India is a land of many religions and Islam is one of the most followed religions in the country. Mosques, the place of prayer for Muslims, are beautiful structures built with intricate artistic details. You will be awed by the architectural brilliance of some of these magnificent mosques in India. From the largest one like Jama Masjid in Delhi to the unique ones like Haji Ali in Mumbai which is in the middle of the sea, these structures tell the story of India’s glorious past. These monuments are worth a visit even if you aren’t religious to admire the sheer beauty and marvel at the detailing and thought put in to these structures. India has no dearth of mosques, tombs and shrines but these ones are some of the most famous and breathtaking ones and shouldn’t be missed. Make sure you are dressed appropriately while visiting places of religious importance. We tell you more about the legend and facts about these monuments along with their entry fee, timings and how to get there.
Haji Ali, Mumbai
One of Mumbai’s prime tourist attractions, the Haji Ali Dargah is one of the most famous mosques in the country. Right from its location to its architecture, there is something serene about this space. No wonder, it attracts a large number of pilgrims every day. The mosque houses the tomb of Saint Pir Haji Ali Shah Bukhari and is on a small islet in the Arabian Sea. Constructed in white marble, it stands tall in the middle of the sea, looking calm and strong as the waves lash out against its structure.
The Haji Ali Dargah is open to people of all castes and creed and allows non-Muslims also to enter its premises. According to the legend, the Sufi saint came to India to spread Islam. Before his death, he asked his followers to cast his body in a coffin into the sea and to bury it at the place where the coffin is found. The dargah is built on the small islet, where the coffin had rested. Built in Islamic style of architecture, the white domes and minarets are fine examples of Mughal style of architecture.
The entrance gate and minarets are made of pure white marble. The tomb is located in the main hall of the complex and is surrounded by a white marble enclosure. Above the tomb is the big dome of the shrine. The interior of the dome is adorned with mirror work. One can also see verses from the Holy Quran inscribed here. Apart from the tomb, the other attractions in the complex are the Qawwal Khana where Qawwali recitals are held every Friday. There is the mosque within the complex which consists of a minaret made of white marble. The complex also has facilities for pilgrims to stay. The annual Urs is held on the death anniversary of the saint. On the occasion of Eid-e-Milad-un-Nabi, the holy relics of Prophet Mohamed are displayed to the public. During these two events and on days like Friday and Sunday, a large number of visitors, close to 30,000, visit the Haji Ali Dargah.
Timings: The Haji Ali Dargah is open all days of the week from 6 am to 10 pm.
Entry fee: It has free entry for all visitors.
How to reach: The Dargah is on Lala Lajpatrai Marg in Worli. You can reach here by public transport via road and rail. Taxi, buses and trains are all well-connected to its route. Once you reach the entrance, you will have to walk to the islet to reach Haji Ali. If you are taking the train, you can get off at Mahalaxmi or Mumbai Central (Western line) or Byculla (Central line) and take a bus or cab from here.
Nizamuddin Dargah, Delhi
One of the world’s most famous Sufi saints, Nizamuddin Auliya rests in this dargah along with his chief disciple poet Amir Khusro and Shah Jahan’s daughter Mughal princess Jehan Ara Begum. The architecture of the dargah underwent renovations multiple times over the centuries and what we see today is a square-shaped chamber with a dome-shaped roof which has vertical stripes of black marble and an ornamental lotus cap. Nizamuddin Dargah has been featured in several Bollywood films including Ranbir Kapoor’s Rockstar and Salman Khan’s Bajrangi Bhaijaan. The mausoleum is visited by several devotees of all faiths every day and more so on Thursday when the Qawwali recitals are held after the evening prayers.
So profound was the aura of the saint that not just the dargah but the entire area is named after him in Delhi. Considered fifth amongst the big five of the Chisti order in India, Hazrat Nizamuddin was a famous saint of the Sufi Chishti Order which has a large following in the Indian subcontinent. His followers included princes as well as paupers. The revered saint breathed his last on April 3, 1325. Twice every year, the festival of ‘Urs’ is celebrated to commemorate the death anniversaries of Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya and Amir Khusro.
