A mosque for the royal and poor alike

A mosque for the royal and poor alike

Even the weather gods relented and a cool breeze blew as lakhs of Muslim devotees gathered at various Eidgahs on Tuesday morning to offer their Eid-ul-Fitr namaz. A sea of humanity descended on the largest mosque in Delhi, Jama Masjid, to bring to a close the month of fasting and restraint, Ramzan, as well as meet and greet each other on the joyous occasion.

Men in starched white kurtas, interspersed by little boys also flaunting skullcaps, filed out across the central hall, courtyard, verandahs and every space available to offer their prayers, post which greetings of ‘Eid Mubarak’ filled up the festive morning. Many proceeded to their homes, relatives’ places and the fully decked-up markets of Old Delhi, while some decided to just spend the holiday lazing in the ramparts of the grand masjid.

The custodian of the 17th century monument, Shahi Imam Syed Ahmed Bukhari, was a busy man as he oversaw all the arrangements over the month and then led the prayers and addressed the congregation. “I haven’t had the time to meet even my children as yet,” he complained with fatigue as well as a satisfactory smile on his face by afternoon.

“Making preparations for an event of this scale is very difficult. Over one lakh rozedaar offered their namaz here today, but we have tried our best to retain the original Mughlai traditions. During the time of Shah Jahan, cannon balls were fired to mark the time for the Eid-ul-Fitr namaz: Seven rounds an hour before the namaz for the faithful to prepare themselves and three once it is over. There are no cannon balls now, but guns are used,” the Imam recalled.

Jama Masjid is, traditionally, fully decked up with lights just ahead of Ramzan. These are then lit up just at the time of Iftar so that residents of ‘Shahjahanabad’ spread far and wide know when to break the fast. The Quran is also read by the faithful in Jama Masjid till late in the night during all the days of Ramzan. The motivated also endeavour to finish all the 30 volumes of the book during this time. Special arrangements are made for them and the Imam leads the recitation.

“But then, over 100 years back,” reminisces Imam Bukhari, “There were only few thousand odd residents of Shahjahanabad. My grandfather used to tell me that there were only jungles beyond the gates of the walled city: Ajmeri Gate, Dilli gate, Kashmere Gate etc. People were scared to venture outside of them, and an outsider coming in was certain to be an invader.”

But now, a hundred years later, Jama Masjid’s magnitude and grandeur attracts international tourists, heads of state and the plain simple, the curious from different parts of India. Diplomats from Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and some other Islamic countries attended the Eid-ul-Fitr namaz at the Masjid this time. Also seen were several tourists – foreign and Indian.

Andleeb Khalid Madni, a student from Kashmir currently residing in Delhi, came with her friends. “Eid at home would have certainly been better,” she expressed, “But we thought why not visit Jama Masjid instead.”

“It reminds me of the Hazratbal mosque back home. The design is exactly the same but the mosque there is made of wood. However, Jama Masjid is certainly much bigger. The scale and the ambience, both inspire awe.”

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