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City Monument – Roshanara’s Tomb, Near Ghantaghar

A woman’s place. [Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi] Roshanara Begum lies buried in the ruins of this 17th century pavilion. Her own brother—Mughal emperor Aurangzeb—sentenced her to death after she was discovered with eight men at her apartment in the Red Fort harem. The irony is that the princess had sided with this…

City Monument – Masjid Rukn ud Daula, Chawri Bazaar

A dream in the market. [Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi] Everything beautiful in this secretive city seems to be concealed ‘up a flight of steep dark stairs’. This Mughal-era mosque, too, is such a revelation. Lost in the clutter of Old Delhi’s Chawri Bazaar, it lies atop small shops selling aluminum and copper…

City Monument – Aga Khan’s Grand Heritage, Hazrat Nizamuddin

The great restoration project. [Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi] This could be the closest thing to paradise. Here, the world is all grass and birds, air and sky. Sunflowers sway gently in the afternoon breeze. Tiny manicured gardens are laid out one after the other. Stone benches are placed discreetly behind green hedges—just…

City Monument – Paradesi Synagogue, Jew Town, Cochin

India’s oldest surviving Jewish temple. [Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi] Its name literally means ‘foreigner’ in Hindi. The Delhi Walla is in Paradesi Synagogue in Jew Town, Cochin. India’s oldest surviving Jewish temple, it is a dream world of chandeliers. The stately Venetian and Belgian glass artworks hang down in great dignity from…

City Monuments – Princely Houses, New Delhi

The capital housing society. [Text by Mayank Austen Soofi; photographs courtesy-Niyogi Books; above picture is of Bikaner House] Believe it or not, traces of the US-Pakistan relationship can be found in Delhi’s National School of Drama. A new coffee-table book tells us that Bahawalpur House, which has housed the prestigious institution since 1975, used to…

City Monument – Anonymous Ruin, Mehrauli

A sad beauty. [Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi] It is there. And it is not there. This collapsed edifice in Mehrauli is the very essence of Delhi. Nobody seems to know its name. Most of it is lost to time and yet the remains are evocative enough to ship us into the past….

City Monument – Bijay Mandal, Near IIT Delhi Flyover

Delhi’s most puzzling ruin. [Text and pictures by Mayank Austen Soofi] This was the palace of Muhamamd bin Tughlaq (1300-1351), a sultan so stupid that he forcibly moved Delhi’s entire population 700 miles south to the Deccan. Having survived many transformations, Bijay Mandal, or what is left of it, is like difficult poetry with the…

City Monument – Zafar Mahal, Mehrauli

The last palace. [Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi] The summer palace of the Mughals, it turned out to be their last major building. It is in ruins. Situated beside the shrine of Sufi saint Khawaja Qutbuddin Bakhtiar Kaki, Zafar Mahal is in South Delhi’s Mehrauli village. Its beauty lie unnoticed. Neighbourhood boys piss…

City Monument – Bedil’s Tomb, Pragati Maidan

The dead poet’s society. [Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi] One of the principal pilgrimages of poetry lovers in Uzbekistan and Afghanistan lies in Delhi–the tomb of Mirza Abdul Qadir Bedil. A 17th century Persian poet of Delhi, Bedil was the inspiration of Mirza Ghalib. Delhi’s great egostical poet, Ghalib had great esteem for…

City Monument – Baolis, Step Wells of Delhi

The water resorts. [Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi] The heat is oppressive. Down the stone stairs. Shade. The wet sari clinging to her skin, Zeenat Begum is washing herself in cool water. The pool is covered with the yellow leaves of kikar. “It’s my hamam,” says the elderly woman. Picking up her blouse…

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