The marble and red-sandstone structure of the Jama Masjid, or the Friday Mosque, located near the massive Red Fort in Old Delhi, was commissioned by the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan, a noted patron of Islamic architecture, who also created the famous Taj Mahal, in Agra. Constructed between 1650 and 1656 by more than 5000 workers at a cost of one million rupees, the masque with the capacity to accommodate 25,000 devotees was inaugurated by Imam Syed Abdul Ghafoor Shah Bukhari, from Bukhara, Uzbekistan, on 23 July 1656, on the invitation of the emperor.
Built under the strict supervision of Saadullah Khan, the Wazir, or the prime minister during the reign of Shah Jahan, the building is complete with impressive detailing over the minarets and domes, arches and doors, along with four grand towers and three huge gateways. The iconic structure, one of the last monuments built by Shah Jahan, served as the royal mosque until the fall of the Mughal dynasty in Delhi.
The Red Fort and the Jama Masjid were planned to be parts of a new larger planned city, Shahjahanabad. The Jama Masjid, considered as the best among all the mosques built during the Mughal period, is an impressive example of Mughal architecture, measuring about 261 feet (80 m) long and 90 feet (27 m) wide, is oriented toward the holy city of Mecca to the west. It stands on a red sandstone porch, which is about 30 feet (9`1 m) from the ground level, spreading over 12916 sq feet (1200 sq m), giving the mosque a commanding view of the surrounding area.
Among its three huge gateways, the eastern gateway with 35 steps was reserved for the exclusive use of the royals. The other two gateways are comparatively smaller, located on the northern and the southern sides of the building, equipped with 39 and 33 steps respectively. While there are three domes on the upper terrace, the central dome is flanked by two 130 feet (40 m) tall minarets, simultaneously striped longitudinally, with marble and red sandstone, and equipped with 130 steps. The five-storey minarets are equipped with protruding balconies. While the first three stories are made of red sandstone, the fourth is of marble, and the fifth is of sandstone again.
Inside the mosque, the prayer hall measuring 90 by 200 feet (27`4 X 60`96 m) is made up of high cusped arches, crowned with the three marble domes. The top of the hall’s entrance bears the calligraphic inscriptions in Persian. The floor had been covered with white and ornamented black marbles that look like a Muslim prayer mat. Marked with black outlines, measuring three feet long and 1`5 feet wide, the floor has 899 individual spaces for the worshippers.
The Jama Masjid contains a collection of relics of the Prophet Muhammad, which includes a copy of the Quran written on deerskin, a red beard-hair of the prophet, his sandals, and his footprints on a marble block.
During the Revolt of 1857, also known as the Sepoy Mutiny or the First War of Independence against the rule of the British East India Company, a madrasa located near the southern end of the mosque was destroyed. In the aftermath, the British confiscated the Jama Majid, stationed their soldiers inside the mosque, and even intended to demolish the structure as revenge. Ultimately, good senses prevailed and the mosque was saved.
The Jama Masjid in Delhi was the scene of two violent incidents in the 21st century. The first incident occurred on 14 April 2006 when two bombs went off in shopping bags left in the courtyard, injuring around ten innocent people. After that, two Taiwanese tourists were injured on the 15th of September in 2010 in an attack by gunmen on a motorcycle, who opened fire on a tourist bus parked near gate number three of the mosque.