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Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Jama Masjid - Delhi

Our visit to the Jama Masjid was one of the most memorable experiences on this trip. 
Let me give you a tour. 
But first a little historical background on the Jama Masjid.

According to Wikipedia:
"The Masjid-i Jahān-Numā , the 'World-reflecting Mosque, commonly known as the Jama Masjid  is the principal mosque of Old Delhi in India
Commissioned by the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan, builder of the Taj Mahal, in the year 1650 CE and completed in the year 1656 AD, it is the largest and best-known mosque in India. It lies at the origin of a very busy central street of Old Delhi, the Chawri Bazar Road.
The later name, Jama Masjid, is a reference to the weekly Friday noon congregation prayers of Muslims, Jummah, which are usually done at a mosque, the "congregational mosque" or "jāmi' masjid". The courtyard of the mosque can hold up to twenty-five thousand worshippers. The mosque also houses several relics in a closet in the north gate, including an antique copy of the Qur'an written on deer skin."

We drove down this narrow market street and were dropped off in front as our driver went to go park the van with the rest of the tourist's vans. 
It was about 11:45 am.
We were given 15 minutes to go visit the masjid. 
We took an hour.
There was no tour guide to explain the history and beauty of this mosque since this was an actual house of worship.
One has to simply walk through the front gates to experience the enormity yet simplicity of this historic mosque
This is the view of the streets from the front steps of the masjid.

Looking up the front steps of the masjid.

Everyone has to remove their shoes before entering the masjid.
There is a special shoe service available for a nominal charge.
We walked through the arched gate which opened up into a large courtyard.
The main prayer hall is to the right.
In front of the prayer hall is a small arched podium of sorts where the Imam stands daily to call the congregation to prayer.
There is a large, shallow pool of water in the center of the courtyard that is used by the male members to cleanse themselves before praying. More on this ritual in a bit.
There are a few more large, arched gates that lead in different directions.
There is a separate area for the women to recite their prayers. 

All women have to cover themselves up with this makeshift cotton robe unless they're wearing a "Burkha" or a loose fitting, long dress or skirt.
My sis in law was wearing jeans and was asked to "cover up".
This was no different than women being asked to cover their bare shoulders at Vatican City, Rome.
 Karim and Zayn pose for me.
Notice they're not wearing any shoes.
The floor made of stone was cold.

Another view of the Masjid.

A view of the dome flocked with pigeons.

What a sight!
Worshipers wait for the Friday noon prayers to begin shortly;
 Tourists take pictures while they still can since no cameras will be allowed once prayers begin;
Children playing with their friends;
Flocks of birds circling overhead.
The energy here is pure and peaceful.
Although it was close to noon, it was cool and pleasant.

One of the side gates of the Masjid.

Groups of children hang around the masjid everyday.
These are either street kids or children whose parents are offering prayers.

I find it so interesting that children are always so happy to pose for a picture they'll never see.
A young girl playing hopscotch while she waits for her mother to complete her prayers.

This is the main prayer hall and the white arched entrance in the front is where the Imam stands to call the congregation to prayer.
This call to prayer is called "Adhaan"

Architecture details I find oh so beautiful!

More Islamic architecture details with the arches, the columns and the domes.

Notice the loud speakers attached to the top of this dome. This magnifies the adhaan to all the neighboring areas.

A worshipper performs  "Vazu" where he follows a ritual of washing his arms, his feet, between fingers and toes. behind his ears and nose and his mouth.
The idea is that one has been taking care of his worldly responsibilities during the day and is physically dirty. Performing "Vazu" cleanses the worshiper and puts him in a state to receive the grace of Allah.

Notice the little ridge that runs between the outer edge and the pool of water.
This is so that the dirty water does not contaminate the pool of clean water and instead is taken away to the sewer.

