Delhi 101: #17 Khair-Ul-Manazil Mosque – A gift from the nanny

It is one of the best preserved and finest mosques in Delhi, but lies largely ignored except by the devout who come here to offer prayers. Or by young boys who like to play cops and robbers amongst its ruins (at least the author did, while he was staying in Kaka Nagar in the late 1970s / early 1980s across the road).

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.

Khair-ul-Manazil, meaning ‘the most auspicious of houses’ or the ‘best of houses,’ was commissioned as a mosque and madrasa (an educational institution) by Mahan Angah, wet nurse to Emperor Akbar. She was politically very influential when Akbar was still a boy king after the untimely death of his father, Humayun in 1556. Interestingly, Khair-ul-Manazil is also a chronogram; when the letters of its name are written in the Persian script, you get the numerical value of its year of construction i.e. 969 Hijri or A.D. 1561-62 (according to a sign put up by the ASI).

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You will see a hauz (tank) and a well as you enter the main courtyard which are used for ablution before the prayers. Rooms built along three walls were used for the madrasa. The mehrab (prayer wall) on the fourth faces Mecca to the west; it is decorated with stucco and glazed tiles in different colours. Next to the mosque is the grand Lal Darwaza (Red Gate) or Sher Shah Gate, which is believed to have been the southern gateway to Sher Shah’s city.

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An unconfirmed story: On his way back from a hunting trip, emperor Akbar visited the Nizamuddin mosque and then came to the Khair-ul-Manazil. A slave of his late father, emperor Humayun, attempted to assassinate Akbar but his arrow missed and killed a bodyguard. The emperor’s short height may have worked to his advantage.

When you go visiting, and see any boys playing cops and robbers, try to enlist the former to provide a security cordon.

TRANSLATION OF INSCRIPTION OVER THE CENTRAL ARCH OF THE PRAYER CHAMBER
In the time of Jalal-ud-din Muhammad who is the greatest (Akbar) of just kings When Maham Begh, the protection of chastity, erected this building for the virtuous Shihabuddin Ahmad Khan, the generous, assisted in the erection of this good house. How blessed is this building that its chronogram is ‘best of houses.’ – Composed by Niyaz Baksh, under the supervision of Darwesh Husain


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