It is known as Chittian Masjidan, the white mosque, a possible reference to its two domes, now in disrepair but which still retain remnants of a brighter past. While the domes may be out of reach, the mosque’s guardian ensures that at least the rest of the structure lives up to its reputation, periodically giving it a whitewash.
But what really makes this Mughal-era mosque at Mahadian village, near the historic city of Sirhind in Punjab, is that its guardian is the granthi of the neighbouring gurdwara.
Despite harbouring a painful and tragic chapter in Sikh history, the mosque and the gurdwara appear to have made peace with their violent past. The gurdwara, the Mastgarh Sahib Chittian, had been functioning inside the mosque for nearly a hundred years, and is only now being shifted to its own premises beside the masjid.
It was the qazi of this mosque, so the story goes, who issued a fatwa for the death of the two sons of Guru Gobind Singh in 1705. The mosque is less than a kilometre from the spot where the two — Zorawar Singh and Fateh Singh — were walled in by the Nawab of Sirhind, Wazir Khan, for refusing to embrace Islam. That event is now observed as Jor Mela, with Sikhs congregating at the spot every year.
Jeet Singh, the granthi, says he cleans the mosque twice a day because it is his “duty”. “Very few worshippers have turned up, but we have never stopped anyone. Muslim worshippers feel happy that we are taking care of the old mosque,” says Singh, who lives at the dera with his family including children, wife and father-in-law.
Professor Rashid Rasheed, who teaches Punjabi at Mata Gujri College in Fatehgarh Sahib, says the Chittian Masjidan gurdwara is an example of communal harmony that can be followed across the country. “I have visited the mosque and have found that Muslims are free to offer prayers there. It is an example that should be followed everywhere to keep the social fabric of our country intact,” he says.
Prof Subash Parihar, a Faridkot-based historian and author of ‘History and Architectural remains of Sirhind’, says the mosque most likely dates back to the period of Mughal emperor Shah Jahan and was built between 1628-1658.
After repeated coats of whitewash, there is no sign of the glazed tile work, typical of Mughal-era mosques. And no one really knows how or why it survived the fury of Sikh fighters, who reclaimed the city in 1710 after routing Wazir Khan’s forces and killing him in the battle of Chappar Chiri.
“But we are continuing with the existing name of the mosque to give a message that we do not mean any disrespect to any religion,” says its guardian, Jeet Singh.