City Monument – Jamaat Khana Mosque, Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya’s Shrine
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
Steeped in timeless art, the Jamaat Khana Masjid is perhaps the capital’s only mosque from the 14th century still used for prayers. If, of course, you’ll care to notice the redsandstone monument in the first place. Overlooked by many, it’s tucked away inside the famous shrine of Sufi saint Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya in central Delhi.
Finely calligraphed inscriptions adorn the higher reaches of the wall in this holy place originally said to be built as a tomb for Hazrat Nizamuddin. He was eventually buried outside in the courtyard while the ‘tomb’ was expanded to become a mosque. These days it is undergoing conversation by the Aga Khan Trust for Culture.
The mosque, however, ought to be visited not only for its aesthetic appeal but also because it is different from most of its counterparts in the city. Its architectural exclusivity is found in the fact that all four walls feature a large central arch niche flanked by narrower ones. The main prayer hall itself is reserved for men, while the side halls, built later, are used by women. Right now, a dozen or so men are presently lounging on the matted floor in the blazing heat of the afternoon: Some praying, others sound asleep.
Sitting inside the mosque is of course one good way to appreciate its elegance. But a truly moving perspective is gained by viewing the monument in early evening from an easily accessible roof near the Sufi shrine’s entrance. Here, its white dome appears like a piece of meteoroid drifting in the darkening sky. More than just a bit unworldly.
A monument by a dargah