Some of the other structures inside the mausoleum complex are the Jama’at- Khana Masjid, Chini Ka Burj, Mirza Ghalib’s Tomb, Kalan-Masjid, Khan-I-Jahan Tilangani’s Tomb, Ataga Khan’s Tomb, Chaunsath Khamba, Lal-Mahal, Khan-I-Khanan’s Tomb and Barapula.
Timings: 5 am to 10.30 pm
Entry fee: The entry to the dargah is free for all.
How to reach: Nizamuddin Dargah is located in the old Nizamuddin Bazaar in Nizamuddin East in Delhi. The nearest metro station is JLN metro station. You can also take autos and taxis to reach the shrine. The nearest railway station is Hazrat Nizamuddin railway station.
Jama Masjid, Delhi
Old Delhi’s most famous monument, the Jama Masjid is one of the grandest mosques in the country. Built by Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan, its courtyard can accommodate up to 25,000 people. Jama Masjid is about 261 feet long and 90 feet wide and its roof is covered with three domes. The floor is covered with black and white marble which looks like the Muslim prayer mats while the dome and minerats are made of red sandstone and white marble. It was built between 1650-1656 and was originally called Masjid-I Jahān-Numā. Did you know it took 5,000 workers to build this enormous structure and it costed one million rupees at that time?
The mosque was inaugurated by Imam Bukhari who had come down from present-day Uzbekistan on Shah Jahan’s request. But in 1857, the British had stationed their soldiers outside the mosque in an attempt to capture it and even wanted to destroy the structure. It is after much opposition that they decided to give up this idea. Today, the mosque stands tall with all its beauty intact. It has three gates, 40m high minarets and four towers. The architecture of the mosque is inspired by Islamic style. Each of the minarets are five-storied with a balcony. The first three floors are made of red sandstone, the next one of marble and the fifth one of sandstone. The edifices adjoining them have calligraphy inscribed on them. In the north gate, there is a cabinet that houses the relics of Muhammad: the Quran written on deer skin, red-beard hair, his footwear and the prophet’s footprints imprinted in a marble block.
Timings: 7 am to 12 am and 1.30 pm to 6.30 pm and it is open all days of the week.
Entry fee: There is no entry fee for visiting Jama Masjid. However, if you want to click photographs, you will have to shell out Rs 200.
How to reach: Jama Masjid is in Old Delhi and the closest metro station is Chawri Bazaar. It is off the Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose Marg, to the west of Red Fort. You can walk it from the station or take a cycle rickshaw that will take you to the mosque.
Nizamat Imambara, Murshidabad
Located on the banks of the Bhagirathi River and opposite the Hazarduari Palace, the Nizamat Imambara was built by Nawab Nazim Mansoor Ali Khan in 1847 AD. It was built after the old imambara built by Siraj ud-Daulah was destroyed in a fire. The construction of Nizamat Imambara took only 11 months thanks to the workers who worked day and night to finish the structure. Did you know it is considered the largest imambara in India?
The old imambara was a wooden structure and its foundation had soil brought from the Mecca so that the poor could have an experience of Hajj in India itself. But the imambara caught fire twice in its lifetime that destroyed it to dust. Nothing survived except the old Madina Mosque. After this, the new imambara was built that we know as Nizamat Imambara. This structure is 680 ft long with its central block about 300 ft long. It also has a new Madina Mosque and the old one lies in its original place between the palace and the new imambara. Because of its structure, Nizamat Imambara is divided into three quadrangles: the central, eastern and western. The central one has the Madina Mosque and Memberdalan which is a hall. It has a verendah with white marble flooring and a room for ladies. The eastern quadrangle has Naubat Khana which has a huge entrance gate that is built in the Imamia style. The western quadrangle has a two-storied mosque which is replete with stately pillars, chandeliers and spacious marble floors. The mosque is only a few feet away from the Bhagirathi River. When here, you will be mesmerized by the exquisite beauty of this imambara.
