Shah Jahan’s wonder after Taj Mahal

Some of the best things in life are those that happen spontaneously. Being a well-organized and very proper-proper person that I am, I have always dreaded unruly and disorganized crowds. Chaos is something I can hardly thrive upon. But as destiny would have it, I had the most memorable and exciting day over the last weekend when I happened to be in the chaotic by lanes of Old Delhi, colloquially called Purani Dilli. Despite having lived in Delhi for several years, I have always avoided going to that part of the city. I shudder at the very thought of those narrow tacky alleys, jam-packed by lanes with people unapologetically brushing against you. However, like they say, change is the only constant. I don’t know what changed, but something surely did. In retrospect, I am thinking maybe I have gotten more accepting, upbeat, brave and adventurous with the passage of time and experiences gathered. Perceptions do change!

A walk in the by lanes of Old Delhi evokes mixed responses. You are bound to feel nostalgic about glorious heritage. It is overwhelming and the air you breathe is thick with spices. It does look like a busy railway platform at first, with people, rickshaw pullers, cattle, bikers, etc running helter skelter. It takes some time to get adapted but you soon realize that chaos has a charm of its own. Everyone is so carefree, lively and upbeat that before you know it, the effect rubs on you too.

Being a vegetarian, witnessing fried chicken hanging everywhere, steaks of kababs being roasted on coal fire, ripped apart bodies of goats displayed at every nook and corner can be quite unsightly, but it is always good to see people enjoying food. This place is truly a paradise for food enthusiasts. Karims restaurant is one place people swear by.

I was done shopping in wholesale markets of Chandni Chawk by the evening and my cousin suggested we must visit the magnificent “Jama Masjid” before heading for home. We got lucky as we reached there by 5 PM because women are not allowed entry inside the holy mosque after 6 PM. It has something to do with Muslim customs. The entry was free but we had to deposit Rs.200 for carrying the camera along. The moment you step inside the mosque, you are transcended to an altogether different world. You experience an incredible contrast as opposed to the rest of the city. It is amazingly peaceful and surreal and the hustle bustle of Old Delhi seems distant. I was very impressed with the simplicity of architecture and was intrigued to know more about the history of this internationally acclaimed and splendid work of art and architecture. Therefore, I had a brief talk with an attendant of Shahi Imam present over there in order to gather some facts.

Originally named as Masjid Jahan Numa, Jama Masjid was built by Shahjahan, the fifth Mughal Emperor of India, in the capital city, Delhi. The Emperor had himself laid the foundation stone on an auspicious Friday dated 6th October 1650 AD. It is said that the Emperor Shahjahan had employed around six thousand workers comprising of top architectural experts, skilled artisans and sculptors, prominent construction engineers, renowned chiselers and best calligraphers for the construction of the splendid Jama Masjid. It took six continuous years for the construction to complete and it finally got ready in the year 1656 AD. There is an interesting story worth mentioning here. It is said that while Jama Masjid was under construction, the Emporer Shahjahan received a complaint about terribly slow progression of the mosque’s construction. Shahjahan summoned his minister in-charge of the construction, Saadullah Khan. When asked for explanation, Saaddullah Khan informed the Emperor that it was taking unduly long for the construction to complete because the recital of Holy Quran preceded the installation of every stone of the mosque. Shahjahan was delighted and overwhelmed to hear this and then ordered that the construction should be continued without any change. All the hard work that went into the construction of the holy mosque truly made it all the more pious and sacred.

Back in those days, the daily wage of a laborer and a mason was anything between 1 paisa and 2 paisa. The overall calculated cost of constructing the Mosque was roughly around one million rupees. During that period, several nobles, nawabs and maharajas had gifted precious and semi-precious stones and other construction related raw material to the emperor for the construction of Jama Masjid.

As it was nearing six in the evening, I thanked the attendant for sharing the valuable knowledge about the mosque with a lesser mortal like me and hurriedly proceeded towards the courtyard area. The courtyard is spacious and airy and offers one of the most spectacular views of Old Delhi. I gazed fondly and took a few deep breaths to immerse the feeling into my soul.

By this time, authorities had started looking at us suspiciously and told us to leave immediately as it was just five minutes left to six. “All good things come to an end”, Sighhhhh. I left the holy mosque feeling so light, blessed and relieved of unnecessary emotional baggage and mundane worries.

I reached back home safely and surely slept a little easier that night.

God is Great!

Author: Richa Arora


  1. Good info and good pictures. I’d like to visit this place soon.

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