Like a chessboard at the end of a game, Jaunpur’s still-standing pieces recount the advances and capitulations that left them where they stand. One sultanate destroyed temples to build mosques; a second sultanate destroyed the mosques; a third did what it could to restore both. Lying halfway out between Delhi and Bengal, Jaunpur began as a fortified outpost protecting the eastern flank of the Delhi Sultanate. When the Tughlaq line faltered at the close of the 14th century, the upstart governor of Jaunpur proclaimed sovereignty and called himself Malik-us-Sharq (Master of the East).
Today’s district headquarters became the capital of the Sharqi kingdom 600 years ago, and Jaunpur swelled with commerce and construction. Then the Lodhis assumed power in Delhi and rode back out east. Jaunpur fell, and its proudest structures fell with it. Sikander Lodhi was so vexed with the Sharqis that he vowed not to spare a single thing they built. Later, Jaunpur twice became the stronghold of renegade Lodhi princelings, and twice it failed them. Its turmoil only ended once the Mughals laid down the peace and began to restore the city.