Jama Masjid, Delhi

A distant view of the Jami Masjid, Delhi, taken by Samuel Bourne in the 1860s. The Jami Masjid was the principal mosque of Shah Jahan’s new capital city Shahjahanabad. This is the largest mosque in India, it was the last great architectural venture of Emperor Shah Jahan (r.1628-58), the most prolific builder of the Mughal dynasty. It took six years to build and functioned as a congregational mosque which could hold 250,000 people. Approached via broad flights of steps its three gateways lead into a huge courtyard with a central tank for ritual ablutions. The mosque is built of red sandstone with white marble. The main building is topped by three onion-shaped domes of white marble striated with thin strips of black marble, and is flanked by two minarets, 130 ft high.

The watercolor painting of the same view by William Carpenter. William Carpenter (1818–1899) was a watercolour artist. He travelled for six or seven years in the 1850s painting scenes of India, its people and its life. The Victoria and Albert Museum bought over 280 of his paintings. In 1856 he painted Prince Fakhr-ud Din Mirza, the eldest son of Bahadur Shah II, the last King of Delhi, five months before the Prince died.

The painting was made in the August of 1852. Today, it is impossible to view the Jama Masjid from the same angle.


Old Photograph:

William Carpenter’s Painting: