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Visiting India’s oldest monuments

Old Delhi, August 9.  This is my one-hundredth visit in Delhi, but I am as tourist to this monument as an American in Kyoto (Japan) is at the sight of a Geisha. Jama Masjid, a 300 year old mosque, is not only the largest in India, but also holds in itself a monumental history that has long played a major role in shaping the Indian subcontinent politically, culturally, and historically. The mosque, one of its kind, was built by none other than Shah Jahan, the Mughal Emperor who ruled India from 1628 to 1658. In fact, many around the world know him as the man who built the Taj Mahal, one of the reigning members of the Seven Wonders of the World. The Mughals ruled India, a Hindu majority state for hundreds of years until their fall down in the 1800s at the beginning of the British Raj in India. Ironically, the mosque is among the oldest surviving historical sites in India even considering the country’s long held communal tensions with Islam. The mosque can house about 25 thousand people, has 4 major watchtowers that was once used for security, and has 2 minarets, standing 40 meters high that gives tourist an aerial view of the grounds of the mosque for just Rs100 ($1.56). Although the view from the minarets is ground breaking, if one is claustrophobic, acrophobic, and even worse, lacks stamina, it is advisable to walk as slowly as possible with a bottle of water. While visiting the mosque, appropriate clothing is necessary for both men and women as it is not only a sacred site for Muslims but also a historical site for millions of Indians. Both men and women are expected to wear long pants, but it is not mandatory that women cover their heads. While non-Muslims are not allowed to enter the mosque during evening prayers; however, one may occasionally witness a brown man with a beard given the Muslim pass by the gatekeeper due to his great sense of judgment.

As the tour came to an end, I realized how much of Delhi I had not seen before, how much it had in it to offer in terms of culture, history, and architecture. That is why, for one last time, in order to appreciate the grandiosity of the mosque, I walked towards its courtyard and bid a heartfelt good bye. 

Tashi Wangmo is a junior at the University of South Florida. 
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