Engineers survey 200-year-old Old Delhi mosque which was damaged in rain
A team of engineers on Monday surveyed the 200-year-old Masjid Mubarak Begum in Old Delhi’s Hauz Qazi chowk, whose central dome was reduced to rubble due to heavy rain a day ago.
Technicians and engineers of the Delhi Waqf Board, which maintains the mosque, said the loss is “irreparable” in terms of its heritage. Entry to the prayer hall beneath the dome has been restricted. Prayers were offered in the courtyard on Monday.
“It is tough to reach the roof, which has become vulnerable, and collect the rubble. The rubble has not been cleared as we are waiting for it to be inspected by experts, whom we are trying to get in touch with. We will preserve the malba (rubble) for research and see if it could be used for restoration,” Mehfooz Mohammad, section officer, Delhi Waqf Board, said.
Mohammad said it was not just the lightening and rainfall that led to the damage, but the dome and the roof had started developing cracks over the past few years.
“For the past few years, cracks were observed here, which could possibly be because of construction carried out discreetly by shopkeepers on the ground floor and also because of digging work for construction of a Delhi Metro station. During the digging work, many old structures, including houses, had developed cracks,” said Mohammad.
The official said the board has contacted the Archaeological Survey of India’s Delhi chapter to seek its expertise and help in restoration. “We plan to write to ASI-Delhi formally tomorrow to help us. We do not have any experts or architects within the board as such and would like to appeal to conservation agencies if they would like to come forward to help us with the task,” he said.
Officials from ASI, Delhi said the mosque does not come under their purview.
According to historian Rana Safvi, the double-storeyed mosque was built in 1822 and is one of the many mosques built by women in that era.
Heritage activist and author Sohail Hashmi said the mosque has historical and architectural importance. “The 1958 Act under the provisions of which the ASI functions needs to be amended to bring all such structures of immense historical importance under its purview. The mosque requires the attention of experts, who could lead its restoration,” said Hashmi.
Hashmi said historically it is important as it was built by a courtesan at that time. Mubarak Begum was a courtesan married to David Ochterlony, the first British resident in Delhi in the Mughal court.
The mosque was mentioned in the list of 3,000 heritage structures that existed in Delhi, which was prepared in 1920 by historian Maulana Zafar Hasan for the then British-ruled ASI to study.
“She was the senior-most of the 13 wives of the British resident. She was sharp and ambitious and Ochterlony would often seek her advice in various matters,” he said.
The design of the mosque is similar to those from the times of Shah Jahan. “The design would typically have three domes, of which the central dome is larger than two others. The structure needs to be preserved well to retain its heritage value,” Hashmi said.
Abu Sufiyan, a local who runs a group named ‘Purani Dilli Walo ki Baatein’, which conducts heritage walks and cultural programmes in the area, said, “The mosque was not being maintained properly for years. It had been developing cracks from long before but it wasn’t looked into even once. I have got many messages from random people asking to contribute money for repair. We will help as much as we can to restore it,” said Sufiyan.