Delhi 101: #10 Hidden treasures and a thousand pillared palace – Begumpur Village

A view of the Begumpur mosque
A view of the Begumpur mosque

If you are willing to overlook the surroundings, a visit to the Begumpur village is an eye-opener.

The greatest surprise waiting is the mosque – one of the biggest in Delhi. The courtyard is 247 feet long and 223 feet wide, and the perimeter walls are lined with 64 domes or cupolas on the top. Must have taken quite an effort! This may have been the main congregational mosque when Mohammed bin Tughlaq established the city of Jahanpanah after coming to power in A.D. 1325. But doubts still persist about who built it: Was it Tughlaq himself in 1345 or later in 1387 by Khan-i-Jahan Shah, prime minister to Firoz Shah Tughlaq?

Delhi 101: Cover image of book by Ajay JainThis post has been taken from Delhi 101, a book written by Ajay Jain. It is about 101 surprising ways to discover Delhi, one of the most amazing cities in the world for travelers. To know more about the book and to order one, click here.

What lends credence to the claim of the former is the location of the Bijay Mandal (also spelt Vijay Mandal) and also known as the Qasr-i-Hazar Sutun or the ‘Palace of a Thousand Pillars’ – not to be confused by another thousand pillared hall in Siri. This was Mohammed Tughlaq’s palace at the time, much of it gone now. And it stands just a five minute walk from the mosque at the intersection of the localities of Sarva Priya Vihar, Kalu Sarai and Begumpur. The pillars are likely to have been made of wood, supported in holes for the purpose, none surviving naturally. An octagonal tower forms a part of the complex, and it is possible to go up and look afar on a clear day. Close by lies an open grave of a respected baba or pir, where prayers are still held especially on Thursdays.

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Until the early 20th century, the Begumpur mosque had a human settlement within. People had erected mud huts; their animals too had their own stables inside. The fortified walls offered protection to residents against robbers and marauders. With limited success, they could even fend off revenue collectors. It was only after the building was notified as protected was the government able to clear out the ‘squatters’ forcibly. If you ask around, you may find a senior citizen who was born inside the mosque when it housed people
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Metro: Hauz Khas station for Sarva Priya Vihar

Begumpur is a residential area with houses closely packed, with many people still living like they did earlier -maintaining horse carts and drawing water from wells. But they all have satellite television.

The surroundings are not very clean, but the monuments are worth checking out. And if you can get the better of snakes, you can go hunting for hidden treasures in the legendary secret tunnel connecting Vijay Mandal and Tughlaqabad Fort. It may not be too far-fetched a story; the ASI (Archaeological Survey of India) had discovered gold coins from the south while carrying out excavations at Vijay Mandal.
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The Bijay Mandal
The Bijay Mandal
The open grave of Pir Baba
The open grave of Pir Baba
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