Medieval Delhi’s Telangana Connection

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In a busy area in South Delhi lies the Khirki mosque, named after the village in which it stands. It was built by Juna Shah, son of Maliq Maqbool Telangi, an officer of the Kakatiyas of Warangal, who rose to become the Prime Minister of the Tughlaq Empire.

Maliq Maqbool was born Gannama Nayaka in the 14th century CE in the Kakatiya kingdom, which extended across present-day Andhra Pradesh. He was a capable soldier under Prataparudra II, the last king of the Kakatiya dynasty, which ruled Telangana between the 12th and 14th CE.

Tughlaqabad Fort, built by Ghiyasuddin Tughlaq
Tughlaqabad Fort, built by Ghiyasuddin Tughlaq

When Ghiyasuddin Tughlaq ended the Khalji dynasty and established his own Tughlaq dynasty in 1320 CE in Delhi, Prataparudra II, on the assumption that the Delhi Sultanate was now weak, declared his independence. Ghiyasuddin sent his son, Ulugh Khan (later known as Muhammad Bin Tughlaq) to Telangana, where Ulugh defeated Prataparudra II and ended the dynasty.

It was around this time that Gannama Nayaka converted to Islam. Since he was a very capable soldier, he was easily able to find employment in the now expanding Delhi Sultanate under the Tughlaqs and was elevated by Muhammad Bin Tughlaq himself. As he rose up the ranks, Gannama Nayaka was known as ‘Maliq Maqbool Telangi’. He later became the Governor of Multan and Administrator of the Punjab region, both key regions of revenue and defence of the Delhi Sultanate.

After the death of Muhammad Bin Tughlaq in 1351 CE, his cousin Firuz Shah Tughlaq became the new Sultan of Delhi.

Firuz Shah promoted Maliq Maqbool Telangi as Finance Minister and later made him the Wazir or Khan-e-Jehan, or Prime Minister of the Delhi Sultanate, a position second only to his own. It is said that Firuz Shah even considered him a brother.

Maliq Maqbool Telangi, quite literally, commanded a very high price. His annual salary was 1.3 million tankas apart from various revenue streams from property. Maliq Maqbool died in 1369 CE and his estates were inherited by his son Juna Shah.

Juna Shah was not a soldier like his father but, like his architecture-loving employer Firuz Shah Tughlaq, he embarked on a major construction spree largely within Jahanpanah (built by Mohammad Bin Tughlag) to immortalize the legacy of his father and himself. In his later years, he was disgraced and executed in 1389 CE while trying to stir up a war of succession between the Sultan and his eldest son, Muhammad Khan Tughlaq. While the family’s line ends with Juna Shah, three structures built by him survive to this day.

Tomb of Maliq Maqbool Telangi

The tomb of Maliq Maqbool Telangi in Delhi
The tomb of Maliq Maqbool Telangi in Delhi | Wikimedia Commons

In a corner of Nizamuddin West, this was the first Islamic tomb in India to incorporate a radically different plan form: the octagon. Prior to the Sayyid and Lodi dynasties of the Delhi Sultanate, Islamic tombs in the Indian subcontinent were almost always square in plan. The octagonal form went on to become extremely popular during the Sayyid and Lodi dynasties of the Delhi Sultanate, and continued well into the Mughal era.

Khirki Mosque

Khirki Mosque
Khirki Mosque

Located in Delhi’s Saket is the Khirki Masjid. It gets its interesting name ‘Mosque of the Windows’ from its peculiar architectural features. All four corners of the mosque have massive round towers and the roof is divided into a grid of 25 squares, 21 of which are covered by nine conical domes. The remaining four squares are open, creating mini-courtyards. As a result over 80 per cent of internal space was roofed as opposed to being one large open courtyard, and this was the first mosque in India to have this architectural feature.

To compensate for the obvious lack of light entering from above, three exterior sides of the mosque have grid-patterned windows, 12 on each side. This is perhaps how the mosque got its name, since ‘khirki’ means ‘window’.

Begumpur Mosque

Begumpur Mosque- Main Courtyard
Begumpur Mosque- Main Courtyard | Author

Madrasa at the mosque
Madrasa at the mosque | Author

It is in Begumpur that one finds the erstwhile royal mosque built by Juna Shah Telangi in 1387 CE. It was the largest mosque in Delhi for 300 years, till the Jama Masjid of Shah Jahan was built in 1656 CE. It is still the second-largest mosque in Delhi.

Collapsed roof, possibly there were more prayer halls on the right side of the main mosque
Collapsed roof, possibly there were more prayer halls on the right side of the main mosque | Author

Sadly, most of the pre-Mughal monuments of Delhi are neglected, including these monuments connected with Maliq Maqbool Telangi and his son Juna Shah. While we still know so little about his life, it is hoped that in time, the story of his extraordinary man, which connects medieval Delhi to Telangana, will be revealed.

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