Jama Masjid, New Delhi

Jama Masjid: Commissioned by the Guy Behind Taj Mahal

Three years before the Taj Mahal came into completion, Shah Jahan—the fifth Mughal emperor of India—laid the foundation stone for the building of Jama Masjid in Delhi, India’s largest mosque. Pretty busy guy, I must say, considering how he was occupied in creating two great structures at the same time.

Jama Masjid, New Delhi

He originally named this the Masjid-i-Jahan-Numa, a fancy Persian name that means mosque commanding a view of the world. Built of alternating vertical strips of red sandstone and white marble, the cost of construction was estimated to be `1 million; this was during the time when the daily wages of a mason and a laborer were 2 paisa and 1 paisa respectively. Not included in the cost are the stones and other construction material that was gifted by other nobles and nawabs.

Jamia Masjid, Delhi

The first Imam of Jama Masjid was Syed Abdul Ghafoor Shah Bukhari, from Bukhara (Uzbekistan). Bukhara was the centre of great learning and arts of that time. Experts from all fields got concentrated there, so naturally that’s where Shah Jahan searched for an imam. He sent a letter to the king of Bukhara, who highly suggested Syed Abdul Ghafoor. The imam led his first congregational prayers in 1656, an Eid prayer attended by Emperor Shahjahan with all his ministers, retinue, courtiers, and the inhabitants of Delhi.

Thereafter the Emperor bestowed  Syed Abdul Ghafoor Shah Bukhari with the robe and the accolades, then announced his appointment to the high office of Imamat-e-Uzma, and conferred upon him the title of Shahi Imam.

Mosque by Shah Jahan in India

The mosque has the capacity to hold as many as 25,000 devotees, and is most crowded during the Friday’s afternoon prayer. It is said that the walls of the mosque were tilted at a certain angle so that at the time of an earthquake, the walls do not collapse in the courtyard but outwards.

At Jama Masjid in Delhi

If you look closely in the picture below, taken from the steps of the masjid, you’ll see the domes of the Red Fort. During construction, special care was taken to maintain the level of the pulpit of the mosque above that of the royal throne (chaired by the emperor) in the Red Fort.

View of Red Fort or Lal Qila from Jama Masjid

They say that the mosque also houses several relics in a closet in the north gate, including an antique copy of the Qur’an written on deer skin, but we don’t see it. I blame Delhi’s summer. With the sun mercilessly beating upon us, it takes great effort to climb up the broad flight of steps to the mosque’s entrance, let alone search for an ancient relic that’s probably not allowed to be viewed by the public.  And I think, why did these Mughal emperors love such high and asthma-inducing steps?

I suggest bringing a bag with you to keep your footwear in because you’re not allowed to wear them inside. Leave your shoes outside and there’s a chance of them getting lost or stolen. You’ll find a boy sitting on top of the steps in front of a pile of shoes and slippers; he’ll keep an eye on your footwear for a fee.

Also, wear modest clothes. This means no shorts, mini skirts, and sleeveless tops. I see white guys wrapped in lungis and women wearing loose cotton dresses on top of their sleeveless tops.

Old mosque in Delhi

Visitors are basically allowed into the masjid from dawn to dusk, except during prayer times. Some say there’s an additional fee for a camera, but I am able to bring mine without paying. There’s no fee to visit the mosque.

And while you’re there, don’t forget to sample authentic Mughlai cuisine at either Karim’s or Al Jawahar’s restaurants.

25 comments

  1. The masjids n places of such historical nature whether in India or Pakistan , they all have the same red walls, structure and aura around them. This masjid reminds me of Badshahi Masjid in Lahore. If u have been to my city, you would agree. The location n period is definitely different but something about the walls n the color…its very alike.

    1. Pervisha, the only time I visited Lahore was a thousand years ago, when I used to fit into my mother’s lap 😀

      But I’ve seen the grand Badshahi Masjid of Lahore in pictures and television. I know that its courtyard is so huge that one can fit the Taj Mahal in it! And yeah, it looks almost the same as Jama Masjid. These Mughal emperors all have the same tastes 😀

    1. Thank you, Aiman! Yeah, I got bored with the previous one so I made this new header just yesterday. It took me a few hours since I don’t know much about CSS.

  2. wow! you know so much about India. you even remember the rulers’ name and the temples’ histories. your hard disk must have been of higher caliber or made somewhere else, haha… 🙂

    the first guy you mentioned pioneered multi-tasking, hehe… and your question to the mughals is quite apt, i think. the stairs must have been made that way to awe the visitors as well as to induce them into a prostrate position for the meeting with the king and the nobles, lol…

    1. San, I’m particularly fascinated with the Mughal era, so I know the emperor’s names (and names of their wives and kids too) and what they have constructed during their time, etc. Paborito ko si pareng Shah Jahan kasi sweet at romantic siya 😀 For the rest of the info on India, I rely on the internet, books and information that I get from the place I visit (talking with locals, etc).

      The stairs are designed that way so that people don’t have energy left to argue with the king once they manage to reach their throne 😉

  3. Beautiful post, once again.
    Stair steps in Lahore fort are too wide and it’s said that Mughals constructed them for elephants. Considering the leisurely nature of Mughal emperors, I am sure they had never wanted to walk by foot.
    Not sure about Jamia or Badshahi Masjid though.

    1. Thank you, Raheel. I’m also certain they never walk by foot! The Jama masjid steps aren’t too big for elephants, but they’re not human-friendly either 😀

    1. Hi, Art. Haven’t heard from you in ages; hope everything’s OK.

      I don’t own a film camera; I don’t even remember the last time I used one. This photograph has gone through post-processing, but not in Photoshop (I still haven’t figured that out) but in a very simple free software called Photoscape.

      Yep, the Mughals indeed have a very good taste in architecture.

      1. Yeah, everything’s fine. Just got a new job and it takes a lot time and effort, so almost no time left for blogging:)

        So, Photoscape, huh? Never heard of that, but the results are impressive I must say.. But maybe that’s because you’re great photographer:)
        Artyom recently posted..Ashtarak: The Legend of Three Sisters

        1. You never mentioned your new job, Art. Congratulations!!!

          Photoscape is free and user-friendly, and it’s packed with some pretty cool features too. It’s currently my main photo editing software. These photographs were taken with a point & shoot 6mp digital camera. The last picture, honestly speaking, had a lot of noise so I made it look like vintage to make it appear better!

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