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On the banks of the river Yamuna, located between Old Delhi and New Delhi, is Feroz Shah Kotla, which is thronged by devotees, who come here to seek solutions to their problems. Built by Feroze Shah Tughlaq in 1354, this sprawling grand fort which has a baoli, a majestic Ashoka-era stone pillar, and secret cells beneath building platforms, is also known to be the home of djinns.

According to Islamic cosmology, djinns are created by Allah from smokeless fire. They are said to have the power to control and manipulate humans. Myth has it that they live for thousands of years and can bear a family too. It is believed that they have a soft corner for women with long, luscious hair. The devout also claim that the djinns get attracted to beautiful women and try to possess them. They are believed to be shapeshifters, who can travel long distances in a short span of time. Djinns can be both good and bad. Legend also says that the most malevolent djinns are locked up in a dungeon beneath the steps of the Jami Masjid, which is a mosque inside the fort.

This place came into the spotlight soon after the Emergency in 1977, when a saint named Laddu Shah started living in Feroz Shah Kotla, and told his followers that there are certain energies in the form of djinns who fulfil wishes. Thereafter, people who harnessed such beliefs began coming here to seek blessings and find solutions to their problems. Thursdays are considered auspicious, as djinns are believed to be happy and benevolent on this day. So, every Thursday, people from across Delhi and beyond, flock to Feroz Shah Kotla with letters, candles, chaadars, rice and such, to share their most private secrets and ask for protection.

It is also believed that a Ministry of Djinns exists within the fort. This Ministry functions like the contemporary bureaucracy, with different departments dedicated to deal with different problems. Most believers write their woes and present their petitions by way of a letter. Multiple photocopies are visible in every alcove of the ruin, as people want to ensure that their letter reaches the correct department. The devotee is then expected to make a trip to the ruins for seven jumme raats, for their wish to come true. It is also said that the djinns hold a durbar at midnight to discuss the petitions, and Allah then grants the wishes of those that seem genuine.

Yet another popular belief is that Laat waale baba, who is believed to be the Chief of the Kotla djinns, dwells in the Minar-e-Zareen - the sandstone Ashoka Pillar near the Jami Masjid. Letters written to him are tied to the railing protecting the pillar, and it is said that wishes are granted if one touches this pillar.

Though much of its tangible grandeur has vanished, and all that remains is just a haggard citadel, Feroz Shah Kotla with its labyrinth of dark passageways and musty cave-like rooms, where the djinns are believed to have stayed for more than 400 years, continues to be one of the most surreal places of worship. It is regarded more as a Muslim shrine with “Jinnat ka asarat” (influences of the djinn), than as a historical monument.