Fatehpuri Masjid: A Hidden Gem in Old DelhiAeshal Fatima
Located at the western end of Chandni Chowk, Fatehpuri Masjid is an uncomplicated and transcendent masterpiece from the Mughal era with a serene and tranquil atmosphere, unlike the market. This unostentatious architecture was built by Fatehpuri Begum, one of Shah Jahan’s wives, in the year, 1650. I think one of the many reasons for the building of numerous mosques, not just in the Mughal era, but in history as an entirety, is one of the verses of the Quran, which says, “Whoever builds a mosque for the sake of Allah, then Allah will build for him a house like it in Paradise.” – [Sahih al-Bukhari, Sahih Muslim].
The 1650 built mosque was auctioned after the 1857 revolt by the Britishers and was sold to Rai Lala Chunnamal for just Rs. 19,000(whose descendants still live in the Chunnamal haveli in Chandni Chowk, who preserved the mosque). Later, in 1877 it was acquired by the government in exchange for four villages. At the Delhi Darbar, it was restored to the Muslims who had been, by then, allowed to come back to Old Delhi by the Britishers
In the context of architecture, the mosque has 3 entrances — from the south, north and the east. These are mostly crowded due to several reasons – Chaina Ram and its delectable sweets, the original Giani’s with its scrumptious food and delicious ice cream as well as the fact that a lane on the side leads to the spice-market, Khari Baoli. Even though the doors and minarets seem a little vaulted, but the carved designs are worth a second glance. Prior to praying, the mandatory ritual of cleansing oneself (called Wudu) is done by people in the centre of the mosque where there is a large central fountain circled by small benches. Inside the mosque, there is a wall where the do’s and don’ts during namaz are written for the people so that they can offer prayers in the righteous and ethical manner. After the prayers, many people are seen reading the holy book which is regarded as auspicious and sacred according to Islam.
The two occasions that are celebrated with much grandeur in the mosque are Eid-ul-fitr and Eid-al-adha. Thousands of people come together on these holy festivals and offer prayers while celebrating the joyous occasion.
As the red-sandstone-architecture doesn’t consist of enormous domes or supercilious minarets, like the more popular Jama Masjid, it doesn’t leave you awe-struck, but its simplicity acts as a magnet for the locals as well as foreign visitors. As Dilliwala Mayank Austin Soofi beautifully put, “The mosque’s simplicity is heart-touchingly poetic, especially during the twilight hours when the sky over the courtyard is pale blue and the moon newborn. Washed in the day’s fading light, the prayer hall looks so vulnerable that you fear it might disappear any moment from the face of the earth.” Its relaxing and undisturbed aura is not just a contradiction to the buzzing Chandni Chowk but also the assumed fast-paced Delhi life that majority associate with.
Talking about the hurried lifestyle of Delhi, a flower market (also known as Fatehpuri Phool Mandi) which was to be found beside the mosque till about five years back was shifted. The Fatehpuri Mandi (also known as the Genda Phool Mandi as it was famous for its marigolds) was one of the well-known flower markets in Delhi and dated back to the British rule which makes it around 70-80 years old. The market used to start trading early in the morning at about 4 am and within a span of hours, the traders and sellers did business which was worth crores. But this was before Delhi government’s decision to shift the Mandi to Ghazipur. Although the decision was not implemented smoothly, the government promised an alternative for their business.