You will be surprised how many places there are in India that start with ‘F’ and end in ‘bad.’ I can think of four – Faizabad, Fatehbad, Firozabad and Faridabad. I take a room and go in search of Lat-ki-Masjid. After numerous turns through narrow streets, after negotiating barking street dogs and after many enquiries I arrive at the masjid. There is probably nothing remarkable about the mosque which is why I can’t remember anything interesting to write about it. In the open courtyard is a lone pillar and this is exactly what I have come to see.
The pillar stands in the center and the courtyard walls are old. There is nothing else in the courtyard. So you can imagine how prominently the pillar stands in a surrounding which is hidden and almost forgotten. Houses crowd together just beyond the wall. A Hindu temple stands in defiance to the little that remains of Islamic history.
The pillar is composed of two distinct parts: the lower part is buff stone that bears typical Mauryan polish. Above that the shaft rises in red sandstone. The pillar must have stood even taller in its own time but what remains today is just these two parts. At the entrance to the courtyard, a pipal tree with its heart-shaped leaves throws a little bit of its shade into the courtyard. Its roots are eager as ever to throw up stone slabs from the ground and take their place.
With the village crowding around, it is a miracle this pillar has survived so long. If it has survived, it is only because of government protection. The lower part is most likely from Ashoka’s period but the pillar was erected here by Feroze Shah Tughlaq. I see Tughlaqi inscriptions taking the place of earlier Mauryan ones. If you know the script, it might be an interesting read.