City Monument – Begumpuri Masjid, Sarvapriya Vihar
Simple and grand.
[Text and pictures by Mayank Austen Soofi]
You do not expect a short flight of stairs to lead into this vast arcaded courtyard. This mid-14th century mosque is grand, simple and rundown. The pillars are massive but hardly any design etched on the arches and columns. Raised on a plinth, the mosque’s chief entrance, on the eastern side, faces the unaesthetic skyline of the Begumpuri village that is easy to ignore once you enter.
The courtyard’s calm makes the congested world outside seem unreal. And the domes will completely take you in. There are 44 domed compartments on three sides. The Mecca-facing western side has a prayer chamber as well as the building’s central arch – flanked by sloping buttresses with in-built winding staircases. Feel free to climb. The view of the courtyard clashes with that of the village’s – clotheslines, water tanks and cow dung patties.
Believed to be built by a Tughlak-era minister called Khan Jahan Junan Shah, Begumpuri Masjid probably served as the principal Friday mosque during the reign of Mohammad Tughlak. Owing to the anarchic times of 18th century Delhi, vulnerable communities had moved inside the mosque and a village had sprung up, which was cleared off by the Archaeological Survey of India in the 1920s.
Today the mosque is dead. Prayers have been discontinued, the walls are broken, parts of the roof have collapsed and the stonework has blackened. Goats graze, chickens squeak, village boys play cricket and lovers scrawl I-love-you messages. Rarely visited by group tours, the absence of touts and souvenir sellers makes an excursion here more intense than in Delhi’s more popular ruins.
Where Begumpur Village, Sarvapriya Vihar, near Indian Institute of Technology, south Delhi
Make way, dearies
The doorway view
The vast courtyard
A ripple of domes
Once there was a roof
Makeover with bricks?
Somebody’s love life
Stones don’t speak
Back in the city