Moth-ki Masjid
Delhi, India
Moth ki Masjid is a Lodi-era mosque located south of the residential colony of South Extension, part 2 in the village of Masjid Moth in Delhi. Translating to "Lentil Mosque," it was built in the first decade of the sixteenth century by Miyan Bhoiya, a prime minister under Sultan Sikander Lodi (reg. 1489-1517). Legend has it that the mosque was built from the proceeds of the plentiful harvests reaped from a single lentil that Sinkander Lodi had found at the Friday msoque and presented to Miyan Bhoiya in jest.

This mosque is considered the second example, after the Bara Gumbad Mosque at Lodi Garden, Delhi, of the new mosque type that developed during the Lodi period. Characterized by a smaller size, a more intimate scale, and intricate ornamentation compared to the large congregational mosques built during earlier sultanate dynasties. Its variant name, "Panchmukhi Mosque," refers to the five-bay arrangement of the prayer hall. This mosque served as a model for the Jamali Kamali mosque at Mehrauli, Delhi, built between 1528 and 1536.

Built on a plinth that is now about 1.8 meters above street level, the mosque is square in plan, measuring approximately 38 meters per side. Composed of an open courtyard on the east and an oblong, covered prayer hall along the west, it is accessed from the eastern side via an elaborate entrance gateway located on the axis of a narrow street. The sides of the plinth are made of sandstone ashlar masonry and are decorated with blind arched niches set into rectangular panels. Originally, these arches would have spanned openings for basement access. Photographic documentation from the 1980s indicates that there were at least five such openings on the western side, with three in the centre and on either side. All these openings have since been sealed. Hexagonal domed chattris (pavilions) mark the eastern corners of the plinth. The domes of the pavilions have traces of blue tile work and are supported on eight red sandstone posts. A continuous stone chajja (eave) runs along the perimeter of the dome. The floor of the pavilion is located approximately a meter from the top of the platform.

The gateway, which is square in plan, is reached via a stone staircase (7 steps, 5 meters wide). While the western side of the gateway is in ruins, its eastern side still displays original carvings and polychromatic stonework. A freestanding structure, the gateway is ca. 5 meters wide and deep, with a height of ca. 7 meters from the staircase landing. The eastern elevation of the gateway is composed of three recessed arches. The outermost is an ogee arch (ca. 4 meters wide by 6 meters tall). Possibly once clad in red sandstone, only the inner rubble masonry structure remains today. The subsequent ogee arch describes an iwan, recessed approx. 2 meters from the plane of the arch. The third is a corbelled arched doorway, composed of the projecting profiles of two intricately carved red sandstone brackets on either side, styled like the toranas (gateways) found in Buddhist/Jain temples, resting on a granite post and supporting a granite lintel. It is possible that these materials were originally created for such a temple in Delhi and were re-used in this construction.) The entire composition of the trabeated arched entrance, set into a rectangular outer frame, is Hindu in style. Small arched niches are located on either side of the entrance. The base of the stone lintel is approximately 2.5 meters from the landing, while the springing point of the corbelled arch is ca. 2 meters from the landing. The soffit of the gateway is clad with alternating bands of white marble and red sandstone, running along the depth of the gateway. Round plaster medallions embellish the soffit.

This trabeated arch is repeated on the western elevation of the gateway, but with less depth. It is also composed of three recessed arches, but its inner ogee arch is recessed 20 cm, rather than 2 meters, from the outer plane. The stone cladding on the western elevation is better preserved than its eastern counterpart; three arched white marble niches in rectangular frames are set in a vertical row within the red sandstone cladding of the bastion flanking the doorway on its northern side. The southern bastion is badly damaged. Alternating red and yellow voussoirs describe the ogee arches. The iwan containing the trabeated arched opening is also clad with alternating courses of horizontal and square pieces of varying shades of sandstone, with a white marble arched niche under its apex. The gateway structure has two 'L'-shaped staircases, one on either side of the entrance and separated from it by masonry walls. The staircases for roof access are entered from inside the courtyard through doorways puncturing the north and south walls of the gateway. Portions of the wall on the southern side have fallen off, exposing the staircase from the courtyard side. The north and south walls are embellished with strips of white marble stone embossed with Arabic inscriptions.

The gateway leads into an open courtyard, partially paved in granite and measuring ca. 38 by 29 meters, encircled by a low stone wall. The eastern elevation of prayer hall building is divided into five bays, each with identical arched openings. The two bays on either side of the central bay are composed of three recessed ogee arches. The central bay is composed of a taller projecting portal (pishtaq) clad in red sandstone; its inner two arches are identical to those of the adjacent bays. Alternating red and white stones decorate the tympanum, which is punctured by an arched oriel window. Granite piers with shallow arched niches flank the openings. The spandrels of the arches are decorated with carved round plaster medallions. Two additional ogee-arch openings on either end of the east elevation lead to staircases that access the upper levels and the roof. Stone chajjas supported on stone brackets run along the length of the facade, only interrupted by the central archway. Above the horizontal line of the chajja, the elevation continues first as a blank stone frieze followed by projecting horizontal bands of the cornice and the blank stone parapet. Three domes compose the roof, with the central, largest, dome rising about 20 meters above the courtyard level.

