Located in Delhi's fifth city, Firuzabad, at the citadel Kotla Firuz Shah, the Hawa Mahal ('palace of the winds' or 'airy palace') was probably where the Emperor Firuz Shah's numerous concubines lived. The Hawa Mahal served as a prototype for sixteenth century Mughal city palaces. The narrow connecting corridor linking the palace to the qibla wall of Jami Masjid of the Kotla became a common feature for sultanate mosques because they provided a secluded passageway through which the ladies of the harem could reach the mosque. The Hawa Mahal is also known as the Lat (pillar) Pyramid because Firuz Shah mounted one of the pillars (lat) of Ashoka atop the palace.
Captivated by Ashokan pillars, the emperor transported this pillar from Topra to Delhi. In 1837 James Princep deciphered the inscriptions on this pillar, yielding the key to the 'Brahmi' script.
Positioned to the north of the main gate, the Lat Pyramid's base is square and rises three-stories according to a pyramidal formation. The Lat Pyramid's symmetrical plan requires each façade virtually mirrors the other three. The palace lacks ornamentation yet is striking in its simplicity and unusual choice of massing and material. Rough ashlar masonry imbues a distinctive texture to the otherwise plain façade. The row of identical arched openings set back at each level enhances the verticality of the pyramidal structure. The height of the pyramid is 46'-6" from the ground to the roof with the Ashokan pillar rising above it.
The base at ground level measures 118' square. Rooms are arranged in a ring around a solid rubble core and are two-cells deep and interconnected. These vaulted rooms open to the outside through individual arched openings.
The first level rises above ground level with stairs approaching the respective entrances. The corner rooms are low-domed chambers containing stairs that provided access to the upper levels and the subterranean tunnel. Much of the stairwells have collapsed, making it hard to access the upper levels. Only some fragments of the southwest and southeast corner stairwell remain. The corner towers are square in plan, measuring 20'.
The second level is set back and measures 85'. The vaulted rooms on this level are much larger with wider arched openings. The rooms are only one-cell deep on this level and are interconnected with wider passageways and stairs at the four corners permit access to the third level.
The third level square measures 54'. It consists of a ring of eight rooms; four of which are corner rooms. Each of the square 9'-9" rooms are interconnected through arched openings.
An arcade is thought to have once surrounded the lat on the roof. The arcade no longer exists except for the bases of one or two columns. The lat remains the main focus of the building today, especially since much of the outer walls of the second and third level have crumbled and the loss of the corner chambers has diminished its massive profile.
Alfieri, Bianca Maria. Islamic Architecture of the Indian Subcontinent. London: Laurence King Publishing, 2000. 41- 43.
McKibben, William Jeffrey. The Architecture of Firuz Shah Tughluq. Ann Arbor, Michigan: University Microfilms International, 2000. 114-118.
Nath, R. History of Sultanate Architecture. New Delhi: Abhinav Publications, 1978.