Jama Masjid of Agra is a 17th-century congregational mosque located in the historic core of Agra, Uttar Pradesh. Built by Jahanara Begum, Padshah Begum (First Lady) of the Mughal Empire, during the reign of her father, Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan.
It is one of the largest mosques in India. Today it is still in use, serving as the principal mosque for the city of Agra. It stands opposite the Agra Fort and overlooks the Agra Fort Railway Station.
History of Jama Masjid of Agra
The Jama Masjid was commissioned by Jahanara Begum with the permission of Shah Jahan. In 1643 construction began, and was finished in 1648, with a total cost of five lakh rupees.
The mosque was part of several magnificent reconstruction projects initiated to improve Agra, the then-capital of the Mughal Empire. There was a vast, octagonal Tripolia Chowk that existed between the Jama Masjid and the Delhi gate of the Agra Fort.
This Tropolia was destroyed to create the Agra Fort Railway Station. The cloisters have engrailed arches supported on pillars. The main entrance is through the eastern side.
The prayer chamber has a façade with a large arched iwan in its center, decorated with slender turrets alternated with kiosks. Its dome is the largest and highest of the three domes crowning the sanctuary.
All the bulbous domes have inverted lotus and Kalash finials on the top and have narrow zigzag courses of white marble alternated by broad bands of red stone. There is a fountain with four kiosks in its corners in the center of the courtyard.
The interiors of the western wall have a fine mihrab and pulpit in white marble. The Persian inscription in white marble inlaid with black stone on the archway of the central portal is in praise of Jahanara and Shah Jahan.
The natural beauty of the mosque must have been breathtaking as it was compared to the Beaty of the Baitul-Mamur, the legendary mosque of rubies and pearls located in the fourth sky. It is said that it was once surrounded by a marketplace called Tripolia set in an octagonal (Muthamman) Chowk that was built between the Delhi Gate and the Jami Masjid.
It was later destroyed in 1871-73 A.D. to acquire space for laying down the railway tracks for the city. It required 5,000 workers to finish.
The Jama Masjid of Agra is built of red sandstone with elaborate white marble decorations. The walls and ceilings of the mosque are painted blue. It is a huge mosque in the center of Agra surrounded by a great bazaar.
The mosque itself stands on a high platform to which ascent is made by a flight of 35 steps. It was meant to attract the eye of the true from afar and declare the glory of Islam.
It has well-balanced proportions and a courtyard enclosed by cloisters on three of its sides and the prayer chamber on its western side. The cloisters have engrailed arches supported on pillars.
All the bulbous domes have inverted lotus and kalash finials on the top and have narrow zigzag courses of white marble swayed by broad bands of red stone. There is a fountain with four kiosks in its corners in the center of the courtyard.
Along with the wings of the main prayer, walls are panels of exquisitely inlaid sandstone, similar to those decorating the main gateway of the Taj Mahal. Still in use today, the mosque is one of the city’s main landmarks and works as a useful reference point when searching the crowded bazaars that sprawl from its base.
These are laid out in a street plan that’s barely changed since Mughal days. Jami Masjid is elegantly adorned with paintings, inlaid stones, carvings, and glazed tiles. The building includes pillared dalans (arcades), a beautiful chhajja, and the chhatri on the roof. The main iwan of the building is rather simple and contains a central arch with geometrical designs.