The largest mosque in India: – the Jama Masjid is truly a marvelous wonder. Located in Shahjahanabad, the walled city of the Mughals, the Jama Masjid sits right across the road from the Red Fort.
Constructed on an approximately 30ft pedestal, the Masjid is made of red sandstone and strikingly reflects the majestic grandeur of the Mughal architecture. Its seemingly poetic beauty amid the Delhi skyline casts an old-world charm upon the visitor.
Facing the Red Fort, which is in the eastern direction, with its back towards the west, the Masjid, is so made as to ensure that the devotees face in the direction of Mecca, as they kneel down in prayer. The mosque has three big gateways, to the east, north and south, respectively, each led by a fleet of steps. Standing at the main entrance in the eastern side of the mosque, a long busy market from the mosque to the main road is seen, bustling with trade.
You cannot enter the mosque wearing your shoes. But strangely, you can carry them around in your hands; in fact you will have to, for the fear of them being stolen. In the wide and open courtyard which is about 1400 square yards in area, gushes of wind flow, which can be accredited to the open windows, or jharokhas along the three side walls of the compound. Along these windowed walls, run approximately 10 feet wide roofed corridors and the panorama of the city can be viewed from these corridors.
Look up at the wonder from the eastern gate and you’ll be positively bowled over by the beauty and the magnificence of it. The main prayer hall, made up of high cusped arches and topped with three white marble domes, has an imposing front gate, with intricate carvings and is bordered by two tall towers. Right in the middle of the courtyard is a square pond made of marble, where the devotees wash themselves before offering prayers. Towards one side bajra-seeds are strewn and numerous pigeon flocks this corner for their daily feast.
I entered the prayer hall and sat on the marble floor for a while. Around me, a few men, long-bearded and skull-capped, were sitting in meditation. Looking around, I was amazed by the beauty of the structure; the painted ceilings, the archaic lamps hanging, and the intricately carved pillars and walls; and imagined how beautiful it must have looked in the days of the Mughals. The face of every person around exhibited peace and serenity. Everyone is a pure soul here, with just one purpose; to kneel before the lord and seek his blessings. However mean a businessman he be, however bad a person he be, whatever be his style of life, once in here, every man is a good being, the purity reflecting on each of the faces.
At around quarter-past-five in the evening, the evening prayer, or the namaaz started. As the musical azaan echoed loud, horizontal closely-held queues of men formed along the breadth of the building and the namaaz was offered in a ceremonious bending down and kneeling to touch the forehead to the ground several times.
After the prayer, I found out that one could climb atop the tower for “a breathtaking view of the city” for a Rs.20 ticket, and decided to go for it. You need to climb to the roof to enter the tower. Entering the tower, I began climbing the narrow spiraling stone staircase, which becomes darker and narrower as it goes up. The darkness grew thicker to the extent of losing sight of anything, only an occasional ray of light coming through tiny windows at intervals. After what seemed like an unending climb (it was 151 steps by the way), I reached the top of the tower and with the first hint of fresh air realized that this toil was worth the effort. It is literally a breathtaking view from here, and the cool breeze is welcoming. Through the jalis, one can see the entire old city in all its vastness all around, and at the horizon, some skyscrapers of New Delhi are also visible through the haze of the polluted Delhi air. The colorful houses look like matchboxes from this height and I spot a few kites flying high enough to be seen from here. The Red Fort is clearly visible in the distance. It is truly an exhilarating moment and one feels addicted to this platform.
This is the splendor of the Jama Masjid.