City Monument – Shadow Corridors, Fatehpuri Masjid
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
These dark, shifting shapes are falling upon the walls and floor like arabesques. Every day they expand, contract, grow blurry and eventually disappear with the progress of hours.
This interplay of shadows is to be marveled at in Fatehpuri Masjid. The world comes to this historic mosque in Old Delhi’s Chandni Chowk to gaze upon the regal aloofness of the principal dome, to lounge in the breeze of the sprawling courtyard, to watch the hyperactive fishes flickering in the vazu pool, to stroll about the surrounding spice shops, and to watch the evening sun setting behind the monument. But Fatehpuri’s most beautiful aspect goes unsung. No guidebook has written about it. The magic of shadows unfolds in the long corridor running along the three sides of the mosque complex.
In the early evening, at different times depending on the season, the many arches that punctuate the corridor reproduce themselves as dark dense outlines on the corridor floor and walls. They look like silhouettes of the actual arches, only softer, and more malleable.
Some parts of the corridor are additionally ornamented with the laundry of the madrasa students, living here as hostel scholars. These clothes lie on the wash lines that are casually strung between the arches. Check lungis, worn track pants and towels—such are the glimpses of the private life of the rooms lining the corridors.
This evening a veiled woman, probably a visitor to the mosque, is sitting idly in a corner of the courtyard. She is motionless and looking like the figure of a Mughal miniature, with the shadows of the arches falling behind her. Further along the corridor, but on the opposite side, an elderly man is lying sprawled on the floor, sleeping. Here, the shadows of the arches are painting his restful figure into curving stripes of light and shade.
Later, as the sun departs, the shadows melt.
Stones of shadows