City Monument – Barhi Mata Temple, Paharganj
A broken shrine.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
This temple feels like a welcome aberration in central Delhi’s Paharganj—a district avoidable for its crowds and chaos. The small spire is dilapidated, washed of all colours, but looks gorgeously otherworldly.
Tucked away on a side lane, Barhi Mata Mandir is not only peaceful but also totally empty at this hour. There’s no knowing its exact age, though a local shopkeeper says the temple has got more than 100 years on its back. This makes the edifice even more interesting.
It is rare to come across aged temples in our city, possibly because of the vicissitudes of history. “Some worshippers were offering prayers just a few minutes ago,” the shopkeeper notes. Indeed so. The small niches built into temple walls are filled with fresh marigolds.
Though nobody is inside the temple at this moment, one can intensely sense the lingering presence of all those devotees, dead and alive, who have turned up across the years with their hopes, despairs and, of course, prayers.
Slender columns lining the courtyard are infused with layers of patina, no doubt deposited over the course of many seasons. Parts of the roof over the courtyard are missing; the sun is streaming in defiantly through the gaps. The arches that span across the courtyard evoke the life of old-fashioned havelis.
Now a cat slithers along like an Agatha Christie detective.
Just behind the temple is an old rutty building, equally pleasing to the eye: its series of windows a brilliant array of elegance.
The lane goes past the temple itself, ending in a broad courtyard hosting yet another temple. This is the far newer Barhi Mata Mandir, the modern edition of the original.
An old temple