Begumpuri Masjid

Begumpuri Masjid

Begumpuri Masjid Jahanpanah, so lovingly planned and so carelessly given up by Muhammad-bin-Tughlaq (1325-1351), is survived by painfully little today. Remaining buildings speak of grandiose and much planning; the idea was to encompass all the Delhis before it in one all-embracing fortress. However like most ideas of Muhammad-bin-Tughlaq (see history) it defied all practical steps taken to make it a reality and Jahanpanah was left as it was when about halfway through.

Whatever left of it has been swallowed up by grasping tentacles of the ever-expanding south Delhi. The walls of Jahanpanah are surprisingly huge; some even have rooms built into them to store provisions and war equipment. You can spot some sections of the wall at Satpula, near Khirkee Village.

The Begumpuri Masjid, which occupied the place of pride in the sultan's capital being bang in its centre, is so formal looking that you almost expect it to have a stiff upper lip. It was obviously built for majesty, what with its towering stature and striking profile. It was obviously meant to be, and was, much more than just a mosque. It was a social and communal hub – it housed a madrasa and a treasury. People met here for business and other transactions and the city's grain markets were often held just outside the mosque's entrance.

The masjid itself is built in the typically Spartan Tughlaq style. It frowns down on everyone from an elevated platform, which makes for an immense courtyard surrounded by arcaded cloisters. Its cool and breezy interiors were probably as quiet and serene then as they are now. One can imagine pious devotees spending time here in silent meditation, reflecting on Allah and His decrees.

As one climbs up to the masjid, its massive pointed dome suddenly pops out of the towering doorways that it had been hiding behind. There were originally forty-fur smaller domes too, however some of these have either fallen or are crumbling. These used to be atop the riwaq (cloister), strewn across the courtyard above the porticos.

An interesting façade of twenty four arched openings greets the visitor to this mosque. On either side of the mosque you will see tapering minarets which are characteristic Tughlaq material. Architecture freaks don't miss the core of the courtyard, which is akin to the Jaunpur Mosques and the only example of its kind in Delhi.

One wonders why this mosque was ever abandoned, considering that India is teeming with medieval mosques that still in worship. There are steps which can take you right to the top of mosque; you can get an excellent view of the Bijai Mandal next door.