Inside a dark alley at the Kotla Feroze Shah fort, there was a strange sound besides the one of rhythmic chants. The chants were indecipherable, the odd sound was not. There surely was a nocturnal sort around. The fluttering noise grew louder, as the silhouette of one of its wings appeared faintly. It rested doubts; it indeed was a bat. The presence of bats inside the dungeon-like passageway made no difference to the people present there, who seemed oblivious to animals, smoke and strong incense smell. As several eyes turned watery from the heavy smoke that dimmed visibility of the place, the chants grew louder, the prayers, intense. The djinns were being beckoned.
Built in the 14th century by the then Sultan of the Tughlaq dynasty Feroz Shah Tughlaq, the Kotla fort served as a prison for a long period. There once were huge fortified walls, which today are in ruins. The fort holds immense archaeological relevance but on every Thursday, it becomes the den of mysterious supernatural activities. The sinister happenings shadow the historical importance of the fort, as it plays host to jinxed beliefs.
Locals believe that the fort is the home of djinns- mythical and spiritual entities from a different dimension. Believed to be spirits, both good and bad, the djinns are held on a pedestal where they get to decide the fate of people by listening to their issues that they present to them in the form of letters- faryaad or maafinama (requisition letters or apology letters). On each architectural depression (cave-in) of the fort’s walls, there stand believers, with their offerings- candles, incense sticks, coins, letters and grains.
Six-year-old Sama was born with a big head. It was huge, and was filled with fluid. She could not talk, neither could she walk. Her hands and legs were in a vegetative state. Several doctors, surgeries and prayers at the Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya Dargah later, her mother learnt about the powerful prayer place at the Kotla Feroze Shah. “When one of my relatives told me about this place, I decided to bring Sama here. We have been coming here for a long time. Every Thursday, Sama accompanies us and we come here to pray. We have seen prayers get answered here,” Manjahaan, Sama’s mother, said.
Today, Sama, the youngest of four siblings, can talk, smile, walk and respond. Her mother is thankful to the powerful djinns of Kotla.
Besides a large Muslim population that visits the place on Thursdays, there are some Hindus too, who come here believing that the djinns hold remedies for their woes.
Clad in a light blue sari with dark vermillion defining her crown, Mamta looked like a new bride. Hailing from Jaipur in Rajasthan, Mamta was told about this place when she settled in Delhi; post her marriage two years ago.
“I suffered from frequent headaches and pain in the chest. This had been happening to me even before my marriage. When we settled at Jor Bagh after shifting to Delhi, my neighbor told me about this place and brought me here. After I was relieved of all my qualms, I distributed biryani here. I have been coming to this place every Thursday, ever since,” she said. Mamta had undergone medical treatment and had even visited temples but her problems had only been taken care of by the djinns of Kotla.
Within the premises of the Kotla, there stands an Asokan pillar, believed to be the home of djinns. Locals say that one who is able to touch the pillar through the iron bars surrounding it, is bound to get their wishes fulfilled. The baoli or the stepped well inside the fort has the ‘forbidden entry’ tag due to its secluded and cornered site. The locals, however, say the baoli has been restricted because that is where the djinns “send sinners post a verdict”, never to let them come out again.
There however, is a contradiction of ideologies between those who come here just to pray at the mosque and do not believe in this mummery, and the ones who come here to appease the djinns. The djinn-believers claim they have felt the powerful creatures on numerous occasions during their visits to the fort. They say djinns are free beings that assume whichever form they like – even that of an animal – and are mostly in white. They have a sweet tooth, and admire “beautiful women”.
Though the fort is famous for the djinn worshipping that takes place here on every jumme-raat (Thursday), there is nothing particularly eerie about the ritual. The creatures are not overtly discussed and are mentioned in a hushed manner by the believers. The djinns here are formless and wandering souls not entrapped in lamps, bottles or rings; unless they take possession over somebody’s body, say the locals.