The Qudsiya Gardens that used to adorn the landscape of North Delhi are today reduced in size and little known

Hidden behind the hustle and bustle of the Inter State Bus Terminal (ISBT) in North Delhi, is nestled a little-known garden called Qudsiya Bagh. In fact, the space on which ISBT and the tourist camp site stands today used to be covered by the extensive garden.

Greatly reduced in size, some remnants of Qudsiya — the gateway, mosque and pavilions — are still standing in the garden maintained by the Municipal Corporation of Delhi. This garden, laid by Qudsiya Begum, wife of Mohammed Shah Rangila and mother of Ahmad Shah, was on the banks of River Yamuna and considered to be the best in Delhi at that time as it included the remnants of Jahanara’s garden at Tis Hazari. Over the centuries, the bank has shifted away and the river no longer flows next to the garden.

Residents of nearby Kashmere Gate, whose families have lived in the area for hundreds of years now, recollect a time when almost all varieties of fruits used to be available in the garden.

“While coming back from work in the evenings, people used to pluck a few and take them home to eat with the family,” remembers Nasir Ahmed, Imam at the Shahi Masjid Qudsiya Bagh.

But now, only some fruits such as guava, mango and berry are found to be growing and none is allowed to enjoy their delicious taste.

The Imam, who has been maintaining the mosque for the past 30 years, (his elder brother maintained it for 35 years before him) states that although it is said that the gardens came into existence during the early Eighteenth century, in reality they were built as early as in the 1600s.

Folklore will have you believe that the Mughal lady along with her associates used to travel from Lal Quila to the garden with horses through an underground tunnel that opened under the house in Qudsiya.

That old house later on served as a residence for the Garden Superintendent and bore a plate - House of Horticulture Director. After he vacated the place, there were plans to convert the building into a library but the plans never materialised.

The stables, where the Begum used to keep her horses, are today refashioned into the Freemasons Lodge from where a dispensary operates. There used to be a primary school as well, but instead of that, one can see today, a ‘Masonic Club’ with a restaurant and bar. The club also has tennis and badminton courts with special play timings for members. The Masonic Hall is now Jamuna Lodge. The club was taken at a lease of Rs 2 in 1948, says an official of the club on conditions of anonymity.

Apart from the ‘club’, the Masjid also has people visiting regularly. Maintained by the Archaeological Survey of India, the Masjid last year won a 25-year-old case in favour of allowing namaz prayers to be offered on the premises.

To restore the monuments to their erstwhile glory, conservation work had been started by the Archaeological Survey of India, but never completed. Partly done, the structures are exposed to the rages of the weather and pollution and in danger of being permanently damaged.