City Monument – A Lesser-Known Mosque, Safdarjang’s Tomb
A side relic.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
It’s hard to put your finger on it, but there’s an ineffable sense of sadness about Safdarjang’s Tomb—which isn’t always the case with memorials for the dead.
One of the very last Mughal-era edifices, this nobleman’s garden-tomb in central Delhi evokes the melancholy of a fallen noble family languishing in genteel poverty.
Built in 1750s, this was an unstable period in history when our city still had the living memory of Nader Shah’s invasion. In another 100 years the British would executed almost all Mughal princes and sent the emperor packing.
The lingering sadness also holds true for the unnamed and little-known mosque that you’ll discover by passing through a gateway door; and then crossing a sprawling courtyard, peaceful as a remote monastery.
Suddenly there’s this mosque itself, unheralded and seldom visited. THis afternoon milky-white daylight is flooding through the arched openings, while various chambers are connected through arches gracefully sculpted across the walls and roof.
A niche is filled with plastic skull caps. It’s said that Friday prayers are still offered here.
The most poignant aspect of this mosque is viewed from afar. You’d want to go back to the high platform on Safdarjung’s Tomb where there’s a clear view of the three domes. From a distance, they look like those small vinegary onions served in Mughlai restaurants.
At twilight the unfolding darkness shrouds the domes. They now resemble some sort of porous papery substance that might dissolve at any moment.