Timings: 10 am to 5 pm
Entry fee: Rs 5 for Indian nationals
How to reach: Nizamat Imambara is in Hazarduari, Murshidabad in West Bengal. It is very close to the Hazarduari Palace.
Hazratbal Shrine, Srinagar
Located on the banks of Dal Lake, Hazratbal Mosque is considered to be the holiest Muslim shrine in Kashmir. Hazratbal, which means “respected place,” is a white-domed mosque in the heart of the main university area of Srinagar. This is the only mosque in Srinagar that has a dome while the others have a pagoda-like roof. From here, you can get a magnificent view of the lake as well as the surrounding mountains.
The shrine has a relic called the Moi-e-Muqqadas, which is believed to be a hair of the Prophet Muhammad. As per a legend, a descendant of the Prophet Muhammad, Syed Abdullah, brought the relic to India. Later, the relic was inherited by Syed Abdullah’s son, Syed Hamid, who sold it to a Kashmiri businessman after he was stripped of his family estate and was unable to care for the relic. Aurangzeb captured the businessman, Khwaja Nur-ud-Din Eshai and seized the relic. Upon realizing his mistake, Aurangzeb gave it back to the businessman. The relic finally reached Kashmir in 1700 and Khwaja Nur-ud-Din Eshai’s daughter established a shrine for the relic. Presently, the relic is kept in a glass case inside the mosque and is displayed on the holy days like Shab-e-Meraj.
In December 1963, there were protests held in Srinagar by thousands of people when the news of the disappearance of the relic broke out. There was a committee formed to find the relic and the then prime minister Pt Jawaharlal Nehru had come forward to make a broadcast to the entire country about the disappearance of the relic. In January 1964, the sacred relic was recovered. Friday prayers see throngs of visitors pay a visit to the Hazratbal Shrine.
Timings: 9.30 am to 5.30 pm
Entry fee: It has free entry.
How to reach: It is easier to reach the shrine via road than rail as the closest railway station Jammu is 300 km away. The Srinagar airport is only 25 km away from the shrine. Buses and taxis ply to Dal Lake. You can also reach it by a shikara.
Jama Masjid of Tonk, Rajasthan
One of the biggest mosques in the country, the Jama Masjid’s construction began in 1246 by Amir Ali Khan, the first Nawab of Tonk and it was completed in 1298 by his son, Nawab Wazirudhoula. There are paintings with gold and ‘meenakari’ work on the walls of the mosque. The mosque has four doors and four minarets. It is constructed in the Mughal architectural style and is regarded as the one of the most grandeur mosques of the country. It resembles the Jama Masjid in Delhi with a few structural differences. In the Delhi mosque, the water reservoir is in the centre but in the Jama Masjid of Tonk, it is in the corner. Built at the junction of two roads, one side leads to the Nawab’s palace while the other one to Kota.
The eastern gate of Jama Masjid of Tonk is adnored by two minarets that are fairly small while three sides of the structure are surrounded by a small verandah. The northern gate is far grander and has nine minarets. The prayer hall of the mosque has verses inscribed from the Holy Quran. It also has three gates with the centre one 30 ft high and the other two 20 ft in height. The Jama Masjid of Tonk is a fine example of Mughal architecture with its exquisite edifices, intricate leaf work and towering gates.
How to reach: Jama Masjid of Tonk is on NH 12 and road is the best way to reach the place. Buses and taxis are easily available. Tonk railway station does not have many trains stopping here so it is best to take the road.
Dilawar Khan’s Mosque, Mandu
Built in 1405, Dilawar Khan’s mosque is Mandu’s earliest mosque with a central courtyard, enclosed by colonnade all around and mehrab on the west. The prayer hall has a ceiling designed in Hindu style and its architecture is considerably influenced by Hindu workmanship.
Dilawar Khan Ghori was a governor of the Malwa province who served the court in Delhi and was later appointed the governor in Dhar. The mosque he built in Mandu was one of the first architectural structures in the region and so holds importance even today. The mosque is not in the best state and is in ruins but you can still witness the beautiful paintings on its walls even today. Despite being a mosque, it is easy to spot the influence of Hindu architecture in its style. According to a few records, Dilawar Khan’s Mosque is also the first mosque for females. It is a must-visit attraction for tourists when in Mandu.
