Wednesday, December 22, 2010


UNTITLED SQUARE: A project initiated by Rohan Patankar and Vidisha Saini
as participants of URBAN TYPHOON a KHOJ-URBZ collaboration workshop held in New Delhi in November, 2010.

KHIRKEE: Untitled Square

The epicenter of Urban Typhoon 2010, The Khirkee village in Delhi draws its name from the Khirkee monument, a 700 year old stone structure, generally accepted by historians as a 14th century mosque, built by the prime minister of Firuz shah Tughlaq, one of the most zestful builders of the Tughlaq dynasty in Delhi. Today, the ruins of the monument, the source of the settlement, stand within a 10 ft high fence seemingly disconnected from their context, the bustling urban village of Khirkee,

Walking around Khirkee, trying to uncover the layers of time and history accumulated over monument and the settlement, one suddenly chances upon the Delhi Development Authority’s Guide Map of Khirkee Village where the monument figures as Pink Square in the middle of the village plan. Interestingly, it is clearly evident that the square was labeled as the Masjid and later the labeling painted over on both the square and the index. Further investigation reveals that the majority composing powerful Chauhan population believes the monument to be an extention of Qila Rai Pithora, a 12th Century Chauhan Fort, constructed by Prithviraj Chauhan one of the last Hindu Kings of Delhi. Long ago, Khirkee village was resided by an equal number of Chauhan Hindus and Muslims, but post partition migration led to the concentration of Hindu population in the village as the Muslims left for Pakistan.

Rooftop of the Khirkee Monument

The massive looking random rubble masonry, turret like minarets on its four corners and covered colonnades cutting through the square courtyard (unlike most mosques) only reinforce the Hindu Fort assumption, conveniently so for its present neighborhood. There is no written record or verbal memory suggesting the use of the Monument either as a mosque or a fort. In all this conflict, the monument, declared Protected by the Archaeological Survey of India, is inaccessible to public for active use such as praying and presently does not even bear a descriptive write up board at site. The learned elderly of the community refer to it as the ‘Khirkee Building’. The Square Plan of the monument is Untitled for the anonymity that the ASI gives it and the ambiguity the community has evolved around it. But do uncelebrated spaces at the helm of dynamic communities really remain untitled? Does the sheer presence of a 700 year old monument in the neighborhood not affect the residents? We set out to find. 

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