Guest Writer Anahita Fotedar writes about a forgotten architectural marvel of Delhi.
This is the first part of her Architectural Series.
So, this series deals with, monuments in urban villages of New Delhi. Initially, I will give focus to those monuments which are not very prominent but hold an equal grandeur and elegance as that of any ruins of Chandani Chowk.
The Teen Burji Mosque, Mohamadpur Basti, R.K. Puram, New Delhi, India.
Located near the busy junction of the posh residence of Safdarjung Enclave and the district center-Bhikaji Cama Palce of New Delhi, the Teen Burji Mosque is often ignored in the hustle-bustle of the activities around it.
View of the mosque from the main road
Built during the Lodhi dynasty, (1451-1526), it is assumed that the monument is a mosque due to its architectural features like large tomb, covered with hemispherical domes etc. Although, it is unknown as to whose grave it is exactly, but due to the imposing height of the monument, the building is considered that of a high value.The building measures around 56.4m x 18m.
One may have the right to decipher that the imposing height of the building is directly proportional to the fact that Mohamadpur was an extended part of the Mehrauli/Munirka summer palace of the Lodhi & then the Mughal dynasty respectively. The building further consists of three different apartments, the center of which is covered with a traditional hemispherical dome, while the chambers on either side is covered by low fluted domes.
It is sad, that the authorities have closed the main doors of the monument as the monument was utilized as a public space by the residents of the urban village and the kind of activities the kind of activities they indulged in were considered harmful for the monument. On conversing with the residents, I was notified that while during the mid-afternoon and the rest of the evening men indulged in activities like gambling and conversations, during the night because of the high youth population, the monument became a place of “illicit activities”. Obviously, the terminologies left me extremely disturbed and at unrest.
What is also, interesting about this particular monument is, that even though according to the ASI regulations it is considered, a Grade I, national importance monument, the conditions in which it is left to struggle on its own, is horrendous.
National importance? Where?
ASI or the Archaeological Survey of India, mentions that according to the importance of the heritage monument, along with the present urban conditions, a particular radius is provided around the monument in which any other built structure cannot be procreated. In case of this monument, it is a 100m stretch. However the actual scenario, is something entirely different.
100m? More like 10cm
While the idea of waking up to a beautiful view of the monument, may sound romantic and splendid, one needs to understand that the monument itself is a living heritage, it is but a legacy of our past, our culture, and our vernacular architectural style.
Creating my own Hauz Khas Village moment?
Before we dwell further on this topic, there has to be a brief understanding about why this phenomenon occurs in the urban villages. There are plenty of factors involved, in this situation to occur, thus to blame it on, one community or individual is out of scope. What we see today, as urban villages, were at one point of time, agricultural lands. During the Colonial era, a term called Lal Dora was coined, Lal Dora or the Red Line was an arbitrary line drawn by the Britishers to differentiate between the villages and the city centers. However,with industrialization and urbanization and the mass exodus of people invested earlier in agriculture, the face of these Lal Dora districts started morphing into low-rate, high density, plotter development lands. Mohamadpur Village, gained high density also because its next to Bhikaji Cama, a huge economic center of the city.
Rear of the monument.
Another reason, for the government authorities to shut down the main gates of the monument was the rapid growth of plotter development houses and the ignorance of the ASI laws. But one may also see this situation from another perspective, its a high density place, with no designated public spaces and parks, where would a resident possibly go?
Some breathing space.
The only breathing space for this monument is this park in front of it. The park has become a popular congregation spot for both men, women & children of the Mohamadpur village. The open space is now a reflection of all the activities that used to take place inside the monument. Majority of the hours, you see men loitering around or indulging in gambling & conversations. Women, are not seen in the parks when men occupy it because of the very prominent caste system followed in these clusters. Which is extremely interesting because its almost like the monument is re-living its past, because even in the Lodhi dynasty most of the monuments, especially mosques were avidly visited by the men and women were left to their own devices in their pretty palaces.
While the park//open space gives you a pause point to relish and revel in the beauty and the grandeur of the monument, it also causes an obstruction because from the main road all I am able to see is line of trees. As an architecture student, what I find most disturbing is the fact, that the master plan 2021 for New Delhi, which aims at making Delhi a “world-class city” has no regards for such situations and for a moment I did think that it is perhaps because I was looking at an extremely macro scale, so I zoomed in and read up the zonal map of South Delhi, (Zone F, South Delhi-I) and even there I found nothing.
At the moment, the urban cluster of Mohamadpur is full of individuals who provide services to the city, it is a super-essential link in what formulates the back-bone of the city. It lies next to what is considered the second biggest business district of South Delhi but in reality is extremely dead, and to add upto that you have a monument begging for recognition and revival. Does this not make sense to anyone? One could totally draw the potential and services of the Mohamadpur link it to the business district of Bhikaji Cama Palace, and it could be a community powering the potential of a central district hub and the monument can finally get its recognition as a national heritage because of the incoming funds, audience etc.
On that note, I did like to bid an adieu on the first edition of the architectural series. However, please post your comments, queries, change in perspective, I did be glad to hear you guys out.
(Originally posted on Anahita’s own blog. Check it out!)
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