Begumpur Mosque: first Four Iwan Style Mosque of India[PHOTO STORY]


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the begumpur mosque
The Begumpur Mosque

The Begumpur Mosque was one of the seven mosques built by ‘Khan-i-Jahan’ Junan Shah, the Prime Minister of Feroz Shah Tughlaq (in 1387) in ancient Jahanpanah It is in Malviya Nagar, in present Day.

[Jahanpanah was the Fourth city of Medieval Delhi built by Muhammad bin Tughlaq in 1327 AD]

the entrance of begumpur mosque
The Entrance of Begumpur Mosque

Interestingly Khan-i- Jahan is none other than Nagaya Ganna (Maqbul Tilangani). He was the commander of Kakatiya Empire under Pratapa Rudra. Under Firoz Shah, he converted into Islam. Later on, became a wazir of Delhi Sulthanate. He got a new name ‘Malik Maqbul

the begumpur mosque panorama picture
The Begumpur Mosque- Panorama

Sultan Firoz Shah in his autobiography Futuhat-i-Firozshahi mentions that Junan Shah has built seven mosques-
1. Khirki Mosque
2. Begumpur Mosque
3. Masjid Kalu Sarai
4. Kalan Masjid (Hazrat Nizamuddin)
5. Masjid Firoz Shah Kotla
6. Masjid Wakya (Lahori gate)
7. Kalan Masjid (Turkaman gate)

In present day, only the mosques at Begumpur, Khirki, Nizamuddin and Turkman Gate exist. The remaining perished.

the eastern entrance of begumpura mosque
The Eastern entrance

Begumpur Mosque- Controversy of its origin

Probably because of its close proximity to Bijay Mandal, some attribute it to Mohammed Bin Tuglaq. They say, he built it in the year he died i.e. 1351AD.

But Ibn Battuta the Moroccon traveller in India {from 1333 to 1334} fails to make any reference of Begumpur Masjid in this book “Rihla” . Additionally, 10yrs is too less to construct this architectural masterpiece.

Begumpur Mosque in terms of scale, is the second largest mosque in Delhi after Shah Jahan’s Jama Masjid.

It is solid and impressive. It looks more like a fort than a mosque. Admittedly, for the first time in India, a mosque is built in four Iwan Style (developed and widely used in medieval Iran)

ground plan of begumpur mosque
Ground plan of Begumpur Mosque. Pic from Tughluqs: Master Builders of the Delhi Sulthanate by Anthony Welch

It is designed by an Iranian architect Zahir al-Din-al-Jayush.

Historian Rana Safvi says that Begumpur Mosque is the first Indian example of the “Brhatmukhi” mosque type.

It is a Timurid type of courtyard mosque with single-vaulted arcade wings on the north, south and the east surrounding a large Sehan {central courtyard}

It is made up of rubble masonry and the local grey Delhi quartzite.

The single Vaulted arcade wings of the begumpura mosque
The single Vaulted arcade wings ( The Verandahs )
Begumpur Mosque- Architecture

The over all layout of the mosque is 90mx 94m. The inner courtyard measures 75x80m.

It has 3 gates, one in each of three covered passages (single-vaulted arcade wings) in North, East and South directions. The entrance is towards east. It has a flight of around 15 steps.

The Eastern Entrance with a flight of steps
To the east- the Entrance with a flight of steps
The South Gate of the Begumpura Mosque
The South Gate
The Northern Gate of the Begumpura Mosque
The Northern Gate

The mosque contains 64 domes in total. The verandahs on the North and South have eight domes each, while towards East and West there are seven domes.

The Domes of the Verandahs
The Domes of the Verandahs

begumpura mosqueTowards, the west is the Tughlaqi style Mihrab. It has three arched openings with tapering minarets on its flanks. It is covered by a big dome of 9 feet height.

Although the Prayer hall has decorative carvings, the walls are bland.

The western wall (Qibla) which has the Mihrab
To the west, lies the Tughlaqi style Mihrab
The three arched openings with tapering minarets on its flanks-the Tughlaqi Style Mihrab
The three arched openings with tapering minarets on its flanks-the Tughlaqi Style Mihrab
The Holy Mihrab
To the west, the Holy Mihrab
The picturesque interior of the prayer hall
The picturesque interior of the prayer hall

On the East, a small passageway leads to an independent small structure. Probably it’s a mosque for women. Because of the massive encroachments surrounding it, this part cannot be accessed now.

The mathematical symmetry of Khirki Mosque can be found on the roofs of Begumpur as well.

Collapsed wall and the domes to the east of the prayer hall- the mosque for the women
Collapsed wall and the domes to the east of the prayer hall- probably the women’s mosque
Begumpur Mosque- Social significance

In its time, in addition to a Mosque, it served as a Madarsa and also as an administrative center with a treasury. Above all, it was an important social center of the capital.

Collapsed wall and the domes to the east of the prayer hall- the mosque for the women
A rare pic of Begumpur Mosque – where refugees settled in 1948

Until, early 18th century the mosque was in active use.

Begumpur Mosque- Modern Day significance

By 1739, the Mughal dynasty gradually got weakened. Consequently, the plundering of Delhi by Iranian Sultan Nadir Shah started. Thus locals took refuge in this fortified mosque. They established a small village inside its walls, by moving their homes, their belongings and animals.

In 1921, a portion of the mosque roof collapsed. Only after that ASI managed to persuade the inhabitants to move out.

Again in 1947, following the partition desperate refugee families from Pakistan settled in the mosque for quite some time.

Author Dr K Sharmila Reddy with the neglected ruins
Author Dr K Sharmila Reddy with the neglected ruins
The Begumpur Mosque landscape view
The Begumpur Mosque – a landscape view

VIDEOS of Begumpur Mosque

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