The Imam stood as he waited for everyone to gather for the afternoon prayers.
He then walked inside and recited the Azaan over the microphone for all to hear.
As a Muslim, the sound of the Adhaan is always the most beautiful, soul stirring sound in the entire universe.
 I covered my head with my shawl, closed my eyes and stood still with my feel planted firmly on the ground, as I experienced the Shahada being recited as part of the Adhaan.
I was moved to tears and was left speechless for some time after it was over.

Here is a link to a video recording of the Adhaan being recited at the Jama Masjid.
I did not record this.
I would humbly suggest you listen to this with the volume turned up and your eyes closed.
Either click on the link below or copy and paste it in your search engine.


My son Aly just sat down and absorbed the beauty and grace of the Adhaan.

After the Adhaan, the men walked in the main prayer hall to recite their individual Namaaz (prayers).
I was told that I could not enter since it was for men only.

Arabic inscriptions of Quranic Ayats (verses from the Quran). (I think since I don't read Arabic).

People performing their prayers on mats that have been laid out.

Beautiful Islamic motif in Arabic with Quranic Ayats (I think).

Walking through the high arched doors.

More Islamic motifs etched into the recesses of the wall.


This door is HUGE!!! Notice the smaller door within the door which is used when the larger doors are closed.

The side entrance of the Masjid leading to yet another busy neighboring street.

Street vendors sell everything from shoes, clothes, prayer mats, beads etc

Vendors selling food on the side of the streets.

Walking back in through the side gate which faces the main prayer hall.

My brother Karim and sis in law, Zeenat pose on the steps as we leave.

Another street kid ran next to our van in the middle of the very busy street, arm stretched out hoping for some alms.
He followed us for half a block while we hurried to find change in our purses.
Sadly, this is too common of a sight in India no matter where you go.

As we drove through the busy streets in front of Jama Masjid, we saw more street side vendors selling clothes etc.

Next stop, Humayun's Tomb, Delhi.

Love and Light,
From one sufi to another,

Monday, August 27, 2012

Old Delhi and New Delhi

There are two parts of Delhi: Old Delhi and New Delhi.
Old Delhi is the original Delhi which is older, simpler and dated.
This is where the everyday people live and work.
(All these pictures were taken while sitting in the front seat of our moving van.)
Cycle rickshaws and autos are rampant in Old Delhi while they are not allowed in New Delhi.

The yellow and green autos share the road with the cycle rickshaws and other cars and vans on the streets of Old Delhi.
The sight of a skinny Indian man, pushing away on the pedals of the bike, to transport his passenger to the desired destination so that he can pick up the next passenger is just heart wrenching.
That's a physically arduous way of making a living and not much of it either.

An auto driver takes a break between passengers.
At first glance, this looks like a cycle rickshaw covered with a blanket but at a closer glance, we realized that this was actually a rickshaw rider's bed.
He slept here last night and probably every night.
I just love this picture with the sage green wall and the yellow top of the rickshaw and the road dividers.
Small businesses in action: carts piled high with sweaters and other clothing ready to make their first sale of the day.

A sea of people, cars, cycle rickshaw, motor cycles swarm the streets of old Delhi.
It was a cool morning with temperatures in the high 60's.
This man with all these bags is a traveling salesman of sorts.
He is carrying all his wares in his bags and sets up shop in different parts of the city. 
Another example of a make shift shop on the side of the road selling shoes.
The man sitting on the side is a cobbler who is available to anyone needing their shoe patched up.
At the end of the day, they'll pack up their shoes in large blue bags and carry them home.
New Delhi is the newer part of Delhi. 
Being that New Delhi is the capital of India, all the government offices, historical landmarks, military headquarters and residences of officials are located around the city. 
"Samadhi" means "final resting place".
This is where Mahatma Gandhi's ashes rest.
Being that Gandhiji was a Hindu, I'm assuming they burnt his body as per Hindu custom.
His ashes rest here.
We were not able to visit any of these places since we were only in town for the day.
We just drove by and listened to our guide narrate the significance of the various landmarks.
This road is named after Mahatma Gandhi. 
A sea of motorcyclists can be found in the mornings heading to work with their tiffins aka lunch boxes secured on their bikes.
These are the working class who consider themselves moving up in the world since they are able to afford their own mode of transportation vs the common man who relies on buses, auto rickshaws, cycle rickshaws or his own two feet.
Also, since auto rickshaws and cycle rickshaws are not allowed in New Delhi, people who work in New Delhi are left with little choice.
The next class up are the people who can afford their own cars. 
India Gate in Delhi.
Mumbai has "The Gateway of India." 
Another landmark that we drove by. Again, don't remember the name.
Do notice the line of cars neatly parked. This is very different that Old Delhi with its swarm of people, rickshaws etc.

