Ancient Fatehpuri mosque to be restored to old glory

By Abu Zafar, IANS
Friday, January 28, 2011

NEW DELHI - The ageing Fatehpuri mosque in Old Delhi is awaiting a much-needed facelift that can extend by some 100 years the life of one of the grandest Islamic monuments in India.

If and when the restoration work begins, it will take up to two years to restore the original glory of the mosque that occupies a pride of place in the Chandni Chowk area facing the mammoth Red Fort.

It was Mughal emperor Shah Jahan’s wife Fatehpuri Begum who ordered the mosque built in 1650. The nearby Jama Masjid, another redstone marvel, was the brainchild of the emperor himself.

For 30 years or so, the Fatehpuri mosque has been begging for a facelift, which is now in the pipeline thanks to intervention by Communications Minister Kapil Sibal, who represents the area in the Lok Sabha.

Mufti Mukarram, the Shahi Imam of the mosque, moaned to IANS: “The condition of the mosque is poor. Floors are leaking, minarets are falling down, and old stones (need attention).”

According to one historic account, Indian soldiers were posted in the mosque during the Sepoy Mutiny of 1857. It is believed that the British sold a part of the mosque to a Hindu merchant during the mutiny but the shrine again came into Muslim hands in 1877.

On Sibal’s request, the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH) prepared a comprehensive conservation plan and said that the project could cost Rs.6.5-7 crore.

Gautam Sengupta, director general of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), told IANS that his institution supported plans for restoration of the mosque.

Said Mukarram: “Such repair is needed to maintain the historical image of the mosque and to increase its life to a minimum of 100 years.”

Ajay Kumar, a senior project manager of INTACH’s Delhi chapter, said: “Conservation is basically related to consolidation of the structure, and restoration is getting the old historical fabric based on the historical and archival records back in place.”

“The restoration will enhance its grandeur and beauty,” he added.

Mukarram, who has served in the mosque since 1971, said during the first round of repairing, marble was used instead of red stone in many places, affecting the facade.

The mosque was again repaired partially in 1980.

How much time will the latest round of restoration take? Kumar said: “It’s a living mosque, so it may take longer time than any other heritage buildings. If all goes well, it may take 18-24 months.”

(Abu Zafar can be contacted at

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