Amidst the rush and chaos of Central Delhi, lies the peace and tranquillity of the largest mosque in the country. The 'Masjid-I Jahan-Numa' or Jama Masjid as it is more commonly known, means "World Reflecting Mosque." It was the last of Shah Jahan's impressive collection of architectural undertakings, after the Taj Mahal and the Red Fort. The mosque hosts thousands of pilgrims each year on the holy occasion of Eid to offer special Namaz in the morning. The Jama Masjid, Connaught Place and Parliament house all fall on a straight line thanks to the genius of Edwin Lutyens, the architect of New Delhi. With a capacity of twenty-five thousand people in the courtyard, Jama Masjid is arguably the largest mosque in the country.Unfortunately, non-Muslims are not allowed inside the Masjid during Namaz offerings. Evenings are surreal when the steps leading to the mosque are filled with food and book stalls.
Jama Masjid is situated in the older part of Delhi, now called Chandni Chowk and surrounded by beautiful Mughal structures. It took a huge construction cost of one million rupees at the time, five thousand workers and six years (1650-1656) to complete.The purity of warm welcome can be felt here. To reach the entrance one needs to climb 121 steps. The massive central dome is an outstanding example of Islamic architecture. Most of the enhancement has been done through fluorescent motifs. The structures are adorned with floral designs with the lavish use of arches, under arch, wall, under domes, on the columns and floors.
The courtyard in front of the mosque is spread across 408 square feet and has an impressive capacity of twenty-five thousand worshippers. Jama Masjid extends for about 1200 square meters in area with three gateways, four towers and two minarets which are forty meters high. Built of sandstone and white marble, this architectural masterpiece is an imposing structure with significant Islamic relics like the red-beard hair of the Prophet Muhammad, his footwear and foot mark along with an Old Quran transcript on a deer skin preserved inside. Sadaullah Khan who was the Wazir (prime minister) during Shah Jahan's rule supervised the construction of the mosque. Travelers may also hire robes outside the North gate. The mosque is also known as the "Friday Mosque."
Designed and planned by Ostad Khalil, Jama Masjid was commissioned on July 23, 1656, when Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan moved his capital to Delhi from Agra after the death of his wife. Syed Abdul Ghafoor Shah Bukhrail, an Imam from Uzbekistan, inaugurated the mosque. A 'madrasa' near the southern end of the mosque was destroyed during the revolt of 1857, and the mosque was confiscated with the intention of demolition, but the British government had to retreat due to severe protests and opposition. It is almost a replica of Moti Masjid in Agra.
Facing westwards, towards the holy city of Mecca, this grand and impressive mosque has three gates facing north, south and east and is visible from a distance of up to five kilometres. The eastern gateway is the largest and is closed on weekdays. Standing tall on a thirty feet high red sandstone porch, the Jama Masjid has a massive archway to the centre which welcomes you with the words, "The Guide". The roof encapsulates three black and white marble domes flanked by a couple of forty meter high minarets. Each of the minarets is a hundred and thirty step climb, but only the southern gate is open to the public for a nominal fee.
The Eastern Gate of Jama Masjid had thirty-five steps and was initially used as a reserved entrance for Mughal Emperors and then later for royal visitors and Viceroy of India during the British rule. It is octagonal, and the roof is decorated with honeycomb carvings. The gate is 15.4 meters high and has a massive opening with three archways. There is also a projected balcony on the other side of the gate. The northern gate has thirty-nine steps and was initially meant for nobles. The southern gate with thirty-three steps was the only gate accessible to the common public. The northern and southern gates are smaller in size with seventeen arched openings on each side.
The open courtyard in front of the Jama Masjid has an ablution tank with a fountain in the centre. The ablution tank has been installed for the rituals to be performed before the Namaz. There is a Sandstone platform for the 'Muazzin' (one who gives the call for the prayers) in front of the tank and also a couple of sundials in the courtyard.The main shrine has been divided into two halls which have been further split into seven bays of ornamental pillars. The floor of the mosque is beautifully decorated with black marbles, and there are 899 markings for devotees.
Jama Masjid is most vibrant during the festival of Eid. The buzz on the streets of Jama Masjid and Chandni Chowk multiply tenfold during the month of Ramadan. Iftar meals are served to everyone at the mosque and numerous stalls serving delicious street food pop-up on the streets. Don't miss out on exquisite kebabs on the streets.
Best time to visit the mosque is before 12 o'clock at noon and between 2:00 PM to 4:00 PM. The most important prayer is held right before sunset between 4:30 PM to 5:30 PM and you may want to visit at this time if you are planning to take part in the Namaz offerings.
Jama Masjid station on the violet line is the nearest metro station almost three hundred meters away. Chawri Bazar metro station on the yellow line is five hundred meters from the mosque. There is a dedicated DTC bus stop at Jama Masjid and also the Red Fort (600 meters) with AC and Non-AC buses plying to almost all parts of the city.
If you plan to come by your vehicle, Red Fort Parking on Shantivana Marg would be the best option. You could also consider Parade Ground Parking near the Cycle Market.
Chandni Chowk, which is situated near Jama Masjid, is one of the best street shopping localities in the country. The Bazaar Chitli Qabar is full of street vendors selling everything from balloons to food items. Meena Bazar Market is another paradise for shopping. Travelers may also hire robes before visiting the mosque outside the North gate.
Karim's is one of most famous eating joints of Delhi, located couple of hundred meters away from the mosque. This place becomes a street food paradise during the time of Iftar when the lane opposite to the mosque is filled with beef biriyani, excellent kebabs, keema samosas and Rooh Afza sharbat.
1. Leave your footwear outside the mosque for a minimal change. Don't pay any money to enter the mosque.
2. Dress up conservatively and avoid wearing shorts and skirts.
3. Tourists are not allowed inside the mosque during prayer time.
We took the Delhi metro and got down at the Chawri Bazaar Metro Station and walked the entire length of Chawri Bazaar to reach the West side of Jama Masjid. Crossing Gate No. 5 from where we could see the three domes from behind the structure. we walked around the border to reach Gate No. 3. The entrance gate to the mosque was on top of a flight of stairs. The wide structure looked majestic on top from where we were standing. Read the full review of our visit to the mosque at our blog http://india-travels.com/blog/2016/11/23/the-royal-jama-masjid-of-delhi/