Hi all. If you have found me slightly ignorant about this space, blame a bad viral infection! It has taken me a good two weeks to recover from it. Thank God for the ‘Schedule’option, I had the posts coming in more or less regularly here. And now that I have finally recovered (well, almost!), here I am with the last installment in this series. Today, we’ll take a peek into the history and the beauty of Jumma Masjid.
Post 5 – Jumma Masjid (or Jama Masjid as it is most frequently referred)
The beauty of Badshah no Hajiro had not yet sunk in when we began walking away from it. Th beauty of the structure was in its fine architecture and magnanimity. Although the structure wasn’t more than 5 minutes from a bustling road where vehicles passed by us in hundreds by the minute, this structure somehow resonated peace. While this thought just took birth in my head, our guide Mr. Girish asked us to remove our footwear as we were going to walk into a Masjid (a mosque). Since Ahmedabad has had many Muslim rulers, it is only too obvious that there should be many mosques around the city. And sure there are.
If you mention Jumma Masjid or Jama Masjid to an Indian, the first reference that would come to his mind is invariably of the Jama Masjid in Delhi which was built by Shah Jahan in the 17th century. However, the Jumma Masjid in Ahmedabad is a 15th century structure that was built by Sultan Ahmed Shah as a prayer hall that he would frequently visit. Initially the mosque was only meant for him and the members of the royal family. However eventually, it was opened for public visit. The Sultan himself is buried not too far away from the entrance to the mosque.
As we walked into the premises, the vastness of the courtyard struck me. One of the women in our group couldn’t help but ask, “Are we still in Ahmedabad?” And the question is completely legit! We were in a huge Masjid, right in the middle of the city, surrounded by bustling markets and busy roads but couldn’t hear a honk nor the cries of sellers!
We walked ahead with our shoes in our hands, found a place to put them and then walked to a central man-made pond (a common sight in a mosque). Such water bodies are meant for travellers who come from far and wide. They can drink the water and rest. People who come to pray are supposed to clean themselves of any dust/dirt that may cover their hands and feet and only then step into the prayer halls. The water is considered holy and is supposed to rid one of all sins. All of us walked to it and cleaned our hands and feet. A sudden calm filled my heart.
I looked around. The breeze soothed my sweaty body and brought a smile to my face. The walls and prayer halls were made of yellow sandstone. And you have to see to believe how well the mosque has been maintained. The carvings on the walls are still intact, the walls stand strong, the prayer halls still dominate the sight just as they might have 6 centuries ago. As I looked around, the bold calligraphic text in Arabic that was on almost all walls struck me as one of the most peculiar features of the mosque. I have seen such texts inscribed on the walls of the Taj Mahal as well but the font of these were much bigger and you could read them from wherever you stood on that large courtyard.
The main prayer hall had intricate carvings on the roof and the pillars. The qibla was also beautifully designed. Mr Girish pointed out a space in the mezzanine which, he said, was for women to offer their prayers. Men and women cannot offer their prayers together in a mosque. In fact, I have rarely heard of mosques where women are allowed to enter the premises. But this one was different. The walls of the mezzanine section were designed like a veil. Intricate carvings made it difficult to see through the walls but the women inside would have been able to easily see the happenings outside and hear discourses. Sadly, they did not permit me to walk up the stairs to visit the mezzanine but from where I stood, it looked mesmerizing.
The mosque allows people of any faith to walk in and pray as long as they maintain the decorum. A fine example of embracing all faiths, this mosque boasts of the beautiful culture that prevailed in the city at the time of its most popular rulers.
Here are a few pictures for you to appreciate the beauty and grandeur of this mosque.
With this, the series of posts on TOI Heritage Walks comes to a close. I hope you enjoyed walking the walk with me. I really have Mr. Girish to thank for all that he shared with us and I am glad I could share a bit of it with you as well.
Have a wonderful day and do share your thoughts on how you liked this series.