Timings: 6 am to 7 pm, open all days of the week.
Entry fee: The entry fee for Dilawar Khan’s Mosque for Indian nationals is Rs 5 while for foreign nationals it is Rs 100. If you have a still camera that you want to take along for clicking photographs, you will have to pay an additional Rs 25.
How to reach: The mosque is located at Jahaj Mahal Internal Road in Mandu, Madhya Pradesh. The nearest railway station is Mhow railway station but it is 44 km away from the mosque. You can reach here by road using local public transport.
Dargah Sharif, Ajmer
Housing the shrine of the revered Sufi saint Moinuddin Chisti, Dargah Sharif in Ajmer is one of the most beautiful mosques in the country. The saint came to India from Persia and dedicated his life in god’s service. Even today, people pay a visit to the shrine to seek his blessings and get rid of their problems. Not just Muslims, even Hindus visit Dargah Sharif in Ajmer every year.
The Nizam Gate which is the main gate of the dargah is followed by another gate called the Shahjani Gate. It was erected by the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan. Every year, Urs for Moinuddin Chisti is held in the dargah that marks the death of the saint. During this time, many people walk to Ajmer from Delhi carrying colorful chaddars with gold and silver threads on them. They are called the Kalendars. There is a trust that is managed by a committee which takes care of the maintenance of the shrine as well as runs charitable dispensaries and guest houses for the pilgrims who come here. From the underprivileged to the wealthy, people of all caste and social status visit the dargah every year and lay flowers in remembrance of the Sufi saint. When in Ajmer, a visit to the Dargah Sharif is a must. Admire the architecture of the structure which is done up in colors of white and gold.
Timings: 4.30 am to 2.30 pm and 4 pm to 9 pm.
Entry fee: There is free entry to the dargah for all.
How to reach: Dargah Sharif is at Hashmi Chowk, gate number 4 in Ajmer. Most trains stop at Ajmer railway station as it is well-connected. You can hire taxis from here to reach the shrine. Buses are also available that will drop you near the dargah.
Tipu Sultan Mosque, Kolkata
Also called the Tipu Sultan Shahi Mosque or Masjid, this religious structure in Kolkata was built by Prince Ghulam Mohammed, the youngest son of Tipu Sultan, in 1832. Over 150 years old, this religious structure showcases Mughal architecture but it allows people of different faiths to enter its premises. The green colored mosque has four minarets and 16 domes with elaborate carvings on the facade. Tipu Sultan Mosque is big enough to accommodate 1,000 people at one time. Visitors are also permitted to click photographs of this beautiful mosque. There was a committee formed in the late ‘80s that still manages the mosque. It had also raised concerns about the damage caused by the Kolkata metro to the mosque’s structure. Later, the Metro team agreed to demolish the damaged parts of the mosque and rebuild them. Today, the mosque is one of the sightseeing attractions of the City of Joy and shouldn’t be missed when you are in Kolkata.
Timings: 4 am to sunset
Entry fee: There is no entry fee to go inside the mosque.
How to reach: Tipu Sultan Mosque is in 185 Dhartamtalla Street. You can walk from the Esplanade Bus Terminus to reach the mosque. Alternatively, you can hire a taxi from any part of the city to come here.
Makkah Masjid, Hyderabad
One of the oldest mosques in Hyderabad, the Makkah Masjid, also called the Mecca Masjid, is a religious structure dating back to 1694. It got its name due to the fact that its central arch has bricks which contain soil brought back from the Mecca, the holiest Islamic shrine. Commissioned by the fifth ruler of the Qutub Shahi Dynasty Muhammad Quli Qutb Shah, the mosque’s foundation stone was laid by him but it was completed later by Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb. More than 8,000 workers were employed for the construction of the structure.
