Delhiwale: The Jama Masjid miniature
Who shrunk the Jama Masjid?
That’s the first thought on spotting this monument from the car window while driving down Ring Road. Zeenat ul Masjid greatly resembles that grand Old Delhi mosque though it is much, much smaller.
This is one of the lesser-known historical mosques of Shahjahanabad. A short flight of steps leads to the courtyard, which faces the playground of Crescent School — in the morning when the rest of the quarter is not fully awake, you can clearly listen, with much pleasure, to the non-stop flow of classroom sounds.
The ablution pool at the centre of the courtyard is dry and partially covered with grass. The sighting of tourists is rare.
Commissioned by Emperor Aurangzeb’s daughter Zeenat-un-Nissa Begum in 1707, it was one of the first buildings – apart from Red Fort – that a traveller in Mughal-era Delhi approaching the city from the Yamuna would see. Princess Zeenat was buried within the mosque.
Built close to the city wall, which survives only at a few places, the mosque is also known as Ghata Masjid. Perhaps it got this name because of its proximity to some ghat that no longer exists. The steps on the river bank have disappeared with time, along with the river that shifted its course further east.
The interiors of the mosque are bare except for the outlines of arched patterns on a few columns. The ceiling at the centre has a carved circular pattern — perhaps there was something here that no longer is.
After bringing down the Mughals in 1857, the British confiscated the mosque, destroyed the tomb of Zeenat Begum and turned her masjid into a bakery. For some years, the grounds were used as a stable for tongas.
Today, cycle rickshaws are parked against the mosque’s southern wall and pigeons sit on its domes. Despite the various sounds coming from the school and the Ring Road, the mosque’s courtyard remains peaceful. We hope tourists continue to ignore it so that its serenity remains for a few to enjoy.