City Series – Stones of Jama Masjid – II, Shahjahanabad
Delhi’s grand Friday mosque.
[Text and photos by Mayank Austen Soofi]
“How can anybody live in this place?” This is the first thing that a new visitor to Shahjahanbad might want to know.
The loosely-hanging electric cables.
The open drains.
And the grand mosque.
As Shahjahanabad’s signature monument, Jama Masjid stands in grand isolation; its refined aesthetics shows no affinity to the disharmony of surrounding structures. Yet, it does not look out of place.
The principal street of Matia Mahal bazaar culminates in the mosque’s south-facing entrance. This is the location of Gate No. 1.
While walking up the street, the gateway becomes visible only after reaching the Champion Bakery. Until this point there is no suggestion of being in close proximity to an imposing building in such a congested neighborhood. Here, the street turns and you catch a glimpse of the southern gateway: the arch, the miniature domes.
If it is morning, the street is less crowded. Cats are prowling around more freely than they do during the day. The shops are closed. The homeless are sleeping beside the drains, employing piles of yesterday’s garbage as pillows. A few chai stalls are peopled with early risers. Some are reading Urdu newspapers.
While walking ahead, Jama Masjid’s gateway never goes out of sight. It impresses itself to the mind as an extension of all those elements that constitute Shahjahanabad: shops, balconies, pigeons, goats, meat pieces, electric cables, and food smells.
Nearing the end of the street, the landscape abruptly changes: the gateway steps back to join the straight lines of the mosque, whose domes and minars seem to rise towards the sky.
The moment is dramatic.
What lies concealed behind this exterior?
To penetrate the secrets of Jama Masjid, the first thing to do, perhaps, is to sit on its stairs and watch the world it faces.
Where Shahjahanabad Nearby Metro Stations Chawri Bazaar, Chandni Chowk Time Sunrise to sunset
Stones of Shahjahanabad