I’ve always found religions buildings of worship fascinating. Especially when I’m in a place where religion holds a strong place in its history. Unfortunately though, its usually not the most positive of memories when it comes to different religions and its effects on a place’s history, as it has been many times the reason of segregation, violence and war. However, many of these buildings, especially in older countries such as India, have so much history and are so beautiful that its hard not to ignore them.
The Jama Masjid was nothing less than spectacular. Set amidst the cityscape of Old Delhi and opposite the Red Fort, it is something that can’t be missed. And I must admit, after my visit to Turkey, I thought I’d had my fill of mosques. But I haven’t, and I don’t think I ever will. They are always so interesting to look at and such a different experience each time I see one.
Commissioned by the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan in 1650 (who is also responsible for the Taj Mahal), this building is the best-known mosque in India, and can hold up to 25 thousand people in its spacious courtyard. It has three great gates and four towers with minarets made of red sandstone and marble. The attention to detail in this building, just as was the Taj Mahal, is incredible. But I do have to say that it didn’t feel as pristine and well kept.
Upon entering the mosque, my friend and I were both required to rent longhis, since we were wearing shorts. If I remember correctly it was about 150 rupee or so. After quickly being wrapped up by the gentleman who rented them to us, we entered into the courtyard, where many tourists walked around, taking photos. I didn’t hesitate to take out my camera and start shooting. The sun was starting to go down, leaving beautiful silhouettes of the domes at the top of the towers. At one point, I looked up and saw what seemed to be a flock of birds flying low near us. But upon closer inspection, I realized that they were a bunch of kites being flown by local residents on their rooftops. It was such an amazing thing to see!
A common occurrence with a travel partner of mine was to be stopped and asked to have our photo taken, as he is about six foot four, and European. I found it amusing, but he was over it by the second day. Nonetheless, I used it as an opportunity to take photos of some of these people myself, which they were very excited about. It was through taking these photos that I realized what a different world I was in. Being looked at like a celebrity at times, and an oddity at others, was quite a different experience. It made me realize how culturally diverse of a place I really do come from, and how easy it is to take that for granted. It also reminded me of my childhood, growing up in a tourist destination, always being fascinated when non-Asian tourists would stop and ask for directions. Seeing their sunburnt faces, speaking English with their funny “accents” always left me with a feeling of wanting to know more about where they came from. And now that my curiosity has led me to a place where I was now on the other side, things have come full circle.
More posts of my trip to India can be seen here.