Panorama by Raj Prajapati
Princess Zeenat-un-Nisa (Jewel among women), (1643-1721) the second daughter of Emperor Aurangzeb and his wife Dilras Begum was a well learned pious lady. She was given the title of Padshah Begum and was her father’s companion in his old age along with his concubine, Udaipur Begum. Like her elder sister Zeb-un-Nisa she chose to stay single as no suitable match had been found by/for her. Here I would like to point out that its wrongly said that Mughal princesses were not allowed to get married. Many chose to remain single themselves for their own reasons. The third daughter of AurangzebZubdat-un-Nissa Begum (1651 – 1707) was married to her cousin Siphir Shikoh, son of Dara Shikoh in 1673. Another of Aurangzeb’s daughter , Mehr-un-Nisamarried Izad Bakhsh, younger son of Shahzada Murad Bakhsh at Delhi in 1672.
Panorama by Raj Prajapati
This mosque was built by Zeenat-un-Nisa in 1700 AD ( according to Carr Stephen & 1707 AD according to Maulvi Zafar Hasan).It based on the design of the Jama Masjid / JahanNuma Masjid of Shahjahanabad and was one of the important mosques there. When it was built it stood on the western banks of River Yamuna on a height so that it was visible to the spectator on the opposite side.
There used to be a terrace a terrace near the city wall with 13 rooms, and on the north and south of these rooms there were 2 arched entrances with 17 steps in each leading upto the court of the masjid. I could only see this one entrance and I believe the other one has been closed down and next to it is now the Crescent School.
As one enters the very shabby gateway the first thing one sees is the tailor shop inside the gateway. The tailor was missing but wares of his trade were very visible.
As soon as one one comes up the dark stair case into the open, the majestic soaring domes and minarets of the mosque come into view. and it becomes very obvious why it was nicknamed Ghata Masjid as the black lines running in its dome really do resemble monsoon clouds from a distance.However, Maulvi Zafar Hasan calls it Masjid Ghat because of its proximity to Khairati Ghat. It is possible the name got corrupted along with its connotations once the river shifted course
it is a functioning mosque and There was a lone man praying in the courtyard ,when we went inside
The mosque itself is 150 feet x60 feet and stands on a plinth of 4 feet from the courtyard. It has 7 scalloped arched entrances in which are 7 arched doorways facing the east.Over each doorway excepting the middle one are marble slabs which are empty but were probably meant for inscriptions.
Three huge bulbous domes with black bands , surmount the top. They are topped with copper gilt pinnacles atop a kalasa of an inverted lotus. The domes are hollow. The front of the mosque is flanked by two tall minarets each a 100 feet high, supporting an octagonal pavilion of white marble.
The inside of the mosque is 2 aisle deep and there is a green flower painted on the dome. The arches inside are also scalloped and supported by red stone pillars.
The original design may have been different. The mosque badly damaged andwas used as a artillery barrack in the aftermath of the 1857 war of independence. The marble pulpit was removed. It was also used as a bakery for the troops.
In her lifetime, Zeenat un Nisa built her tomb within the enclosure of the mosque and she was buried here in 1721. The tomb was destroyed immediately after the events of 1857 and the marble monument was removed and the grave leveled with the ground. The tomb stood on the north of the mosque and was built of sandstone, the room within paved with marble and the grave enclosed by a dwarf marble railing.
The tomb has been rebuilt on the southern end of the mosque in a corner, as a memorial to the Princess who built this mosque, with the rest of the space being taken up by a Jamat office.
The tombstone which has been replicated as per the original, reads
For a friend in my grave, God’s forgiveness alone is sufficient;
The canopy of my grave, is the shadow of the cloud of God’s mercy;
In the hope of a righteous end, Fatima Zeenat-un-Nisa Begum, daughter of Badshah Mohiuddin Mohammad Alamgir Ghazi
May God illuminate his works
On our return we met Jameel Bhai, the tailor who was very bitter at the state of affairs regarding the mosque. There were offices and homes in the courtyard and precincts of the mosque which very visibly upset him as he felt that the Princess had been relegated to a corner. In fact we would have returned without reciting a fatiha over her grave as it was tucked away behind trees had he not told us where to look for it behind it.
Location :Khairati Ghat, Ansari Road along the walls of Shahjahanabad in Daryaganj