August 7, 2022

PTI Fact Check: Delhi's Jama Masjid is not the largest mosque in India, say historians

Photo Caption: Devotees offering prayers at Jama Masjid in New Delhi: For representational purpose (PTI Photo)

New Delhi, Aug 7 (PTI Fact Check) The imposing Jama Masjid in the national capital’s walled city is not the largest mosque in India, say several historians, correcting the popular perception bolstered by hoardings in the city and also Delhi Tourism’s website. That distinction goes to the Taj-ul-Masajid in Bhopal, they said.

The Jama Masjid, one of Delhi’s most recognised landmarks, was built by Mughal emperor Shah Jahan in 1656. The Taj-ul-Masajid, which translates to 'The Crown of Mosques', was built between 1868-1901 by Bhopal's third woman ruler Shah Jahan Begum.

 The marble domed Jama Masjid is described as the "largest mosque" in India on hoardings, part of the  'Did You Know' series, seen across the city.  Besides full-size hoardings, the claim that Jama Masjid is the largest mosque in India finds mention in the Delhi Tourism website as well.

"This great mosque of Old Delhi is the largest in India…," reads the description of the mosque on the website.

Delhi-based historian Sohail Hashmi recently took to Facebook to set the record straight.

"Dear Delhi Government, Jama Masjid is not the largest mosque in India. Taj ul Masjid in Bhopal is 33 per cent larger," he posted on his Facebook account 'Delhi Heritage Walks with Sohail Hashmi' which has 14,000 followers.

"The architecture marvel Jama Masjid is not significant because of its size, but its style of Mughal architecture that has inspired a lot of people to copy the basic design of Jama Masjid. Besides the Taj-ul-Masajid, even the Aurangzeb built Badshahi Mosque (in Lahore) is based on its design," Hashmi told PTI.

Prof Hassan Khan from the Darul Uloom of the Taj-ul-Masajid agreed with Hashmi.

"Taj-ul-Masajid is indeed the largest mosque in India, one-third times bigger than the Jama Masjid. In fact, in my personal opinion, in terms of the covered area it is the biggest in the world. But when you talk about open yard plus covered area, Badshahi mosque in Lahore, built by Mughal emperor Aurangzeb in the 1670s, is the largest," Khan told PTI.

Though there are no verified dimensions readily available, several websites such as Culture Trip and Hello Travel claim the 19th-century Taj-ul-Masajid has a seating capacity of 1,75,000 people.

According to Britannica.com, the Jama Masjid courtyard can accommodate 25,000 people.

“An open courtyard facing the eastern gateway of the mosque building is at least 325 feet (99 metres) square and can accommodate 25,000 people,” the website states.

"Most people mistakenly assume that Jama Masjid of Delhi is the largest mosque of the country; in fact, it is the Taj-ul-Masajid with an interior area of 4,00,000 sq. m and seating capacity of 1,75,000 people," historian Rana Safvi wrote in an article titled “A bastion of women nawabs” in The Hindu in 2017.

Incomplete at the time of Shah Jahan Begum's death in 1901, the sprawling red sandstone Taj-ul-Masajid was finally completed only in 1985 by the efforts of Hassan Khan's father Maulana Muhammad Imran Khan.

Hassan Khan said his father undertook the re-construction work in 1971 with donations from Muslim community from India and abroad.

While Hashmi argued that baseless claims are initiated by "tour guides" peddling false stories, historian-author Swapna Liddle blamed "careless searching" on the web by content writers.

"Yes, Taj-ul-Masajid is definitely larger than Jama Masjid. I find all sorts of odd claims these days . . . Actually, the thing is that the people who write so called 'content'  are doing their search on the web. Now, the web is wonderful for getting information but you have to be a little intelligent in how you use it," Liddle told PTI.

"I personally don't see any actual desire to mislead here. It is just careless searching on the web," she added.

The claim that Delhi's Jama Masjid is the largest mosque in India is 'false'.


Claim: Delhi's Jama Masjid is the largest mosque in India


Fact: The Taj-ul-Masajid in Bhopal is the largest mosque in India.


Conclusion: The claim that Delhi's Jama Masjid is the largest mosque in India is 'false'.


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