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India: Jama Masjid

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Jama Masjid | India | Asia

[Visited: January 2015 and several times before]

We arrive from the north, and two minarets rise high above us. They confirm we are close to our destination of the morning: the Jama Masjid, the largest mosque of Delhi. Officially called the Masjid-i Jahan-Numa, or the world-reflecting mosque, it was built between 1650 and 1656 by the famous Moghul emperor Shah Jahan, who is best known for building the iconic Taj Mahal for his wife. There are not many people on the stairs leading up to the southern entrance gate. We walk up, remove our shoes and give them to a caretaker, and I am asked to buy a ticket for my camera. Once we walk through the huge redstone gate, we find ourselves on the courtyard of the mosque. It can hold 25,000 worshippers, and now that it is almost empty, it is easier to appreciate its enormous size.

Picture of Jama Masjid (India): The mosque rising from the enormous courtyard of Jama Masjid

We walk to the eastern entrance, and down the stairs, after which we turn around to enter the courtyard once again through the imposing gate. Here, too, people are sitting on the steps in the pleasant winter sun. We walk towards the rectangular pool in front of the mosque itself. Kids are playing, people sit near the water in which the minarets and domes are reflected: the atmosphere is relaxed. The prayer hall turns out to be richly decorated. A heavy hanging lamp hangs from the ceiling, and heavily ornamented marble cusped arch-shaped niches with calligraphed quotes from the Qur'an embellish the wall with the mihrab, which points west. We are asked to leave because afternoon prayers are about to start. Sitting near the eastern entrance gate allows us to observe families coming in, worshippers walking towards the mosque and praying.

Picture of Jama Masjid (India): Interior view of Jama Masjid with hanging lamp and decorated wall

When prayers are over, we walk towards the corner near the northern entrance gate, where we see a small, white building inside the pillared gallery. An old man in a white robe gets a key, unlocks the small door, and steps inside. It is clear that we are not allowed to follow him; which would, anyway, be difficult because of the small space inside. He shows us a footprint, which he claims was made by the prophet Mohamed in Mecca; a hair, which he claims is one of the few surviving hairs of the beard of the prophet Mohamed, and an ancient copy of the Qur'an, written on deer skin. Impressive relics of the moslim faith. Back at the other side, we buy our entrance ticket, walk up to the terrace, and climb to a higher terrace, where we enter the red stone and marble southern minaret. It is narrow, and once upstairs, we share a small space next to the winding stairs. The views of the courtyard, the white and black marble domes, the Red Fort, and Old Delhi sprawling all around us, are fantastic.

Picture of Jama Masjid (India): Domes and minarets on top of the mosque of Jama Masjid
Picture of Jama Masjid (India): View from the southern minaret with mosque and Old Delhi in the background
Picture of Jama Masjid (India): The eastern entrance gate building of Jama Masjid
Picture of Jama Masjid (India): Minarets in a row at Jama Masjid
Picture of Jama Masjid (India): Looking up the ceiling of the mosque
Picture of Jama Masjid (India): View from the south towards the mosque of Jama Masjid
Picture of Jama Masjid (India): Main dome of Jama Masjid
Picture of Jama Masjid (India): Balcony attached to the eastern entrance building of Jama Masjid
Picture of Jama Masjid (India): View towards the eastern exit/entrance to Jama Masjid
Picture of Jama Masjid (India): Red sandstone columns
Picture of Jama Masjid (India): View across the courtyard of Jama Masjid with the eastern exit at the far end
Picture of Jama Masjid (India): People sitting on the stairs to the southern entrance to Jama Masjid
Picture of Jama Masjid (India): View from the terrace at the southern entrance

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