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'Monument Speak' Play Competition organised by the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH)
29th January, 2019

Vasant Valley won 1st place overall for their play and report on Jamali Kamali


Aaliyah Ameerah Bose, Dhruv Singh, Girdhar Chandok, Krishna Dev Agarwal, Ritwick Sapra, Soumya Garg, Sumaya Beri and Udhay Aman Chopra


GHOST WRITING - A Report of the Jamali Kamali Mosque and Tomb

The Jamali Kamali Mosque and Tomb are two monuments from the Delhi Sultanate Period and are located in the Mehrauli Archaeological Park. The pair are one of the 174 monuments that are protected in Delhi by The Archaeological Survey Of India.

Jamali, also known as Shaikh Jamali Kamboh, Shaikh Hamid Bin Fazl'ullah or Jalal Khan, lived during the pre-Mughal dynasty rule of the Lodi's - a period from the rule of Sikander Lodi - to the Mughal Dynasty rule of Babur and Humayun. Jamali was greatly regarded as a skilled poet and orator, whose advice was sometimes sought by Sultan Sikandar Lodi himself when writing poetry under the pen-name Gulrukh. However, till today Kamali's identity remains unknown and his antecedents have not been established. The two names are tagged together as "Jamali Kamali" for the mosque as well as the tomb, since they are buried adjacent to each other. It is said that perhaps names were selected for their rhyming tone, with Jamali originating from the Urdu word for 'beauty' and Kamali associated with the meaning of 'miracle'. The mosque and the tomb were constructed between 1528-1535, and Jamali was buried in the tomb after his death in 1535.

We, the students of Vasant Valley School, recently visited the tomb of the poet and Sufi Saint Jamali and his unknown acquaintance Kamali. We learnt many interesting facts about the monument, and were lucky enough to do some creative image making exercises in the space itself to help build our play.

First of all, the Mosque is no longer used as a place of worship in an attempt to protect the premises. This was a protective measure taken by the ASI, and lends itself to a legend - according to a local maulvi, although the house of worship is empty, jinns are said to occupy the Jamali Kamali Mosque because Allah does not like it when his house is empty. Popular rumour has it that the monument is haunted by jinns and spirits. While the guards at the monument themselves deny such tales, apparently local fakirs call upon these jinns every week, and there have been reports of people being slapped and voices heard coming from adjoining graves.

Though these mysteries draw some intrigued visitors to the site, and Kamali's mysterious identity further opens up many avenues for questions to be asked, sadly those avenues have been blocked off. To preserve the monument and secure the safety of visitors, access to the tomb and second floor of the mosque is often restricted. Furthermore, apart from a single description of the monument, the absence of more information and trained people to share its history leaves visitors with little to do but speculate and take photos of the beautiful compound. By contrast, more well known monuments like the Red Fort have more security and are designed to discourage visitors from vandalising and defacing surfaces.

Nevertheless, having done whatever collective research we could, we were guided into discussion about what it would have been like to inhabit the monument in its time. With helpful inputs from the guard at the site, we pieced together for ourselves the significance of the baoli - used to wash hands and feet - and contemplated other architectural features, like niches in the walls that may have been used to hold lamps. The emptiness also allowed us to try some creative exercises which are featured in the accompanying photos. Respecting the silence and nature of the place as much as we could, we created different images in different areas of the compound. Some came close to what the mosque would have been used for, such as prayer and study, and some images transformed the place, such as using the baoli as a small arena.

The people we did see during our time there inspired our performance, like the lone chowkidaar,who was initially suspicious of us until he met our teacher. He explained that school children sometimes visited the monument in an attempt to bunk school. And that provided us with the start of our play. On the whole, actually visiting the monument, being able to see its history as number of different stories and perspectives, and using that to build our own story - made this a rewarding experience in itself.

Report compiled by Udhay Aman Chopra
with inputs from
Aaliyah Ameerah Bose, Dhruv Singh, Girdhar Chandok, Krishna Dev Agarwal, Ritwick Sapra, Soumya Garg and Sumaya Beri

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