The prayer hall is rectangular in plan, measuring ca. 41 (north-south) by 9 (east-west) meters. The interior corresponds to the five bays on the eastern elevation; each bay is also represented by a niche, composed of stepping planes of ogee arches, in the qibla wall. The central bay contains the mihrab niche, described by a series of recessed niches. Its outermost layers are formed by recessed ogee arches, with a central arch in red sandstone carved with Quranic inscriptions. The innermost niche is of white marble with an inset rectangular red sandstone panel. A stone minbar, ca. 80 cm tall, stands in the northern corner of the central bay.

Over the central bay, squinches support the transition from the square ground plan via an octagonal drum to the dome. Curved ogee arched niches and with round plaster medallions decorate the squinches. The side bays are shorter in height and the transition from square to circle occurs through stuccoed corbelled pendentives. The bays immediately flanking the central portal have very shallow domes, while the end bays have higher domes. The intrados of the domes are described by shallow fluting radiating out from the center.
The north and south walls have window openings at ground level, with balconies on supported by stone brackets projecting above the windows. The roof of the balconies are supported by red sandstone columns and granite lintels.

Double-storied octagonal towers, supported on circular stone bastions up to the ground level of the mosque, project from the main volume of the prayer hall at the western corners. Each of these towers is supported on both levels by eight granite stone columns with eight ogee arches between them. At mid-level, a slab projects out from the tower, supported on stone brackets. At the roof level, a continuous stone chajja circles the tower. The structure is crowned by projecting horizontal bands and a blind parapet that are continuous with the main building. Roof access to the towers is found via the staircases at either end of the main building.

A combination of rubble and ashlar masonry has been employed in the construction of the mosque. The use of rubble has been restricted to the portions that were finished with stone cladding, and dressed stone has been used in areas that were left exposed. The remains of cladding in red sandstone, yellow sandstone, white marble, and intricate calligraphic carvings on the gateway indicate that it must have been elaborately embellished. The chattris (pavilions) at the eastern corners of the courtyard have the remains of blue tile cladding. The central dome is larger than the domes on the end bays. On the exterior, all of the domes are plastered, topped with inverted plaster lotus finials, and placed on octagonal stone drums.

The elevation of the prayer hall building is finished in plaster as well as dressed granite stone. It is relatively simple, with the emphasis on the central bay, parts of which have been clad in red and white stone. The interior of the prayer hall has been detailed with intricate stucco work, particularly the squinches and pendentives. Parts of the structure (piers and parts of the walls) have been left exposed, drawing the emphasis to the central mihrab niche that is embellished in elaborately carved red sand stone and white marble panels.

The Moth-ki Masjid is a significant Lodi era structure, representing a new mosque type developed under the sultanate. Identified by its relative simplicity of form and smaller size, the scale and recessed (platform) placement of this mosque type created a more intimate spatial atmosphere in contrast to the large-scale congregational mosques preceding it.

Sources:

Ahmad Khan, Sayyid, Sir, and Nath, R. Monuments of Delhi: Historical Study. New Delhi: Ambika Publications, 1979. 44, Illustration No. 29.

Alfieri, Bianca Maria and F. Borromeo. Islamic Architecture of the Indian Subcontinent. London; New York: Laurence King Publishing, 2000. 57.

Asher, Catherine. The New Cambridge History of India: Architecture of Mughal India. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992. 10-11.

Jalil, Rakhshanda. Invisible City: The Hidden Monuments of Delhi. New Delhi: Niyogi Books, 2008. 107-110.

Nath, R. History of Sultanate Architecture. New Delhi: Abhinav Publications, 1978. 108-113.

Peck, Lucy. Delhi: A Thousand Years of Building. New Delhi: Lotus Collection, 2005. 116.

Siraju-I-Islam, Muhammad. The Lodi Phase of Indo-Islamic Architecture (1451 to 1526 A.D.). PhD diss, Freie Universitaet Berlin, 1960. 72-93.

See also:

Michell, George, ed. Architecture of the Islamic World: Its History and Social Meaning. London: Thames and Hudson, 1995. 269.

Williams, John A. and Caroline. Architecture of Muslim India. Set 3: The Sayyids and the Lodis, 1414-1526. Santa Barbara, California: Visual Education, Inc., 1980.
Location
Mubarakpur, South Extension-2, village of Masjid Moth, Delhi, India
Images & Videos
Associated Names
Associated Collections
Events
1505/910 AH
Style Periods
Variant Names
Moth-ki Masjid
Moth-ki Mosque
Variant
Moth ki Masjid
Variant
Moth Mosque
Variant
Panchmukhi Mosque
Variant
Building Usages
mosque
religious