The story of ‘Masjid Mubarak Begum’

OLD DELHI: Mubarak Begum was a courtesan of the early 19th century, and was married to a British resident of Delhi, David Ochterlony. Mubarak Begum was a strong-minded, influential, and ambitious woman, and laten on she built a marvellous double-storeyed mosque in the Hauz Qasi area of old Delhi, now Chandni Chowk.

Because of the passage of time and the deteriorating condition of the mosque, it was recently refurbished and was given a youthful look of rust red.

It is true that like Masjid Mubarak Begum is like any other mosques situated in old Delhi. But, one of the beautiful facts about this mosque is that it is the only mosque which is built by the Indian ‘begum’ of a British Resident. Historically speaking, this mosque is a reflection of the colonial rule which existed in India. Interestingly, Masjid Mubarak Begum is also known as ‘Rundi ki Masjid’ or ‘prostitute’s mosque’.

Mubarak Begum’s husband, Ochterlony was fond of the Indo-Persian culture of 19th century Delhi, and this makes him one of the most fascinating British. It is believed that Ochterlony had thirteen concubines or wives, out of which Mubarak Begum was one of them.

Mubarak Begum was at first a Brahmin girl from Pune, who later on converted to Islam. And, when she married Ochterlony, she was referred to as ‘Beebee Mahruttun Moobarukh ul Nissa Begume’ or ‘Begum Ochterlony’.

Though, Ochterlony loved his wife immensely, but hardcore British always hated Mubarak Begum because of her social and political ambitions. The reason behind this hatred was also because British always considered women dancers and musicians as prostitutes, and so they did not give them much respect in the society. Hence, because Mubarak Begum was into dancing earlier, the mosque came to be known as ‘Rundi ki Masjid’.

Moreover, after the death of Ochterlony, Mubarak Begum remarried, and this time to a Mughal soldier named Wilayat Ali, who was in the army of Bahadur Shah Zafar.

There is no doubt that even in the medieval times, Mubarak Begum left a strong impression. Even today, Mubarak Begum is seen as a fierce woman who broke all the barriers which the society created for her.

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