March 11, 2012

India : Delhi (part 5)

Continuation from here ...

Just opposite the Red Fort, across the main road is the Shri Digambar Jain Lal Mandir. This is the oldest Jain temple in Delhi. Since there was no admission charge, I went in to have a look. Note that you need to take off your shoes before entering the temple area.

Inside, there is a small courtyard and I saw people just sitting on the bench enjoying the peaceful ambience. The main praying area is on the first floor. You can go in and meditate but in this area; mobile, cameras etc are not allowed. 

I spent just around half an hour in there and continued my walk to another place of interest nearby.

In the same area, Old Delhi; lies the largest mosque in India, Jama Masjid. From Jain Lal Mandir, walk to the right around 500m until you see the entrance to Meena Bazaar Jama Masjid.

It is actually easy to see the mosque because this grand structure stands on a small hill so you can see its minaret from a distance. 

However, I took a short cut and walked through some narrow old alleys. While walking here, I saw the homeless people taking shelter just outside the mosque. It was so heartbreaking seeing them, whom I believe were Muslims. Heartbreaking to see the poverty in India, and also heartbreaking because I couldn't help them. 

Anyway, both routes will eventually lead to Gate 2 of the mosque. 

The gate to the mosque is monitored by police as there were a couple of terrorism incidents here before. In 2006, there were explosions within the mosque and in 2010, a gunmen opened fire nearby the mosque.

From the small gate, broad staircases lead to gateways on the east, south and northern sides of the mosque.

Upon entering the gateway, you will be asked to pay Rs200 if you have a camera with you. I was startled when a guy asked me to pay for the camera fee. I thought he was trying to con me so I was hesitant to pay. I referred to my guide book and confirmed about the fee.

It is quite weird because other monuments in India do not have this camera fee. I guess it's because the entrance to the mosque is free so they charge you other fees. Oh well, it's a mosque so I just paid for it. Considered it as 'sedekah'.

Also, you need to take off your shoes here. I didn't wanna leave my shoes outside the gateway as there were many visitors at that time, so what I did was I put my shoes in a plastic bag and took them in with me. Alternatively, you can leave your shoes outside and have a custodian guard it for you for a small tip.

Eastern Gate

Commissioned by Shah Jahan, the very same Mughal Emperor who built Taj Mahal, and the founder of Old Delhi, this mosque combines the best of the Hindu and Islamic architectures.

prayer area inside the mosque

the mihrab
ablution area

As it's a place of worship, do note that you have to dress appropriately when visiting the mosque. Ladies with short skirts, shorts or sleeveless top may be asked to wear a robe. Like the ladies below.

As I mentioned earlier, this mosque is the largest mosque in India. Its courtyard is large enough to accommodate about 25,000 worshippers at a time!

the large courtyard

For Rs200, you can climb up one of the minarets for a bird's-eye view of the city. Sadly I couldn't as they didn't allow single ladies to go up themselves. Apparently, you have to be accompanied by a man.

I stayed for a while until it was almost time for Zuhur prayer. The non-Muslims were ushered to go out from the mosque. Just moments after that, a young guy came and spreaded the red carpets for the prayer. The early-comers then went to perform the sunnah prayer. 

Shortly, the azan, or Islamic call to prayer were recited. Staying inside the mosque, a proud feeling crept over me. Hearing an azan being called out in a country whose main religion is not Islam was definitely great.

Jama Masjid is open daily.
Visiting hours are from dawn to dusk. However, it will be closed during prayer times
Entrance fee is free of charge but you have to pay Rs200 if you bring a camera.
Direction: Take Metro Yellow Line and stop at Chawri Bazaar. 

I spent some time wandering around the Meena Bazaar and moved on to my next destination, another UNESCO World Heritage Site.

to be continued...

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