City Monument – Unnamed Mosque, Lodhi Garden
A little known exquisiteness.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
One life isn’t enough to crack the megapolis of Delhi and its NCR cousins. The microscopic magnitude of a teenie weenie lane in Roshanpura will be enough to claim all the years.
Lodhi Garden is a suitable microcosm for the National Capital Region. You may devote a hundred lifetimes to the park and you will still be scratching its surface. Too much going on here: the trees, the flowers, the lawns, the chai vendors crisscrossing those lawns all day long, the park’s many dogs (each has a name!), the birds, the rats, the butterflies, the benches, the ducks, the jogging tracks, the yoga groups, the reading societies, and of course the great heap of collective memories the park has assembled among the millions of Delhiwale over the decades, and lest we forget—the many monuments of Lodhi Garden, plus the anonymous centuries-old graves littered here and there.
Amid such a massive labyrinth of spectacles, one special place rarely receives the attention it deserves. It is excessively detailed in its limited vastness. The only downside is that its knockout beauty can be exhausting.
This three-domed unused mosque, tucked beside the majestic Bada Gumbad tomb, came up in 1494 in the reign of Sikander Lodhi, whose octagonal tomb lies within the same park.
On entering the monument, the first thing to do is not to do what the masses do—sit by one of its two orial windows and snap a selfie. The next thing to do is to crane up your neck. You shall see the inner walls of the domes sculpted into most intricate designs, as delicately maheen as a bride’s mehendi. The lower parts are scooped into dozens of arched taaks, each intercalated into patterns of flowers and leaves. While the arches, including the broad borders of large taaks, are adorned with calligraphies. These inscriptions are like a book set in stone, in which sentences traverse along the page in solemn symbols of long tapering shapes.
The rest of the wall calligraphy is contemporary and crude: “Anu loves Jeon Jungkook.” “Heena love Fuzail.” “Shail love Fardeen.” “Amir loves Nisheeen.” “Chitra loves Sandy.” “Ashi loves Ayush.” “Rahul loves Poonam.” “Ramesh loves Ruchi.” Some of these people have actually drawn out time, effort and motivation to inflict even deeper damage by scarring the historic stones with large unshapely bleeding hearts.
One muggy evening, a masked woman steps into the monument, and looks around attentively. She is artist Dayanita Singh.
Stones of Lodhi