City Series – Stones of Jama Masjid – I, Shahjahanabad
Delhi’s grand Friday mosque.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
In the beginning, the things I was to love so passionately in Shahjahanabad did not immediately strike me: the hill-side alleys, the butcheries, the Sufi shrines, the domesticated goats, the old wooden doors, the carved balustrades, the unknown tombs, the trees flourishing in most unexpected places.
I imagined that my repeated excursions to the Mughal-era capital were due to the Jama Masjid mosque, the most imposing landmark of this 17th century city, established by the builder of Taj Mahal.
Each time as I approached the mosque from the narrow road of the Matia Mahal bazaar, I would be overwhelmed by the dark red tone of its stones.
Over the years as I began to experience the deeper, vaster multi-layered world of the Walled City, I detached myself from Jama Masjid. It was a place where tourists go to sightsee.
One morning while walking in Shahjahanabad, I sat down on the stairs of the mosque. Hemmed in by meat shops and guest houses, the edifice, its stones looking softened under the winter sun, seemed to soar high up in the air. The traffic noise appeared to originate from a distant land. Jama Masjid felt remote, which was strange because it is the area’s most intrusive landmark. Its dome crowns every view in the town. I know many windows in Matia Mahal, Chawri Bazaar, Lal Kuan, Farash Khana and Chitli Qabar from which one can see, across layers of jumbled roofs, streets beyond streets, the off-white dome of the mosque. It could also be distinguished from the K-Block of the colonial-era Connaught Place.
To refine our impressions of Shahjahanbad, it is necessary to minutely examine the mosque, down to its every minor detail. Through words and images, the series Stones of Jama Masjid will invocate the essence of Delhi by concentrating on the physical aspects of its great monument. The tourist destination must be restored to its local sensibilities.
Where Shahjahanabad Nearby Metro Stations Chawri Bazaar, Chandni Chowk Time Sunrise to sunset
Stones of Jama Masjid