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Wanna play cricket in a ruin?

This little visited destination in the heart of south Delhi is simple, yet grand.

entertainment Updated: Jan 06, 2010 19:05 IST

You do not expect a short flight of stairs to lead into this vast arcaded courtyard. The mid-14th century Begumpuri mosque, near Sarvapriya Vihar in South Delhi, is grand, simple and rundown. The pillars are massive but with hardly any design etchings on the arches and columns. Raised on a plinth, the mosque’s main entrance, on the eastern side, faces the unaesthetic skyline of the Begumpuri village that is easy to ignore once you enter.

The courtyard’s calm makes the congested world outside seem unreal. And the domes completely take you in. There are 44 domed compartments on three sides. The Mecca-facing Western side has a prayer chamber as well as the building’s central arch — flanked by sloping buttresses with in-built winding staircases. Feel free to climb. The view of the courtyard clashes with that of the village’s — clotheslines, water tanks and cow dung patties.

Built by a Tughlaq-era minister, Khan Jahan Junan Shah, Begumpuri Masjid probably served as the principal Friday mosque during the reign of Mohammad Tughlaq. Owing to the anarchic times of 18th century Delhi, vulnerable communities had moved inside the mosque and a village had sprung up, which was cleared off by the Archaeological Survey of India in the 1920s.

Today the mosque is dead. Prayers have been discontinued, the walls are broken, parts of the roof have collapsed and the stonework has blackened. Goats graze, chickens squeak, village boys play cricket and lovers scrawl ‘I love you’ messages. Rarely visited by group tours, the absence of touts and souvenir sellers makes an excursion here more intense than in Delhi’s more popular ruins.

Where: Begumpur Village, Sarvapriya Vihar, near IIT.