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Old Delhi, part two – the mosque and the temple….

September 1, 2009

When you arrive in Old Delhi, you cannot miss the Jama Masjid Mosque. It’s name is a reference to the Friday noon prayers practiced by Muslims. (How do I know that? Wiki of course.) The courtyard can hold up to 25,000 worshipers. This beautiful structure seems to sit in the middle of Old Delhi – you can walk thru it – if you do, be prepared to take off your shoes and, if you are a woman, to cover your head. You will also go thru security.

It is my understanding that Muslims believe in only one God – Allah. We were visiting Old Delhi during Ramadan – which is a time when Muslims fast from dawn until sun down. As it got darker, it got more crowded as more and more people began to break their fast. Ramadan is also a time for more prayer than usual in an effort to learn more patience, modesty, and spirituality (at least according to Wikipedia).


Several times during our visit to Old Delhi, there were calls to prayer. We chose not to walk thru the mosque, but around it. Somehow it didn’t seem appropriate to enter during the calls to prayers. The walk around was not that far and it gave us the chance to “experience” Old Delhi fully. The people and the sounds and yes, even the smells.


Unfortunately, you cannot see this is in the picture – but flying in the sky, were hundreds of kites.



The picture below is of the entrance to the Jain Temple.
In order to enter, you must remove any leather products, remove your shoes, and wash your hands.
If you are a woman, you do not have to cover your head, but you cannot be menstruating.
(Sorry guys, but it’s good for the ladies to know that.)
And, dangit, no pictures allowed inside.


Jainism is defined by 5 principles..

  • Non-violence (Ahimsa) – to cause no harm to living beings.
  • Truth (Satya) – to always speak the truth in a harmless manner.
  • Non-stealing (Asteya) – to not take anything that is not willingly given.
  • Celibacy (Brahmacarya) – to not indulge in sensual pleasures.
  • Non-possession (Aparigraha) – to detach from people, places, and material things.

The Jains believe that all living things have the potential to be divine. This is very different from Christianity and, I believe, all other religions. Most Jains are vegans because they are not impressed with the treatment of animals at modern dairy farms. They also will not eat root plants like potatoes, carrots, and garlic. They believe that eating the root denies the plant its life and that all life is sacred.

Their belief in non-violence goes beyond physical violence and includes not hurting others in anyway – by thought, word, or deed. Lovely huh? Their goals seems to be to search out the truth from different points of view.

It seemed that the temple mostly had statues of believers – I am not sure how many gods there are.

Of course, most of these details came from Wikipedia. You can read more here.

One last thing. If you visit a Jain temple (there are over 160 Jain temples in Delhi), the guide might offer you a blessing and will place a dot of oil/wax on your forehead. It is polite to let him do that. But if you are leaving the Jain temple to go out into Old Delhi during Ramadan, you might want to wipe off the dot. I do not think this would offend the Jains (although I wiped my off out of their field of vision, just in case) because they are big believers in not insulting others. And I am frankly not sure the symbol would offend anyone in Old Delhi, but if you are an expat you will stand out enough without the aid of a dot. It is good to respect this holiday – and it is a time of renewing the Muslims commitment to modesty – so, ladies, it is good to be pretty covered up.

11 Comments leave one →
  1. September 12, 2010 11:22 am

    Great read, thanks for sharing your story, glad to know you’re enjoying your trip to India

  2. scribina permalink
    September 2, 2009 2:14 pm

    actually… nobody would get offended by any anybody showing any symbol of any other faith there. As you must have noticed, there was a mosque, next to a temple, next to a sikh gurudwara. That part of Delhi, even though it is majority muslim, is also a symbol of the original syncretic culture of the city – a legacy of its Imperial past as capital of various dynasties – before refugees flooded in after Partition/Indepdence in 1947.

    In fact, while Ramzaan may be in full fervour there now – a few days later, the area would be in the grips of Ramlilas – the local folk theatres depicting the Hindu epic Ramayana – for ten consecutive days, culminating in Dushhera. In fact, several of the actors and even the makers of the props and the massive effigies of the hindu festival are often Muslim artisans.

    Therefore, I found your reason for removing those dots a bit too, lemme say, cautious. First time, I heard such an advise. Anybody can of course remove them, but I doubt that the local populace would care.

    • September 4, 2009 6:07 am

      Hi Scribina and welcome. You are quite right I am sure that nobody would have been offended but I was just trying to be respectful of everyone. I might try to catch that performance – it sounds incredible.

  3. Settlers permalink
    September 2, 2009 1:54 pm

    Baeutiful pictures.

    I am a jain and we used to frequent the Jain temple in Old delhi quite a bit when I was in India. The temple has a special place for jains as it is an old temple. During the Jain festivals (biggest one ends on 3rd Sep, going for 10 days), the place literally jam packed. Did you not encounter a huge crowd in the temple?

    • September 4, 2009 6:05 am

      Thanks – I would love to hear more about the Jain faith. It sounds amazingly peaceful. We did not encounter any crowds because we were there on Sunday – this particular temple is at the end of an alley. In fact, they opened the doors especially for us. Very kind of them. It was just beautiful inside. Very peaceful and quiet.

  4. September 2, 2009 9:14 am

    My husband had the chance to go to India for work but it would have been for a few months minimum, but when it came up, we were in the middle of closing on our condo. It was just bad timing. A few of his co-workers did go, and after he heard all their stories about the food, I think he was actually glad he didn’t go. He’s very picky about his food, where as I am not. lol But when the chance to go to the Phillipines came up, he refused flat out, because he was afraid after hearing about India. Now, he’s in a different position that doesn’t involve traveling at all. He’s happy, I’m not. Now I live vicariously through you. =)

    • September 4, 2009 6:03 am

      I am not a big fan of trying a lot of different foods. But you can manage here without being an adventurous eater – you can even find bacon. hee hee. And there is always bread and rice. My brother was born in the Phillipines – I would love to go there! You could always come visit India – I will show you around the place.

  5. September 2, 2009 8:18 am

    The architechture is impressive.

  6. Caitlin permalink
    September 2, 2009 5:41 am

    Great photos!

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