The mosque displays Islamic architecture and is made of granite. Makkah Masjid has three arched facades and all three of them were carved from a single piece of granite. The main hall in Makkah Masjid can accommodate up to 10,000 people at one time as it is 220 ft wide and 180 ft long. Look up and you will notice the 15 arches that support the main hall with verses from the Holy Quran inscribed on them. Floral motifs are also part of the detailing of these arches. The beauty of the mosque has faded over centuries due to lack of maintenance despite being listed as a heritage building. However, do not miss paying a visit to this mosque when in Hyderabad. And when you do, sit on the stone and slab benches near the pond as legend has it that those who sit here, return to the mosque to sit on the bench again.
Timings: 4 am to 9.30 pm
Entry fee: There is no entry fee to visit the mosque.
How to reach: Makkah Masjid is located at Laad Bazaar Road near Chaarminar in Hyderabad. You can take public transport to reach the mosque.
Bara Imambara, Lucknow
Built by the then Nawab of Awadh Asaf-ud-Daula, Bara Imambara in 1784 and is one of the most prominent structures of Lucknow. The shrine has two imposing gates that lead to the main hall, a labyrinth, a step well and the Asfi mosque. One of the prime reasons to begin work on the Bara Imambara was due to the famine that took place in Lucknow. The Nawab’s objective was to provide employment to the people during this trying time. The shrine was finally completed in 1791 and whopping million rupees was spent on its construction. But that’s not all, the Nawab spent close to four to five thousand of rupees every year to further beautify the structure.
The central vaulted chamber of Bara Imambara houses the tomb of Asaf-ud-Daula but what is interesting is that there is no beam supporting its ceiling making it one of the largest arched constructions in the world. The labyrinth in the shrine is another architectural marvel with 489 identical doorways. Interestingly, this is the only existing maze in the country and was built unintentionally to support the weight of the building as it was constructed in a marshy land. A beautifully embellished Rumi Darwaza at the entrance is also worth seeing. Bara Imambara is a grandiose structure and its design and layout was obtained through a competitive process. The architect who designed it is also buried in the main hall of the imambara. According to a legend, there are sealed passageway that led to Allahabad, Faizabad and even Delhi. However, these were sealed after a series of people went missing while exploring their way through them. Muslims gather at Bara Imambara during Muharram to pray. From the top level of the mosque, you can see the entire cityscape.
Timings: 6 am to 5 pm
Entry fee: The entry fee for Bara Imambara is Rs 25 for Indians and Rs 300 for foreign nationals.
How to reach: Bara Imambara is located at Machchhi Bhawan in Lucknow. It is a landmark in itself and you can get here by hiring an autorickshaw or cab.
Jamali Kamali Mosque and Tomb, Delhi
Constructed in 1528-29, Jamali Kamali is a mosque and tomb of two people named Jamali and Kamali. It is located in the Archaeological Village Complex of Mehrauli in Delhi. While Jamali was a renowned Sufi saint also known as Shaikh Jamali Kamboh, Kamali was an unknown person associated with Jamali and therefore their tombs lie adjacent to one another. Jamali passed away in 1535 after which he was buried in his tomb. The mosque that depicts Mughal architecture is built in red sandstone with embellishments of marble. The prayer hall has five arches with intricate ornamentation on them with the central arch having a dome. The hall opens to a large courtyard with the tomb of Jamali Kamali adjacent to the tomb. The tomb has a flat ceiling that is painted red and blue and has verses from the Quran inscribed on it. The walls on the other hand have Jamali’s poems written on colorful tiles. Two marble graves lie in the tomb chamber.
Both the tomb and mosque are well-preserved but Friday prayers aren’t held here. They are also believed to be haunted as people have felt an invisible force slapping them or have heard voices near the graves. Due to this, Jinns come here every Thursday to keep any evil spirit at bay.
Timings: 10 am to 6 pm
Entry fee: There is no entry fee for visitors.
How to reach: Jamali Kamali Mosque and Tomb is located in the Mehrauli Archeological Park Trail in Christian Colony. You can reach here by taking a taxi or rickshaw. The nearest metro station is the Qutub Minar on yellow line from where you can take an auto to get here.