As the Mughal Empire started disintegrating after the death of Aurangzeb, many local chiefs and governors declared independence. Many others finding the empire weakened, siezed land and carved an empire for themselves. One of these was an Afghan soldier named Dost Mohammad Khan who captured the Gond kingdom of Jagishpur and established his hold over it. His new capital near the present day Bhopal was called Islampur and he set about fortifying it. The foundation of a fort named Fatehgarh was laid in 1723 on the northern bank of the Upper lake.
The construction of Fatehgarh began in 1716 and Dost Mohammad Khan named it after his wife Fateh Bibi. It is said that the idea of this fort was conceived by both of them during a shikar expedition and Dost Mohammad selected the site on that very moonlit night. Remains of the fortification wall can be seen from the mosque. Despite fierce attacks by outside and inside enemies, Bhopal state managed to hold its own even after Dost Mohammed and became famous as Bhopal State which had the distinction of a hundred year rule by female Nawabs.
Though Bhopal is no longer a state it still has the disctinction of being he only city in India to host the biggest mosque of Inida and the smallest mosque in the world!
The Dhai Seedhi ki Masjid or Mosque of Two and a Half Steps is one of the cities highest points and it offers a commanding view of the city.
Whn the construction of Fatehgarh fort was begun by Dost Mohammad Khan a makeshift mosque was built for the guards to pray in and it has stayed intact till today, albiet with many recent additions have been made to it to increase capacity.
The bastion itself stands strong and resolute as during the days when it must have withstood enemy attacks. The holes in the turret walls of the tiny mosque were built for positioning guns are a constant reminder of the danger under which the soldiers must have prayed while others guarded them and the Fort. I hope today it serves as a reminder to the faithful to fight the enemy within ourselves, which is far more harmful than any outside.
Daniel McCrohan of Lonely Planet paced the floor and estimates its interior dimensions to be 16 metres square, smaller than another “world’s smallest mosque” of 25 metres square in built in 2002 at Naberezhnye Chelny, in honour of those who fought Ivan the Terrible.
The mosque is plain inside , the two and half steps leading to the prayer hall is distinctive and gives the monument its name.
The corresponding bastion on the other side of the wall has a water tank on it. Fatehgarh itself no longer exists except for its walls. It was replaced by a medical college instead
The construction of Taj-ul-Masajid ( the Crown of Mosques) was started by Nawab Sultan Jahan Begum (1868-1901) in the 19th century and continued by her daughter Nawab Sultan Jahan Begum. Due to paucity of funds it remained incomplete and construction was recontinued in 1971 due to the efforts of two Muslim clerics Maulana Syed Hashmat Ali and Allama Mohammad Iqbal Khan Nadwi Azhari and completed in 1985.
Most people make the mistake of thinking that Jama Masjid of Delhi is the largest mosque of the country but in fact it is the Taj-ul-Masajid with an area of 430,000 square feet and seating capacity of 175,000 people.
A flight of steps lead to a lofty gateway which is very clearly inspired by Fatehpur Sikri’s Buland Darwaza.
Like Delhi’s Jama Masjid it is built of red sandstone, with two lofty 206 feet high octagonal minarets soaring from each end and crowned by three beautiful marble domes. As in all mosques this too has a huge tank for ablution before prayers and a huge courtyard to take on the overspill of the faithful during congregational prayers.
Eleven beautiful mehrabs with one central one set in the western wall of the mosque inside the main hall denote the direction of Qibla for the prayers.
A madarsa runs here during the day so when I visited it I found many young children in their kurta pyjamas and topis running around the courtyard trying to reach their classes in time.
It is situated on the side of Motia talab and the water body next to the mosque adds to its out of this world charm.
I saw the mosque reflecting serenely in the talab from the Taj Mahal [a palace complex] built by Nawab Shah Jahan Begum from 1871- 1884, just across it and it inspired a sense of piety and devotion as I’m sure it was meant to.
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Photos by Rahul Jain and Pradeep