The central dome of a 200-year-old mosque in the Indian capital Delhi came crashing down on Sunday due to heavy rainfall and lightning in the city.

The red sandstone Mubarak Begum mosque built by a courtesan in 1823 is among iconic heritage sites in the historic city of Old Delhi.

On Sunday, the flooding in the city killed two people leading to the collapse of many houses and trees.

At around 6.45 a.m. [0115GMT], the dome collapsed with a huge sound, said the mosque’s imam Mohammad Zahid.

“I was sleeping in my room inside the mosque when I heard thunder. We have since locked the mosque. But we continued offering namaz [prayer] and teaching in the open courtyard,” said 45-year-old Zahid, while speaking to Anadolu Agency.

He has been the muezzin and imam at the mosque since 2004. He revealed that the last repair at the historic mosque was done in 2016.

The imam said that since then, he had written several letters to the office of the Waqf Board — a government institution that looks after all Islamic structure in the country — to draw attention about deteriorating structure and to seek their help to repair the roof. 

On Monday morning, Zahid applied at the Delhi Waqf Board office asking for restoring the damaged structure. He said that officers from the Board had visited the site to assess the damage.

The Waqf officials did not reply to Anadolu Agency’s queries regarding the issue.

However, Himal Akhtar, a member of the Waqf Board, told the Indian Express, a national newspaper that conservation of the historic mosque was on their priority.

Situated in Old Delhi’s busy Chawri Bazaar locality, the mosque was built by Mubarak Begum, originally a Hindu courtesan from the western city of Pune, who came to Delhi and converted to Islam.

A courtesan who married a British officer

She married David Ochterlony, British resident to the Mughal emperor’s court in Delhi. After he died in 1825, she married a Mughal nobleman, who fought against the British in 1857 which led to the destruction of her tomb complex in reprisal.

Soon after the news of the dome collapse came, many heritage lovers took to social media to express their shock and anger.

“Tragic news from old Delhi: The dome of the Masjid Mubarak Begum just collapsed. She became very grand and demanded to be referred to as ‘Generali Begum’ or Lady Ochterlony, but her social mountaineering gave her a bad name in Shahjahanabad [Old Delhi],” wrote William Dalrymple, Scottish historian, and writer, who lives in Delhi.

Her palatial house was famous for Mughal culture and it was here that Mughal Prince Mirza Fahatullah Baig organized the last Urdu poetry recitation session before the Mughal empire was ejected by British in 1857, recalls Dalrymple.

The last Mughal Emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar was imprisoned by the British and then exiled to then Burmese capital of Rangoon.

Some parts of India are reeling under heavy floods due to monsoon rains in recent days. The latest wave of the rains, which started in the wee hours on July 19, was recorded at 74.8mm leading to knee-high waterlogging, confirmed Indian Meteorological Department.

Meanwhile, 80 people are reported dead and 4.5 million people displaced in the northeastern state of Assam due to floods.

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