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Our lesser known treasures

These monuments are an integral part of Delhi’s rich heritage, but few know about them.

india Updated: Jan 21, 2010 18:51 IST
Mallica Joshi

Delhiites walk around, into and out of history every day. And history sometimes comes with unusual names — Masjid Moth, Pir Gharib, Arab Ki Sarai and Khirki Gaon. But how many of us know the history of the areas we live in?

“Frankly speaking, I don’t know much about Khirki Extension and Khirki Gaon or its nomenclature despite having lived there for eight years. I just know that the area was a village earlier,” says Ajay Sharma.

Swati Kapoor, a Delhi University student who has been living near Masjid Moth for eleven years, just knows that the area is called so after a mosque in that area. “I agree it’s an unusual name, as moth is a type of lentil, but somehow I never got down to discovering the reason,” she says.

Every monument has a story to tell, if we only care to look closely. Masjid Moth, near Anand Lok in South Extension, was built by Wazir Miyan Bhoiya during the reign of Sikandar Lodi, around 1505 AD.

“Legend has it that Lodi found a grain of lentil while he was at the Grand Mosque (a mosque close to where Masjid Moth is now) and gifted it to Bhoiya as a joke. Bhoiya, instead of throwing away the lentil, planted, replanted and re-replanted the harvest from that single grain till he got enough money to build a mosque,” says Rakhshanda Jalil, author of Invisible City: The Hidden Monuments of Delhi. That mosque came to be known as Masjid Moth, and its foundation was laid by Lodi.

Khirki Gaon has a similarly intriguing name. This village that lies between Malviya Nagar and PVR Saket gets its name for the Khirki (window) Masjid located here. The mosque gets its name from the numerous windows that run all around the outer wall of the structure. It dates back to the 1350s and was built by Khan-i-Jahan Maqbul Tilangani, prime minister to Firoz Shah Tughlaq.

Located within the boundary of Humayun’s tomb are structures like Nai Ka Gumbad, Bu Halima’s garden and Arab Ki Sarai, among others. Nai Ka Gumbad is a square tomb with a double-dome and is said to have been built for the Emperor’s favourite barber. “Arab ki Sarai is believed to have housed the artisans employed in constructing Humayun’s Tomb, brought from Arabia by Humayun’s widow Hamida Begum,”says Jalil.