Picnic at a 400-year-old mosque

Every evening in the holy month of Ramzan, thousands visit Delhi’s most famous mosque to break their fast. Find a spot in the courtyard to enjoy the traditional iftaar in the twilight.

The 135-foot-high minaret of the mosque is the best perch for a bird’s eye view of Old Delhi. On one side, you can see an endless cluster of houses with people on the roofs flying kites and pigeons and right below, thick crowds of people seated in the courtyard.

This is the view from atop Jama Masjid, one of the largest mosques in India. Although tourists and worshippers throng the mosque throughout the year, the experience during Ramzan is unparalleled.

A man laying out the iftaar. Photo Courtesy: Ayandrali Dutta
Courtyard of the Jama Masjid. Photo Courtesy: Suman Mitra

The crowds begin gathering an hour or two before iftaar – breaking of the fast at sunset. People usually bring food from home and lay out mats in the courtyard. The mosque’s administrators also arrange for iftaar, while many distribute food as a part of charity. Dates, with which Muslims traditionally break their fast, are often passed around.

While the devout recite the Quran and finger rosaries, the atmosphere is also remarkably festive. There are people chatting, kids playing games and families taking selfies against the striking monument, making it seem like one large picnic.

Waiting for sunset to break their fast. Photo Courtesy: Suman Mitra

You can buy all the ingredients for a hearty iftaar as well as a mat right outside the mosque. A few hours before sunset, dozens of stalls selling pakodas, qeema samosas, fruit chaats, spiced chana and dates pop up.

Stalls outside the mosque sell an array of snacks. Photo Courtesy: Suman Mitra

Before the iftaar begins, make sure to ascend the minaret for wonderful views of the 400-year-old city that the Mughal emperor Shahjahan built. In the centre of the mosque, there is a tank, which is always crowded with worshippers performing the wuzu, a ritual wash for purification. You can stay back after the iftaar to observe the prayers or head outside for a hearty dinner.

Worshippers performing wuzu (ritual wash) at the tank in the mosque. Photo Courtesy: Suman Mitra