City Monument – Jami Masjid, Feroze Shah Kotla
All the Delhis.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
In Delhi, several centuries live together — and here’s a rare place where you get to see all those centuries in a single eye sweep. The Jami Masjid at Feroze Shah Kotla makes for a perfect vantage point to see the Delhis of the past, of the present, and of the future. Situated on a raised platform, the mosque is without a roof. Low walls line its north and south, while the Mecca-facing western wall is sculpted with niches. The north-side is open and drops steeply, like a mountainside cliff, onto a park below. From the mosque, among other things, you see the following:
A) the traffic speeding along the Ring Road,
B) the chimneys of (defunct) Rajghat Power Thermal plant,
C) the Vikas Minar at ITO,
D) the Indira Gandhi stadium,
E) the houses of adjacent Vikram Nagar.
Each of these places encapsulates the pulse of today’s Delhi. The office tower of Vikas Minar pales against the gleaming high-rises of Gurugram, but, having come up in 1976, the building is a souvenir of an early draft of New Delhi’s skyline. It was built by the DDA (Delhi Development Authority), the organisation whose model housing projects have grown to be such an integral part of a Delhiite’s aspirations that a ‘2 BHK DDA flat’ has become synonymous with a house of one’s own.
Your gaze then shifts towards the unsymmetrical multi-storey dwellings of Vikram Nagar, which host a large number of young professionals and students who take up rooms on rent. Then to the park down under the mosque, so tiptop and clipped that you feel it could be the best portion of any neighbourhood DDA park.
Towards the north stand the eighty-meter high Ashokan pillar, one of a series of columns erected by the Mauryan king Ashoka 300 years before Christ. Transplanted from its original site in Punjab, it is so astonishingly smooth that it looks newer than Vikas Minar.
As for the mosque where you stand, it belongs to the 14th century, and is part of Firozabad, the fifth city of Delhi. Most of the buildings around it were vandalized during the construction of the new city of Shahjahanabad, which is a few minutes walk away.
One thing that you won’t see from here, but which is very near — the Yamuna. Its invisibility intimates how distanced the city has grown from its river.
As you eyes dart about, simultaneously taking in the various eras, it feels like you’re in a time capsule, with all times jumbled up together.