The buildings in the back are government offices and the men sitting on the grass are the government employees who are on their lunch break. 
I just love this picture.
Not bad considering its taken sitting in the front seat next to the driver and looking through the windshield.
Notice the steering wheel in the right corner of the picture.
 This fountain is surrounded by government offices.
Interesting how they manage to keep this road spotless.
Delhi, compared to Mumbai, Calcutta or any other major city in India is relatively clean.
Mumbai and Calcutta are simply disgusting!!!
I'll share pictures of Mumbai in a later post.
Another official building .
Notice the architecture with the domes around the building reflecting the Moghal emperors who ruled this part of India back in the day.

Neatly manicured lawns and clipped hedges surround the various official buildings.

Just a pretty picture of a New Delhi street with the morning fog before it lifted.
Notice the Nehru Planetarium named after India's first Prime Mister, Mr. Jawaharlal Nehru.
He was Indira Gandhi's father.
Indira Gandhi was the first female Prime Minister of India in the late 70's and early 80's.
Sadly, I remember the day she was asassinated.
I believe she had gone to offer prayers at the famous Golden Temple in Delhi where she was shot to death.
I was only eight at the time
I lived in Mumbai which was Bombay at the time.
It was summer vacation and I had walked to the local book store which literally was a hole in the wall and also doubled as a library.
I was hooked on Nancy Drew books and went back almost every other day to return books and get a new one.
When news of her asassination came down, the shops quickly closed.
People rushed to get home.
There was a distinct shift in energy that even I, as an eight year old, noticed.
This was a sad time.
I remember watching the funeral processions on television with the rest of my family and neighbors.
An early morning view of Old Delhi.
Notice that there are faint lane markings on the road and surprisingly people tried to follow them.
Unlike Mumbai, where people blatantly ignored the traffic lights, in Delhi, people actually stop at a red light.
This was very surprising to see.
Now NOTICE the little boy sitting on the left side of the picture, behind the pole.
More on him in a bit.
I wish we had time to ride this bus.
This bus service was cool to see since all the major cities around the world have a bus tour service available to tourists.
 This is an efficient and economical way to see the sights in a limited time frame.

Historically significant monuments share prime real estate with modern dwellings.

Temples of all sizes are on every other street corner in India.
Here is a temple of Shri Hanumanji,
Hanuman was the devoted follower of Lord Ram.
He has the body of a man but the face of a monkey and a tail to match.
On his right hand are the words, "Shri Ram".
The Red Fort is one of the most famous sites in Delhi.

This is the same boy sitting on the side of the road. His left leg has been amputated but he manages to hop around just fine.
He makes his living begging for alms.
He chases down cyclists and even cars and points to his amputated leg to garner sympathy as his other hand is stretched out cupped ready to receive any change given to him.
Here he literally chases down these men going to work on their cycles, hoping for some spare change.

Like any other major city, Delhi has it's fancy modern shopping malls, movie theaters, high rises, country clubs, five star hotels, fancy restaurants, sports stadiums and market places. 
We were not able to visit any of them and nor did we mind since we've seen plenty of those back in the States and even in Mumbai.

Next up, Jama Masjid!

Love and Light,
From one sufi to another,