The visit to Sarkhej Roza put my heart and soul at ease and now it was time to find the Jama Masjid I had started the day’s search for. Having got some ideas from the locals, I hailed another cab and asked the driver to take me to the old city where I could search and find the mosque. I got down in front of the Siddi Saiyad mosque and then started walking towards the Teen Darwaza.
Teen Darwaza is a permanent fixture in the neighbourhood of the old city in Ahmedabad. Built in 1415 AD by Ahmed Shah I as an entrance to the Bhadra Fort (which I could not visit), this mighty three-arched gateway is a time machine etched in stone; once you walk under its arches, you are transported to some other time, to an old Indian bazaar (remember The Man Who Would Be King ?) with shops lined up on both sides of narrow streets. Here I stopped and asked for directions and was directed towards a rather crowded street which went by the monument. A flight of steps led to a small door at an elevated platform, and for a moment I got into doubts whether I was at the wrong place again.
As I climbed up the stairs, took off my shoes, entered the small door and turned right, I just stood there in a mixture of shock and surprise, looking at the spectacle in front of my eyes. If the Jama Masjid at Sarkhej was the very epitome of elegant simplicity, its namesake here in the old city was a magnificent piece of extravagant artistry which would easily overwhelm anyone who sets his eyes on it.
At the time of its construction in the early 15th century, the Jama Masjid (Friday Mosque) of Ahmedabad was perhaps the largest in India. Built with beautiful yellow sandstone on a raised platform, the mosque stands on one side of a huge rectangular platform, with three entrances and galleries on three sides. There is a small pond in the middle of the complex is a water tank for ablutions.
The architecture of the mosque is the same beautiful Indo-Islamic style that is seen in the mosques and palaces of Champaner, and relies more on the local art forms than borrowing styles from the beyond the Indus, as was the trend with the later Islāmic rulers elsewhere in India. As a result, one would find central dome carved like a lotus flower, temple bells, carvings closely resembling Jain temples, and even an Om symbol carved in an inner window. The prayer hall has nearly 200 intricately carved pillars that give it a very rich look, and why not! When built, the mosque was intended for the use of royalty only and was not opened for common public.
Jama Masjid once had two tall minarets flanking the main arched gateway, however their top portions collapsed in the devastating earthquake of 1819 AD and now only the base remains.
The sun was high up in the sky as I walked around taking photographs, and trying not to get my feet burned on the rapidly heating up stone floor. There were not many people around, just some tourists, a handful of namaazis and a group of school kids who had come for some educational trip. This gave me a good opportunity to walk around, and marvel at the peerless beauty of this monument, it was unlike anything that I had ever seen and the memory of it will stay in my heart for a long time. I decided to call it a day when the sun and my hungry stomach made it clear in very certain terms that no more tourism was possible on that day. Ended the trip with delicious keema-paratha at a nearby hotel which went by the name – Nishaat.
While I was walking back to the Teen Darwaza, small aeroplanes were doing acrobatic in the sky, part of an airshow that goes on near the Sabarmati river front. Looking at those smoke patterns in the sky made by these modern marvels, from a near medieval market was a slightly weird experience, as if I was looking outside the time machine while sitting inside, and marvelling at the contrast between outside and within…