Eid Mubarak to all my readers!
Masjid-i Jahān-Numā aka Jama Masjid has been quite a favorite place for me to go out for photography and it always fascinates me. Ramzaan period is usually the best time as there is so much activity and it is so live.
Brief History of Masjid-i Jahān-Numā
This magnificent monument was built by Mughal King Shajahan in 1644 and is the final architectural legacy of the emperor. Masjid-i-Jahan-Numa is the largest mosque in India with a big courtyard that can accommodate about 25000 people. Popular name Jama Masjid is derived from Jummah referring to the Friday prayers and congregation of devotees. The mosque faces west towards the holy Mecca. High arches built with red stone, three lotus buds shaped marble domes (alternating white and black marble stripes) and walls filled with calligraphy are an amazing example of rich Mughal grandeur. There are a pond and a small fountain in the middle which is used by devotees as ablution tank for washing hands, face, and feet before the prayers. Visitors have to climb 32 to 39 steps to reach the three huge gates to enter the courtyard. It has two minarets which have stairs and balconies opening at 5 story levels. Visitors can reach the upper corridors climbing the winding, very narrow staircases in the gates. These narrow passages are jam-packed during the Eid Namaaz. Three sides of the complex are covered by open arched colonnades.British stationed their soldiers here during 1857 revolt and even considered demolishing the structure.Sayed Abdul Ghafoor Shah Bukhari from Bukhara Uzbekistan was the first Imam and the presents Imams also continue with “Bukhari” in their names. Badshahi Mosque in Lahore built by Aurangzeb has very similar architecture plan.
Jama Masjid During Eid
Masjid can be seen in full glory during the Ramzaan days especially the evenings when devotees break their day-long fast. The structure is decorated with beautiful lights during festive days. It is claimed that the people of all faiths are allowed inside but I have seen Sikh tourist being denied the entry. Visitors have to be barefooted inside the complex and shoes are deposited at the gate. There is an entry fee for entering but many a time I have walked inside without paying anything. There are charges for carrying SLR cameras but again many times I have walked inside with my camera bags without paying anything. Mobiles are allowed. Probably there is nothing official about these charges and I am not sure if people charging this money have any official sanction. Foreign tourists are most welcome and obviously charged for everything. Generally, there are security people at the gate with screening devices but very often one can just walk in without any security check and the place appears to be the safest place in the world despite such a huge gathering.
Eid Celebrations @Jama Masjid
I have been visiting the mosque regularly for the last 10 years and each time the experience is different. 2-3 Muslim friends usually accompany me and they can perform prayers there while I photograph the activities. I usually carry a bag to keep my footwear in my camera bag. Evenings are great to photograph especially the Mosque in setting sun. Sunset brings in the Iftar time for devout Muslims to break their fast & offer Namaaz. The compound bursts with enthralling activities, people engrossed in their community feasting, discussing day gossips & joyful children playing around. Very often photographing the evening prayers is a bit difficult because of poor light after the Iftar and carrying tripods are obviously difficult.
360 Degree View Of Eid Prayers @Jama Masjid
Prayers are best photographed early morning especially the Eid prayers. The whole complex is full of people offering Namaaz. Each corridor, the steps outside and even the roads outside are full of devotees offering Namaaz. Thousands of people rise, bend and sit in unison and these synchronous movements are just awesome. A sea of humanity offering Eid Namaaz is a spellbinding sight. Many diplomats and foreigners also join in to offer prayers. It was at one of those evenings that I photographed a very beautiful lady, probably the most beautiful ever and her photograph brought me many laurels.
Our evening visits always ended up with dinner at the famous restaurants in by lanes opposite the mosque. Morning visits always end up rushing back to work. Most of the time weather during Eid is hot and humid and is made worst by so many people around you.
Gleeful children are the best part of the activity in the mosque. These kids always remind me of Munshi Prem Chand’s story “Idgaah”. Unfortunately, everything is so different now. There are no Hamids or Ameenas inside the mosque. There are Noora, Mohsin, Mehmud, all rich friends of Hamid who neither play with toys nor run around with gleeful freedom. They are all busy taking selfies with the latest mobile phones. It seems mobiles are their only toys. Beautiful, well-dressed Noories, Mohsinas and Mehmoodas are seen admiring themselves looking at their pictures on mobile. Their parents also do the same, taking selfies instead of communicating with each other. All Hamids and Ameenas are seen outside on the steps or roads begging. I feel that they can be very easy targets for anti-national elements. It is sad. Every year a group of activists is seen shouting slogans against Israel in support of Palestinians. I don’t understand how that will help the Palestinian cause. Pigeons in a large number are a permanent feature of the courtyard but poor fellows have to disappear during Namaaz.
For photographing architecture grandeur of the mosque, the best time is a winter afternoon on weekdays except for Fridays when the crowd is less and the weather is not hostile. Mosque seriously needs proper upkeep, repair and conservation as the surroundings are very dirty and encroachments all around are making it worst. It is important to hand it over to Archaeological Survey of India as the Imam along with Wakf board looks busier in politics and financial gains. This structure is our national heritage apart from being a religious worship place. There have been few terrorist attacks in the vicinity of the Mosque but fortunately never inside which looks like the safest heaven.
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