Jama Masjid


The Jama Masjid was (and remains) Delhi's main mosque.  It was built by Shah Jahan as a symbol of his royal power, and the building dominates the long avenue leading up toward it.  This promenade used to be the road used by the emperor to come to the Jama Masjid for Friday prayer, but now it serves as a large open market, in which all sorts of hawkers set up stands and cry their wares (this photo was taken at 9:30 on a winter morning, and people were still setting up).

This photo was taken in January 2005. 


Here's a shot of the interior showing the whole facade, as well as some people to show the scale.  Of course, the whole enclosed area is part of the mosque, the central facade merely houses the mihrab pointing the direction to Mecca.  In the left foreground is the pool at which people could perform their ritual ablutions, and on either side are the two minarets from which the muezzin would issue the call to prayer.  Even though parts of it need work, there's a majesty here that is hard to describe. 

This picture was taken in January 2005.


Here's a shot from inside out, looking north.  The covered perimeter is actually a vital part of a mosque, since it creates a tangible boundary dividing the inner and outer spaces.  You can also see the lines drawn on the flagstones, which help the faithful to line up for prayer in straight lines.  I really liked the play of light and shadow here, as well as the grace of the Moghul arches. 


This picture was taken in January 2005.


Here's a  picture of the mihrab, which points the direction toward Mecca.  Muslims are required to face toward Mecca when they their required prayers (five each day), and the religious need to determine the proper direction prompted Muslims to develop sciences such as geography and mathematics.  The mihrab is decorated with geometric forms and calligraphy (at the top, and in the two circular medallions on each side below it), in keeping with the religious ban on figural images in religious places.  The carpets in the foreground are for the faithful to kneel on, the imam or prayer leader would be right up in front, so that his movements during the prayer could serve as a guide for others. 

This picture was taken in January 2005.


This shows the view east from the central niche in the photo above.  In the time of Shah Jahan, this eastern gate was opened only for emperor, while today it is opened only on Fridays, the day on which Muslims have congregational prayers.  In the foreground you can see a series of small rectangles, each of which marks out the space for one person for this prayer.  Thanks to Peter Elling for this photo.




This was taken from the Shahi gate, so called because in earlier times it was only opened for Emperor.   Now it is opened for the community prayer on Friday, and for some holidays as well.  The matting in the lower center is to give people a cooler surface on which to walk.


The minbar or pulpit stands directly in front of the center niche indicating the direction to Mecca.  Islam has traditionally placed great emphasis on preaching as a way to spread its message, and according to custom the prayer leader gives a sermon as part of the community prayer service on Friday.  Note the beautiful carvings in the marble, and the contrast with the simple and functional ladder.  


Here a young couple is making an unusual use of the minbar for a filmi style glamorous photo.  In the background you can see a few older gentlemen sitting and talking.  Even though the mosque's primary function is for worship, during the other times one finds a whole variety of activities.  This is only natural, since at heart the mosque is a place where the community can congregate and be together.

This photo was taken in January 2005.



This shows the Shahi Gate, as taken from the southern minaret.  Notice the painted lines which mark out spaces for the worshippers during prayer, as well as the slabs of sandstone for renovations.  Just beyond this picture is the Red Fort.  The palace and mosque were two of the centers of a traditional Islamic city, with the third being the bazaar.  


This shot from the southern minaret shows both the beauty of the domes, and the congested quality of Old Delhi to the north.  

Click here for a web link to Mughal architecture.

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Last modified 29 March 2005