Delhi Monuments – Ambling Through Hauz Khas – Nili Masjid And Idgah Of Kharera


I’ve been missing in action here since a long time and that is because my laptop is giving issues and I have not been able to sort it so far. This Delhi monument post is part of my wanderings in Hauz Khas area. There are still a few more I will cover including those in adjacent Green Park.

Nili /Neeli Masjid 

Since so many years I passed the Nili Masjid of the Blue Mosque but never really went in there to explore. Located in A block the the tree bayed mosque is on the side of the road connecting August Kranti Marg and Aurobindo Marg. Sandwiched between posh houses  sometimes misses the eye unless of course it is prayer time or Friday when one can see a lot of devotees heading there for prayers. It is one of the few working mosques of Delhi which are under ASI protection.

An inscription over its central arch says that it  built in A.H. 911 (A.D. 1505-06) during the reign of Sikandar Lodi, by Kasumbhil, nurse of Fath Khan, son of Khan-i-Azam Masnad Ali Khawas Khan, then governor of Delhi. She is one of the few women who commissioned some beautiful structures in Delhi. Others include Hamida Bano Begum, Maham Anga, Roshanara Begum and Qudsia Begum.

Made from rubble stone and plaster Nili Masjid has rather masculine looking massive bastions and conical supporting towers along its western wall. No other major archaeological features are visible to make it different from other mosques or other medieval structures. This low fortification was suppose to protect them from any invasion but here it doesn’t serve the purpose. It is mainly for beautification it seems.

The mosque has slender turrets at the corners of the octagonal drum (base) on which a single dome sits pretty. There are three arched entrances to the masjid.

An intricate line of kanguras (battlement-like ornamentation) inset with vibrant blue tile work run along the roof of the mosque giving the mosque its name – Nili Masjid or Blue Mosque, however the ornamentation is only limited to the portion above the central facade.  A wide “chajja” (overhanging eave) supported on thick carved bracket runs on the rest of the front face.
Under the blue tiled Kanguras one can see elegant calligraphy and art work. The mosque is beautiful in its simplicity. There is no grandeur to it an yet it is striking to the eyes. Some areas inside the chamber have been recently plastered as part of the conservation program I think.
Within the boundary there is also a well that is covered and no longer in use. One can see loudspeakers etc places in the corners of the roof. One can see prayer mats, racks to keep things etc inside the chamber which is fitted with modern amenities like tube lights, fans and coolers. I wonder what are the rules for the monuments protected under ASI and why encroachments and making alteration is not stopped.
The grass covered front yard is nice and clean with some potted flowering plants and a few lush big trees that line the fence.
While I was wandering in the area I thought of going to Idgah too as it is a stone’s throw away from my son’s home.
Idgah of Kharera 
The 600 year old Idgah of kharera in Hauz Khas (near to Chor Minar in Padmini Enclave)  was used only for congregational Eid prayers unlike the other mosques. The structure represents the West wall around which people gathered for Id prayers. There is a mimbar or pulpit next to the central mehrab for the Imam to deliver his message. Usually a town or city will have one idgah but as Delhi was made of many cities there are four medieval Idgahs here.
Built of rubble masonry, this structure has 11 mehrabs and a turret at the end of one side with the inscription written on a red sandstone slab fixed on the south bastion towards east. It tells that this most famous and renowned mosque was built by Iqbal Khan who was popularly known as Mallu Khan, a powerful noble and virtually the ruler during Muhammad Tughluq’s reign who commissioned this structure. The inscription also tells about the volatile period in which it was built.
It is stated to have been built A.H. 807 (A.D. 1404-05) in the typical Tughlak style. I read somewhere that it was here Timur had set up his camp to offer ‘aman’ or ‘peace’ to the people after he invaded Delhi but unfortunately it didn’t go the way he had thought. Some incidents made him unleash unimaginable horrors on the citizens of Delhi.
The big trees in the fenced enclosure are home to many birds like barbets, peacoks, bulbuls etc. Local residents often come here for picnics and children can be seen playing there under the watchful eyes of the guard. Thankfully there are no encroachments and the monument is in good condition.
The stone slab that tells about the monument needs some attention and the writing is faded and hardly visible at many places.
I remember reading about mosque of Darwesh Shah in nearby Gautam Nagar and it is on my ‘to visit’ list. So are some of the lesser known small monuments around this area.
I am reading up about my city and will post again ina few days. Meanwhile I visited Sunder Nursery and was enchanted with it. Will do a post soon. You can still look up my Instagram account for some pictures from there.
Spring in Delhi is always beautiful so leaving you with some gorgeous flowers I saw there.

Spring Festival With Colors, Sweets, Bhang And Flowers


The spring is here and Delhi Trees have shed their leaves in anticipation of long summer and water scarcity. The roundabouts , the rose garden , the trees which line the  long sizzling roads are exploding with colors of spring flowers. The sight is intoxicating. Amidst all the traffic, heat, dust and stress of city life  the flowers dance with the slightest breeze.

