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The day turned out to be one marked for visiting some holy spots – and what a revelation they were.
The first thing to strike me about Hazratbal: it has a dome and a single minaret – not a common architectural feature. It is the most sacred of Muslim shrines in Kashmir Valley – for it houses a single hair of the Prophet Mohammed brought a thousand years ago from Medina. It is publicly displayed only on special occasions. Could not help noticing hundreds just sitting around on its lawns – including two young veiled women whose eyes seemed to be following my camera and me all over. Still wondering how they would have reacted had I gone up to them to strike a conversation – would give anything to see what they looked like. Will never know.
Also spelled Jami Masjid and Jamia Masjid on the sign boards – it is located in the Old City known for its labyrinth of streets with old houses and handicraft shops. The largest mosque in Kashmir Valley, it is built around a central courtyard in the unique Indo-Saracenic architectural style. Built in 1402 A.D. by Sikandar But-Shikoh, it holds an undesirable record of burning down thrice in its history. The last fire was in 1674 during Aurangzeb’s rule.
You are supposed to leave your shoes at the gates and I did too – only to notice everyone inside carrying theirs. Were my shoes safe? Would have liked to read a book in the lawns but chose to leave in a hurry lest my shoes disappear.
Jama Masjid in Figures
* Area: 381’ x 384’
* Built-up Area: 146,000 sq ft
* Number of Deodhar wood pillars supporting ceiling: 378 (346 pillars: 21’ high, 5’ girth; 32 pillars: 48’ high, 6’ girth)
* Capacity: 33,333 people
Donate – but against valid receipts
I saw signs at both Hazratbal and Jama Masjid soliciting donations – a true Muslim is supposed to offer a percentage of his income to charity. But they were also being advised to do so against proper receipts. I saw pre-printed ones at Jama Masjid for Rs. 20 and Rs. 50. Also read a sign at Pari Mahal that read: “If a Muslim plants a tree or sows a field, and men, beasts and birds eat from it all of it is charity on his part – Islamic Faith”
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