Religious Detours In Delhi

Forewarned is forearmed and as I headed out to the heat I had litres and litres of liquids in my backpack. My first port of call was Old Delhi and to the Jama Mosque. Built in red sandstone and the largest Mosque in India it can reputedly cater for 25000 supplicants at any one time.



This sunny morning it was almost empty and the red stone was scaldingly hot so my visit was necessarily a quick one. There was a fine view and breeze atop one of the minarets overlooking the colourful facades around Old Delhi.

Nearby is the Red Fort and a centre of Moghul and British rule – some of the buildings were really quite graceful like the red columned diwan reception hall with incredible marble throne.


Lahore Gate at Red Fort Delhi



Emperor audience hall in red sandstone

It was difficult for me to progress much with my audio guide as I was stopped every few minutes with those asking for a photo together. I was sweating pints so I’m sure I look less than presentable in all these selfies.

The original peacock throne of the Mughals which was encrusted with jewels was captured by the Persians and is thought to be lost although there was a Peacock Throne in the jewels museum in Tehran it isn’t believed to be the original one.

Further south in the city is the National Museum which was worth an hour or two with audioguide to get an overview of. The area of India has a very complex history involving many princely states ebbing and flowing over the centuries so pulling the threads together for a single narrative is probably impossible although there were some stunning religious pieces from Hindu and Buddhist lineages.


Nataraja – the cosmic dancer



Part of the museum was closed due to a pending visit by the Thai Prime Minister the next day I wasn’t able to get around to all the exhibits.

Further south is the beautiful Humayuns Tomb – a wonderful Persian/Indian mix of a building with formal Persian garden layouts and predates the Taj Mahal and the echos between each are noticeable. Resting in the quiet gardens away from the hubbub of Delhi was really relaxing bar the trains hooting every so often.


Entrance to Humayun’s Tomb


Beautiful Indian-Persian features


Switching religions once again I dropped by the Baha’i Lotus Temple which is another beautiful building – something like the Sydney Opera House but shaped as a Lotus flower.


Baha’i Lotus Temple

The wait in the sun with hundreds of others was less than relaxing but inside the hall was a place of quiet. The Baha’i faith started in 19th century Persia but was subject to significant persecution. The faith is still illegal in Iran whereas Christianity and Judaism are not.

In the evening it was off to the Hasrat Nizamuddin Dargat for the weekly Sufi devotional singing ceremony. Down a winding alley full of sellers of rosewater foot treatments we came upon the shrine of an old Sufi saint.


After sundown three men surrounded by thronging crowds sat down and began their Qawwali singing.


Men moved around with great big fans to cool down the crowd as people came up to give donations.


This old man was really going for it but hit a few people (lightly) in the process!

I never knew much of the Sufis other than they are an Islamic sect who sit outside the main Sunni-Shia split and offer a more mystical interpretation of the religion and connection with God.

In one day in Delhi I had visited a Muslim mosque, a Persian/Indian style tomb, Baha’i house of worship and a Sufi ritual singing – religion and spirituality diversity seems to be threaded through the fabric of life here.

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