phool Walon Ki Sair Festival. The song was discovered by Abhinandita from the book 'Dilli Jo Ek Sheher Hai' by Maheshwar Dayal.
Concept and execution: Vishal Rawlley
Special Thanks: Abhinandita Mathur, Jitender Yadav, Shaily Gupta, Aashwin Bhargava, Siddharth Mathawan.