We visited Ahmedabad in what was among the hottest summers this city in Gujarat had seen. A day tour around the city sounded fine from the air conditioned comfort of our Innova but when the driver pulled up outside the Jama Masjid, and I realised we’d have to leave our footwear outside, I was a bit unwilling. But we were in town only for the weekend, so we hopped out and hopped across the scalding hot stone floor.
Initially intended for the Sultan back in the early 1400s, the Jama Masjid is easily deemed Ahmedabad’s greatest mosque. Walking into the desolate gigantesque courtyard, we found it difficult to imagine that every surface of this place is filled with worshippers on festival days. So full infact, that mosque goers tend to spill out onto the surrounded streets as well.
But it wasn’t the massive size of the mosque that impressed us. Passing through the colonnaded corridors that lined the open courtyard, we went up to the main dome under which lay the prayer room. We looked closely at the intricate carvings in the sandstone pillars and ceilings and couldn’t believe our eyes. Here we were, at a mosque, the prayer place of Muslims, looking at extremely Jain (similar to Hindu) designs in the carvings. Our driver let us in on a secret, the mosque had been built using the debris from Jain and Hindu temples that had been demolished in the vicinity. That explained all the lotus motifs.
I noticed carpets placed in parallel lines for worshippers to sit on that reminded me of the one’s I’d seen in Istanbul’s Blue Mosque. A solitary worker swept every surface with a broom made of peacock feathers. How’s that for exotic? Our driver pointed out something we would have otherwise missed entirely. A balcony that ran the entire length of the mosque lay hidden behind an intricate screen of stone jaliwork. This was where the royal women would sit and attend prayers, unnoticed, undisturbed.
Following more motifs, we walked along an entire side of the courtyard that had this gorgeous Arabic calligraphy of holy words from the Quran. Naturally Charles spent quite a while walking around photographing the entire place, by the end of which his barefeet were terribly filthy. So, when in Rome.. the Jama Masjid, one does as the masjid goers, and he settled down to wash his feet at the fountain in the middle of the courtyard, made for this very purpose. Ablution before prayer as is customary. I tried it, and then the driver seeing us struggle showed us how, and I must vouch for the fact that it’s quite the art, one the muslims have down so gracefully.
Our driver asked us if we’d mind walking barefoot onto the road, and I wondered why. He led us very secretly out from a tiny gate on the side of the mosque, and we went to visit the royal tombs. Read about our heartbreaking experience at the Badshah no Hajiro and Rani no Hajiro (Coming Soon).
Have you ever visited a place of worship of a religion completely alien to yours? What was your experience like?Jama Masjid, Manek Chowk, Gandhi Rd, Danapidth, Khadia, Ahmedabad, Gujarat 380001 While there is no entry fee, this is a functioning mosque so do be mindful of worshippers and allow them their space and privacy when you visit. Remember to wear easily removable footwear and carry a bag for it if you must. And dress modestly. All of this information is valid as in March 2014 when we visited Ahmedabad.