City Monument – Fatehpuri Mosque, Chandni Chowk
A simple poetry.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
Everybody knows Emperor Shah Jahan’s wife Mumtaz Mahal. He built her the Taj Mahal in Agra.
Not many of us are aware of Fatehpuri Begum. She, too, was Shah Jahan’s wife. And she has a lesser-known mosque named after her.
Fatehpuri Masjid, the Walled City’s third largest mosque, is of red sandstone but it doesn’t have huge domes or tall minarets. The central dome might appear to be of marble but that’s lime mortar, actually. It also houses a hostel for the male students of an Islamic seminary; their kurtas and lungis hang along the corridors giving a touch of domesticity to the monument.
Tucked into one end of Chandni Chowk, Fatehpuri Masjid ‘s history is steeped in pathos—damaged by the British following the 1857 uprising, sold to a Hindu merchant, and returned to the faithful only 20 years later.
Commissioned by Nawab Fatehpuri Begum in 1650, the mosque’s corridors, walls and the three gateways do not inspire awe. No imposing flight of stone steps leads to its sprawling courtyard.
Then why bother coming here? Because the mosque’s simplicity is heart-touchingly poetic, especially during the twilight hours when the sky over the courtyard is pale blue and the moon newborn. Washed in the day’s fading light, the prayer hall looks so vulnerable that you fear it might disappear any moment from the face of the earth.
Soon the approaching night starts to swallow the shade of the courtyard’s giant gular tree. But the fish in the vazukhana, the ablution pool, remain as lively as ever. Later the courtyard becomes as quiet as a graveyard (indeed, it is home to 21 graves). Calmness descends. Noisy Delhi disappears. The illusion vanishes the moment you step out into the bustling Chandni Chowk. But there’s always the next evening.
Beyond Mumtaz Mahal’s Taj Mahal