Tilangani’s 7 Wonders of Delhi
Khan-i-Jahan Junan Shah Tilangani, the prime minister of Feroz Shah Tughlaq brought a revolution in the Mosque Architecture of India. His creations were majestic, beautiful and well planned. Last month, I wrote about Jauna Khan, who later became Muhammed Bin Tughlaq and was widely misunderstood. Today I write about another Jauna Khan, whose wonderful contribution is victim of neglect and poor keep.
Who was Tilangani
Gannama Nayaka, aka Yugandhar, the commander of Warangal was converted to Islam in 1323 by Muhammad bin Tughlaq (then Shehzada Jauna Khan) and made governor of Multan after the defeat of King Prataparudra of Kakatiya Dynasty. He was given the name “Malik Maqbul”, and soon became Masnad-i-Aali Ulugh Qutlugh Azam-i-Humayun Khan-i-Jahan Maqbul Tilangani. During the region of Feroz Shah Tughlaq, Malik Maqbul was made the Prime Minister and one of the highest paid ministers of Indian history with a salary of 13 lakh Tankas (silver currency of Tughlaq regime) annually and therefore earned the title of ‘Lakhtankia’. Not only this, he also succeeded in saving his office of Prime Minister for his son Jauna Khan (later known as Khan-i-Jahan Junan Shah, the hero of our story). Maqbool Tilangani named his son after his first master Junan Shah was creative, but a weak commander. He could not lead armies like his father. So he spent more time in constructing beautiful marvels for his architecture loving master Feroz Shah Tughlaq, which changed the way mosques were built in India. Unfortunately, he could not last long and was soon captured and executed in a conflict for succession. But during his tenure, he succeeded in constructing seven architectural wonders on 14th century Delhi. He built 7 mosques, which broke all the rules of mosque architecture known till then and established a new trend, which later spread to the length and breadth of Sultanate Empire.
NOTE: Some historians claim that these mosques (or some of them) were built by Khan-i-Jahan Maqbool Tilangani (Malik Maqbool), whereas the ASI record correctly identify his son Khan-i-Jahan Junan Shah Tilangani to be the architect of these buildings.
The Seven Mosques of Tilangani
Hidden behind a thin row of small shops right opposite the famous shopping malls of Saket, it’s a 288 feet long and 288 feet wide square-shaped Mosque with 11 feet high basement containing 100 cells. It’s 81 domes stand on 22 feet high 180 columns and 60 pilasters and it has 15 Mihrabs (arches on praying wall). There are three huge gates on north, south and east sides. But what’s most important is that this was the first mostly covered mosque of India. It has four openings in the roof to let sunlight come in. The only fully covered mosque built during that time was that in Gulbarga (Karnataka), which was built few years after completion of Khirki Masjid by a Spanish Architect and is smaller in size. In order to ensure proper ventilation, Junan Shah built red sandstone windows instead of walls, from where the mosque got its name “Khirki” (meaning window).
Unlike Khirki, Begumpur mosque is single storied and is slightly bigger in size (308’ X 289’). It has total 68 domed compartments and a huge open court. The main Pishtaq (central arch), which is the most prominent feature of the building is flanked by sloping buttresses each containing a winding staircase leading to the roof. There is an attached Mallu Khana, which is an independent mosque for ladies and also has a Taikhana. Mallu khana is accessible from a very small opening in North wall, where you have to kneel to get through. I have not seen or heard of any mosque from that era, which contains such a huge and beautifully decorated mosque for women, attached to the main mosque. Mallu Khana is approx 1/4th of the size of Begumpur Masjid and has beautiful Mehrabs and Windows. An entire village was settled in this Mosque at one time. British forced the villagers out, and who established their small houses along the walls of this mosque, but within the Lal Dora.
Jami Masjid of Kotla Feroz Shah is a combination of both Begumpur and Khirki Masjid. Its uniqueness is the material used, which is local quartzite rubble, externally rendered with limestone, originally of a dazzling whiteness and giving the effect of marble. It contains a huge open courtyard with thick walls with open arches. Lower level of Mosque contains Taikhana with a series of cells, which are now habitat of bats and are illuminated with earthen lamps and incense sticks as locals believe this place to be the abode of Djinns. A very huge circular pit covers most of the courtyard of mosque, which is assumed to be a well (unlikely for any mosque to mark such huge space for ablution zone or wazoo-khana right in the middle of the courtyard). There was a unique octagonal dome over this well supported by 260 pillars of 25 feet in height. Documents suggest that these pillars were removed and used while constructing towers in the wall of Shahjahanabad. Amir Taimur lung (Tamerlane) was so impressed with this grand mosque of Delhi, that after offering his prayers here, he took 200 craftsmen from India to build a similar mosque for him in Samarqand. Few of them were rewarded for their service but many were beheaded for negligence after completion of mosque. This mosque today stands proudly as Bibi Khanum Mosque of Samarkand,Uzbekistan.
Masjid Kalu Sarai
This is another marvel by Junan Shah, but now in ruins. It fell into the hands of locals and in last 2 centuries, pieces of the mosque have been falling down. Only few arches are left and original size or design of this mosque is no longer known. Some historic travellers mention of this mosque as a magnificent piece of architecture. The main building is now consumed by row houses and while walking down the tight lanes, one can see remains of arches and walls. However, it is assumed that the portion shown in this picture was the original area of mosque.
This is the huge active mosque near Turkman Gate of Shahjahanabad (Old Delhi). It is a double storied mosque with double-apartments in the basement, which are till date used by locals. This is an active mosque and so badly surrounded by row houses, that the original façade of Mosque is totally hidden. As you can see from this picture, it is half covered and has domes all over it. the green circle on the eastern wall is actually the green dome of projected entrance, which is reached through a flight of stairs. From inside, the mosque is now beautifully plastered and coloured, while the floor is decorated with marble slabs. The exterior however is white washed and thankfully, the mosque management committee is taking good care of the place.
This mosque from Nizamuddin Basti is an architectural replica of Kalan Masjid of Turkman Gate from outside. From inside, the difference both mosques have is in the partition of courtyard. Turkman Gate Kalan Masjid has half of the courtyard covered, whereas this one has a cross section (as appears in image on left) and has multiple domes over it. The lower right corner (South East) is now covered, which is a modern repair work. Its original name is also Kalan Masjid (huge mosque), but with time, the name got corrupted to Kali Masjid (black mosque). This mosque has multiple entrances and numerous domes but most of them have been repaired beyond recognition by local caretakers. When I went there last, I saw piles of building material as some repair work was going on. Most of the domes of this mosque have collapsed and caretakers have constructed plain roof in place of broken sections.
Also known as Chausath-khamba Masjid (Mosque of 64 pillars), this mosque is situated on Mirdard Marg near the Maulana Azad Medical College. Its 64 pillars are made of White Sandstone and supports a huge roof over its 64 pillars. This is an active mosque and rarely known to the outside world. As far as size is concerned, this is a much smaller mosque (as compared to other 6 mosques of Tilangani). However, nowhere else he built a proper Chausath-Khamba before this.
It is pity that this marvellous architect was brutally murdered and the revolution he brought to Indo-Islamic architecture had a major setback.
– Vikramjit Singh Rooprai