City Monument – Begumpuri Masjid, Sarvapriya Vihar

City Secret - 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

City Secret - Begumpuri Masjid, Sarvapriya Vihar

The doorway view

City Secret - Begumpuri Masjid, Sarvapriya Vihar

The vast courtyard

City Secret - Begumpuri Masjid, Sarvapriya Vihar

Rarely visited

City Secret - Begumpuri Masjid, Sarvapriya Vihar

A ripple of domes

City Secret - Begumpuri Masjid, Sarvapriya Vihar

Once there was a roof

City Secret - Begumpuri Masjid, Sarvapriya Vihar

Makeover with bricks?

City Secret - Begumpuri Masjid, Sarvapriya Vihar

Sparse view

City Secret - Begumpuri Masjid, Sarvapriya Vihar

Tunnel vision

City Secret - Begumpuri Masjid, Sarvapriya Vihar

Somebody’s love life

City Secret - Begumpuri Masjid, Sarvapriya Vihar

Catch out

City Secret - Begumpuri Masjid, Sarvapriya Vihar

Stones don’t speak

City Secret - Begumpuri Masjid, Sarvapriya Vihar

Back in the city

City Secret - Begumpuri Masjid, Sarvapriya Vihar