Telengani Junior lacked the characteristic interest in administration and warfare that his father was renowned for and his only penchant was for architecture and construction. On either side in the foreground are staircases leading to the roof. As if the mosque is surrounded by a moat, the lush green square, in which the gigantic structure is located and which demarcates its existence from the thickly-populated village encircling it, is situated on a considerably lower ground level compared to the surroundings and enclosed by means of a high iron wire mesh. The mosque itself sits on a high plinth — nearly 3 meters tall — composed of numerous arched chambers that make up the ground floor of the structure; around a score stairs lead up to the rough rectangular entrance composed of trabeates stone ledges of successively increasing size placed atop each other to span space that were a favorite of the affluent Tughlaq nobility.
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Today, we will talk about the strange things that have happened at and around the Khirki Mosque, one of the four built by Telangani that have survived.
I first visited it on a cold winter morning in I was able to see it because a gentleman I had to meet at Hauz Rani was late in reaching his shop and I am grateful to him for his lack of punctuality. I remembered the mosque, asked for directions and soon at the threshold of this magnificent structure. I stood there, looking at the ubiquitous red, blue and white ASI proclamation, warning all that approached of the consequences of damaging, mutilating or in any manner disfiguring what lies beyond.
What lay beyond was a protected monument and anyone daring to damage the said protected heritage was liable to be fined, imprisoned or both. What I found more foreboding than this official admonition was the overwhelming stench emanating from the gate of this protected edifice. Try as I might, I could not step in until I had stuffed my nose and mouth with my scarf.
The stench came from a wet carpet of bat droppings almost a couple of inches thick. It had rained the night before and the result was there to overwhelm all comers. Gingerly, I stepped in and moved rapidly away from the source of that overwhelming and overpowering aroma, but the sight that confronted me inside was no relief. There were four little fires, spreading less warmth and more smoke, there were a few bedraggled men, sprawled on the bare floor around the fires, most in a strange state of stupor, a few were half-awake, littered all around were empty quarter bottles, mostly plastic, of country liquor and bits of foil and burnt matchsticks, evidence that the gents had been chasing or snorting drugs.
The picture was completed by a few dogs curled up near the fires, too comfortable in the dying warmth to even growl and there were two desultory donkeys eyeing me suspiciously. This was my first introduction to the Khirki Mosque. I have chosen to narrate this rather gory description in order to foreground the condition of a large number of our heritage structures, both run-of-the-mill and monumental.
I must have visited the site a couple of times over the next few years and did not find much improvement, but over the years, things have changed — inside the mosque for the better and outside for the worse.
It is almost 15 years since I began visiting the Khirki Mosque on a fairly regular basis. In this decade-and-a-half, I have picked up many interesting stories about the place and I will share a couple of them here to give an idea of how the village called Khirki bonded with the mosque at the time we got our independence and how it treats the structure now.
Masterji belonged to a family that had been living in Khirki for generations and owned quite a lot of landed and built property in and around the village. The village had a mixed population — a few Brahmins, Jats, both Hindu and Muslim, some traders, artisans and Dalits. Masterji studied in the village primary school and later at the Mehrauli High School before being appointed as a teacher at his old school in Khirki.
What follows is the gist of the story that he narrated. Khirki Mosque. Credit: Wikimedia Commons Communal disturbances followed in the wake of independence and Partition, most of the Muslim Jats in this area, including those living in Hauz Rani, Khirki, Saiyad-ul-Ajaib etc had relatives in Mewat and most escaped there, sometime later a large group of people who had arrived from the part of Punjab that was now in Pakistan were sent by Sardar Patel to settle inside the mosque.
The villagers would have none of this and a delegation was formed to go meet the prime minister, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, to tell him that a mosque cannot be turned into a refugee camp. The interesting element of the story is that there were no Muslims left in the village, it was the Hindus of the village that had gone to protect the mosque.
The Maulana arrived, the village elders accompanied him to the mosque and showed him around, the Maulana was convinced and went back to report his findings to the prime minister. By the evening the new occupants were relocated on three sides of the mosque — the east, the north and the west. The south face that opened towards the road was left open for access, it was on these three sides that they were to later build their houses and it is there that their descendants now live, in houses that have turned into multi-storey structures, almost totally concealing the mosque from three sides.
Masterji narrated the story to me as he took me around the entire area that is now the Saket mall and the district court at Saket, pointing out the former sites of farm lands, wells, step wells and graveyards.
Around the time when I brought one of my first group of school students to show them structures built during the reign of the Tughlaqs, I found that the mosque entry was locked, we were looking around for the ASI-appointed security guard when a thin, tall young man emerged from one lane and asked me if we wanted to visit the mosque. When we said yes, he disappeared after mumbling something about the key and reappeared a couple of minutes later with the key and let us in. He told me that he had seen me earlier with school students and gave me his name and phone number, telling me to call him whenever I planned to visit the place and that he would come to unlock it for me.
A couple of visits and I learnt that the ASI guard was probably moonlighting and used to leave the keys with the young man, who lived and worked in one of the houses where the Punjabi migrants had been settled in It took me another few visits to understand why the young man had agreed so readily to step into the shoes of the guard.
He was not motivated by altruistic motives, he needed the mosque terrace to exercise his pair of Rampur Hounds. Where did he acquire this beautiful pair and what was his source of income I was not able to find out because, on one of my visits, I was told by the guard who had returned to his post that the young man had died in a road accident. The mosque that had stood its ground for almost six centuries was saved a terrible fate by the residents of the village that gets its name from the mosque with its latticed windows.
It has suffered decades of being abandoned and taken over by vagabonds and vagrants, and within the last few years when the ASI seems to have woken up from its slumber to restore and preserve it, one has seen how the protector of the building has surrendered the keys to this protected monument to someone who wanted to walk his dogs.
And now, the last bit of this outstanding structure that was visible from the road has been obstructed, despite several judicial orders to remove the encroachments, by a brand new Pracheen Mandir on land that is within the no-construction zone of the monuments.
What takes the cake, however, is a claim recently made that this is not even a mosque but is, in fact, a fort built by Maharana Pratap.
There are four open courtyards square in size of 9. The open courtyards are the source of light and ventilation to the internal prayer spaces. The roof is partitioned into 25 squares of equal size with 9 small domes in each square totaling to 81 domes and alternated by 12 flat roofs to cover the roof. The four courtyards provide light and ventilation. The southern gate, with imposing steps at the main entrance, exhibits a combination of arch and trabeated construction.
Khirki Masjid, New Delhi: Address, Khirki Masjid Reviews: 4.5/5
History[ edit ] Khan-i-Jahan Junaan Telangani and Feroz Shah Tughlaq were intensely committed towards building architectural monuments. Together, they planned and built several tombs, forts and mosques. Telangani in particular, was credited with building seven monuments of unique designs. Constructed in the Jahapanah city, it is a novel cross—axial mosque in Tughluqian architectural style. Therefore, in the absence of "epigraphic and literary" evidence though one recent web reference mentions and another for its provenance, a research study has been provided by Welch and Howard in their paper titled "The Tughluqs: Master Builders of the Delhi Sultanate".