While there are plenty of articles out there showcasing the architectural marvel of the Jama Masjid, I thought I’d approach the subject through a different perspective. New Delhi can get very hot during the summer months. Even during the monsoons, one can expect an unforgiving sun when it isn’t hidden behind the clouds. With temperatures going as high as 46-degree centigrade in summers, I’ve always wondered how the devout and tourists managed the heat. How people would handle the heat in an open complex made of red sandstone where people had to enter barefoot intrigued me. I was pleasantly surprised to learn that the architects, the mosque administration, and even hawkers had taken into full account the hot weather of the city
The newly constructed Jama Masjid Metro Station (Purple line) has made the mosque complex more accessible to the people. A brisk walk on a straight road of about a 100 m and one would soon reach the imposing entrance to the Mosque. Prior to this, one had to get off at the Chandni Chowk Metro station (Yellow line) from where one had to meander through hawkers and alleyways before reaching the mosque. The path was uncertain and someone who doesn’t know the city would find themselves lost.
To say that the experience is humbling is to put things mildly. This imposing monument of the Mughal era has a commanding presence within the old city. It was interesting to note that before one walked up the stairs, there were hawkers below selling some refreshing Rooh afsa Sharbat. It wouldn’t be far-fetched to imagine that these hawkers, some with big blocks of ice in front of them would be doing brisk business. As one walks up the stairs, one can see the devout hurry along the stairs while others touch each stair as they make their way up. Flanked by lush green on either side, the Masjid complex has a majestic feel to it even before one gets to set foot in it.
Once you get to the top you’re asked to remove your footwear before making your way inside. Two shoe keepers have made themselves available here. They have taken it upon themselves to watch over your belongings. They carefully analyze your face, make an association with a predestined spot and put your footwear in that location. One can vanquish any thoughts of your shoes getting stolen as the two individuals seem quite confident about their skills of association. One even carries a stick with him as a psychological leverage over anyone who may have had the evil design of taking off with some expensive footwear. You needn’t pay them for their service, although they would always be grateful towards a donation.
The large imposing wooden gates give way to the splendour that has been enjoyed by the people of this city since 1656.
During summers, the ground can get very hot but a carefully laid out cloth path has been strategically placed so that one can make their way to different parts of the complex without getting their feet burnt. What fascinated me were the numerous provisions available to ensure that the people felt comfortable despite the Delhi heat. For instance, right in front of the Mosque, there lay a pool filled with water. There were marble stools that allowed one to sit in the open sun without getting too uncomfortable. The fact that it is made from marble is not for the sake of beauty alone. Marble is much cooler even in direct sunlight and allows an individual to sit in peace. Numerous people, including myself, washed our faces to gain respite from the scorching heat.
On the sides, there were areas to rest where the devout or weary could rest within the complex while having a panoramic view of the old city. There were taps all over where cool water allowed people to wash their faces. There were tap areas reserved for women as well. They also had a sumo sumo-sized water cooler from where one could get cool drinking water.
A good way to feel cool during a hot day is when there’s a cool gentle breeze caressing your face. What better way to do that than to experience the breeze from a 41m tall minaret? One can pick up a ticket to get a bird’s eye view of the city from the minaret for a mere thirty Rupees. The way to get to the minaret isn’t directly from the mosque, rather it is through one of the entrances into the Mosque complex. From there on, the path is apparent to anyone and everyone.
The blazing sun has almost no effect on the feet (considering the fact that you’re walking barefoot) and the temperature drops immediately once you’re inside the minaret. Climbing up the 127 steps can be an ordeal for some, but there are small holes in between from where on can gaze into the city. A fenced vantage point greets you once you reach the top. A 360-degree panoramic view of the Old city can be seen from here.
So the next time you are headed to the Jama Masjid in summer, one needn’t be filled with dread. In fact, now you know that the builders and the administration have gone to great lengths to make sure that you have a pleasant experience.