The golden shower from the Neem trees is a such a refreshing sight . It is amazing how the yellow leaves rain on the earth below creating magic in the air.

The Silk cotton and the Coral Trees are on fire  and the Gulmohars and Laburnum are getting ready to bloom. Birds like koel,crows, pigeons,  parakeets, It is a delight to watch these dazzling flamboyant red flowers blazing amongst the soothing greens of other evergreens like Banyan, Jamun, Ashokas and many more.

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Spring flowers like roses, jasmine, Dalia, marigold, Poppies,  bottle brush, Moulsari, calendula,

Along with the riot of colors that spring brings comes the festival of Holi .

Now a days Holi is not what it sued to be in my childhood. I remember the aromas that drifted from the kitchen with the breeze . The excitement of all the goodies like Gujiya, Dahi bade , poran poli, dal moth and more.

It was a family bonding session to prepare all the delicacies and savor them along with thandai and other coolants. Holi was never a vulgar, obnoxious display . We would keep plates of abir and gulal ready for the people visiting home along with the sweets. Water guns were in but no color filled baloons . Colors were mostly natural made with sandlewood, beetroot, black grapes, henna, bolied silk cotton (Semul) flowers or Tesu flowers.

Music was very much a part of Holi always. The special holi songs , tappas, the kumayuni Pahadi holi dance and song groups mixed with Bhang was a heady combination.

Bhang was used in pakodas, thandai etc.

I remember the JNU holi at a friend’s home and the Chat sammelan which was so much fun though I went there as a guest I really freaked out . It sure was spring madness come alive.

Gone are the days of  Gulabi Holi( pink holi) and Aab-e-Pashi (shower of colourful flowers) when the holi Phags were sung. Songs like

Kyon mo pe mari rang ki pichkari, Dekho kunwarji doon gi gari! (Why am I with colour sprinkled/ By me now you will be abused!”)

Now all we hear are bollywood numbers , the local flavor is lost forever at least in big cities like Delhi. In the Mugal times also Holi was played with fervor and gaiety. India’s cultural heritage has been enriched by the harmonious amalgamation and assimilation of various faiths and ethnicities.

It was a frenzied carnival where  people, irrespective of their caste, creed or any other religious or social distinction, forgot their restraints and joined in the festivity of the celebration.

I don’t much see that spirit of brotherhood and love anymore. The traditional Holi is restricted to some areas only like the famous Bruj ki holi, kumaun ki holi and Benaras ki holi.

 

The tradition of Thandai a cold drink made with a mixture of almonds, spices, milk and sugar and Bhang ( female cannabis sativa buds and leaves) is specialty of Northern India though now a days its used almost everywhere. Associated with Lord Shiva and in the city of Banaras one can find people preparing Thandai with mortar and pestle , singing holi songs. The festive spirit is enhanced by the bond of togetherness it creates. . Bhang is also mixed with ghee and sugar to make a tasty green halva, and into peppery, chewy little balls called ‘golees’. Bhang has medicinal properties also and much safer than drinking alcohol.

It is considered good omen and auspicious  to drink a little bhang on Holi.

Its been a while since I played holi. I lost interest in it after someone poured a can of emulsion paint on my head and I had to wash it with kerosene. It was pathetic and burned my skin for days but the memory of the lovely times celebrated together still fill me with nostalgia .

Here is my Recipe  for baked gujiya

Baked Gujiya


Ingredients :

For Dough

2 cups all-purpose flour

6 tbsp clarified butter (ghee)

1/2 tsp baking soda

Water

For Filling

1 kg Khoya ( thickened milk) ( I do not use khoya)

1 cup Sugar,  according to  taste

1 cup dry grated coconut

1 cup dry fruits ( cashewnut, almond, raisins), finely chopped

1/4 tsp cardamom powder

1 tbsp clarified butter

Method:

For making dough

In a large bowl, mix flour, baking soda and clarified butter. Start kneading until smooth and stiff textured dough. To test press your palm on the dough and remove immediately. The dough should bounce back. Cover the bowl with a plastic wrap and let it sit for sometime.

For filling

In a deep heavy bottom pan, fry khoya with 1tsp ghee until golden in color. Add shredded coconut to it. Fry for sometime. Add the dry fruits and fry again, until  you start getting nice aroma.  Add sugar and cardomom powder to it. Mix well. Fry for few mins. Allow the mixture to cool.


Assembling and Baking

Divide the dough in small balls. Roll these balls into small, thick 6″ diameter circles. I use small  bowl to cut into perfect shape or use  gujia molds available in market.

Put a tbsp of filling in the one half of the circle and brush milk all over the along the side. Fold one side of the round over the other. Pinch the edges to seal it.

Preheat the oven to 375 degree Celsius arrange the gujiyas in a oven safe greased dish and bake till golden brown from both sides.

Enjoy !!!!


I know Holi festivities are over but still wanted to share this with friends. I miss the fun, the aromas and bonds of love and warmth , the eager anticipation of new clothes , music and dance. The laughter  and carefree longings and to some extent the teasing ( nok jhok) . I miss mom’s home.