Friday, April 8, 2011

Delhi – Places of worship

Probably the best known Hindu temple in Delhi is the Birla Mandir on Mandir Marg between Connaught Place and India Gate. Built in the 1930’s in the north Indian “Nagara” style and inaugurated by Mahatma Gandhi the temple is dedicated to Lord Vishnu and Goddess Lakshmi.

Birla Mandir photos:

More on the Birla Mandir:

There is a large temple complex near Gurgaon on the Mehrauli-Gurgaon road at Chatturpur that is the second largest in India.

The Chatturpur Mandir is a modern temple complex built in south Indian style and the large Hanuman statue dominates the MG Road so with my frequent journeys from Gurgaon into Delhi in 2004 I had to take a look!

The main temple is dedicated to the Goddess Durga and is set in extensive gardens.

Chattarpur Mandir photos:

The Baha’I movement built an impressive temple here in the 1980’s with the roof designed to look like a lotus with large concrete petals clad in white marble. The “Lotus” temple sits in a large well maintained garden that has nine large ponds and water channels that run under the temple to provide cooling.

More on the Lotus Temple and the Baha’I movement:

Near Kashmiri Gate in Old Dehli is the Anglican St James Church. Built between 1826 and 1836 it was commissioned by Colonel James Skinner. Skinner was an Anglo-Indian who formed his own irregular horse regiment and led a colourful military career mainly serving the British Army in the Mahratta Wars.

The Church is set in a small cemetery that includes a memorial to the victims of the 1857 Mutiny.

The church is built in the Renaissance style in a cruciform pattern with three porches fronted by columns and a central octagonal dome.

There are some nice stained glass windows particularly above the altar and when I visited in 2004 the vicar, Reverend Paul was very helpful and made a quick sale on a copy of the memoirs of Colonel Skinner and the history of his Regiment. I had tried to find the church in 2001 but had no luck in the back streets of Old Delhi despite the church being located on Church Road!

More on Colonel Skinner:

The main mosque in Delhi is the Jama Masjid that was built on Shah Jahan’s instruction between 1650 and 1656 and is the largest mosque in India. There are East, South and North entrances to the mosque compound the main entrance at the North side having a flight of 39 red sandstone steps.

The mosque complex has three gates (although the East Gate was closed on my visit in 2004), four small towers and two 40+ metre high minarets.

The mosque is constructed with open arched colonnades opening onto the large courtyard and is around 80 metres in length rising on a andstone platform. The roof has three domes that are striped in black and white marble with some gold applied at the top.

The Minarets are striped in red sandstone and white marble and the South Minaret can be climbed (for a fee), but is 130 VERY large steps and my trip up resulted in severe thigh strain!

The view across the top of the mosque to the North Minar gives a clear indication of just how high up the platform at the top is. It was also very precarious as the platform is marble and with half the space at the top being taken up with the stairwell it is a bit disconcerting as it is rather slippery due to it being required that you leave your shoes behind before ascending!

The view from the South Minar of the courtyard illustrates the scale of the mosque complex and the courtyard is said to hold up to 25,000 people.

The mosque lies at the end of one of the busiest streets in Old Delhi that passes through the Chawri Bazaar.

The centre arch is in the form of a large gateway, with tablets of white marble inlaid with inscriptions in black marble. The centre arch states “The Guide” while the flanking arches have the history of the building of the mosque and praise Shah Jahan.

The arches running the length of the mosque are impressive and form the large prayer hall. The chambers are mainly in red sandstone but over a marble base up to head height.

The Central chamber has a large marble centre piece with black marble inlay while the floor also has white and black marble inlay to imitate the Muslim prayer mat.

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