Famous across the globe for its rich diversity, culture and heritage, India has been a major tourist destination since decades. Once in India, it is quite difficult to escape the religious beliefs and traditions that people from different religions follow in this multi-ethnic nation. In this respect, getting acquainted with the cultural and architectural beauty associated with Islamic monuments and places of interest in India comes as a truly rewarding experience.
As recorded in the history books, India saw the spread of Islam across its regions back in the early 8th century followed by visits made by Arab traders, Muslim invaders and then the entry of Mughal emperors. Sufi saints also helped immensely in spread it as they preached lessons of universal brotherhood, peace and unique art-of-living – the aspects on which this religion is based on. Today, Islam is the second-most followed religion in the country, after Hinduism. According to an estimate, the population of Muslims in this nation is around 174 millions and had there been no agonising partition, it would have been at the top in the list of largest Muslim countries in the world.
To fully appreciate the beauty underlying Islam, one has to thoroughly understand what the holy book, Quran, preaches to the mankind. Similarly, to have a more enriching experience, visiting Islamic monuments and pilgrimage destinations in the country, it is highly recommended to know specific history and other associated information. A visit to such places is just like an escape of a mind with a goal to soothe and pamper the soul, which is shackled in the web of worldly gossips and affairs. Just as an acknowledgement for global travellers, there are many such structures in this multi-faceted country, but some are rated high based on their popularity.
Ajmer Sharif, Rajasthan
Ajmer Sharif is a popular Islamic shrine that is located in Rajasthan and is considered as a place where mannats (wishes) get fulfilled. It is the shrine of a great sufi saint Khwaja Moinuddin Chisthi. No wonder, everyday this sacred shrine is visited by thousands of devotees from different states of India and other countries. A trip is likely to be an exclusive and incredible experience.
The restlessness vanish gradually as one explores more and more while sounds of chants and daily chores bring-in inner peace, joy, sense of fulfilment and state of well-being at this place. The annual Urs held here is a great attraction for both foreigners and local people. Besides Ajmer-e-Sharif Dargah, getting around Ana Sagar lake, Akbar Palace and Taragarh Fort can also be a wonderful experience for tourists.
Jama Masjid, Delhi
Being on a tour to Delhi and not visiting the famous Jama Masjid sounds like missing a lot. I have been to Jama Masjid for once and was left simply stunned by its amazing architectural beauty. The grandness of this mosque, which is also the largest in the country, is evident from its accommodation capacity of about 25,000 devotees at a time. This mosque was built by Mughal emperor – Shah Jahan, who is also known to have built the Taj Mahal and Red Fort.
On taking a look at this marvelous structure, one can easily notice that it has three big gates and four grand towers. It also boasts of two 40-metre high minarets that are constructed using white marble and red sandstone. Also, frequent travelers would know that robes-on-hire are available at the northern gate of this great mosque.
Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya Dargah, Delhi
Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya Dargah is an ideal place, where peace and solace can be found in abundance and prayers be offered for a happy mortal life and life after death. This shrine of Sufi saint Nizamuddin Auliya is located on busy lanes of Nizamuddin in South Delhi. This holy place is visited by numerous devotees every year seeking fulfilment of their wishes. Visitors should also attend Kawallis that are scheduled daily in the premises. On Thursdays and Sundays, visitors can enjoy langar seva (food being served for the common mass).
Just next to Hazrat Nizamuddin Dargah, there is a famous shrine of Amir Khusro, who is remembered as a disciple of Hazrat Nizamuddin. Other places of interest in the vicinity are Lal Mahal, Ghalib library and Mirza Ghalib Tomb.
Dargah of Qutb-Sahib is located in the vicinity of Gandak-ki-Baoli, in Mehrauli village. It is also called as dargah of Qutbuddin Bakhtiyar Kaki. Historically speaking, Kaki is known for being the successor of Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti of Ajmer Sharif. According to a popular belief, if anyone with a fully devoted heart makes a wish, followed by tying a thread just near the grave, it would receive fulfilment. Once the wish is granted, the person is recommended to come back to this location to untie the thread. Moti Masjid that was built by Bahadur Shah I in 1709 is also at a walking distance from Ajmeri gate of this dargah.
Haji Ali, Mumbai
Haji Ali is a widely-known pilgrimage destination that is visited by around 10-15 thousand people everyday. This increases manifold during Bakri Eid (Eid-ul-Uzha) and Ramadhan Eid festivals. This prestigious Islamic landmark is located amidst the Arabian Sea. This well-known dargah houses the tomb of Pir Haji Ali Shah Bukhari (R.A.) and a mosque. Anyone seeking realisation of a wish must travel to this beautiful landmark of peace and brotherhood.
Fatehpur Sikri, Agra
Anyone who desires to witness the marvellous Mughal architecture must travel down to Fatehpur Sikri. This historically important site was built by Akbar as a gesture of gratitude to Shaikh Salim Chishti, a saint who used to live in a city named Sikri. The emperor had three sons by blessings of the saint and thus, the name Fatehpur Sikri (also called as the City of Victory).
Tourists turn to this place to capture a glimpse of fine structures like Fatehpur Sikri Mosque, Panch Mahal and Diwan-i-Khas. The famous Buland Darwaza and Tomb of Salim Chishti can also be seen here. This place is listed as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. The best part of this pilgrimage destination is that it is open on all days for devotees.
Mecca Masjid, Andhra Pradesh
Mecca Masjid is so named as its central arch is made of bricks that were brought all the way from Mecca. This mosque, which was given a final touch of completion by Aurangzeb in the year 1694, can truly be called as the poetry in stone for it depicts love for dexterous craftsmanship and passion for great structures in then ruling kings. It has a big hall that measures 67 metres and soars to a height of 54 metres. Not only this, there are fifteen beautiful arches that provide support to this wonderful structure. People also come here to see graves that are made of marble. Mecca Masjid is located in the Old City, Hyderabad and therefore, one should also visit the nearby Charminar that boasts of the same significant tale as that of the Taj Mahal, Agra.
Hazratbal Mosque, Kashmir
Anyone who has visited Dal Lake in Kashmir would know about this important religious place as its pristine marble elegance merrily reflects in the calm lake water. The great significance bestowed on this holy shrine is due to the fact that it puts on public display the hair of Hazrat Muhammad, the true propagator of Islam. People come here to offer special prayers held on every Friday. Another interesting fact about this structure is that it is the only mosque in Srinagar with a dome. The nearby Nishat Bagh, Dal Lake and posing views of mountain beyond are simply superb to behold over and over again.
The Sidi Saiyyed Mosque, Ahmedabad
The Sidi Saiyyed Mosque, located in Ahmedabad, is a prominent Islamic structure in India that was built by Sidi Saeed (or Sidi Saiyyed). It has splendid architecture, with ten stone windows (jalis) with latticework on its side and rear arches. Interestingly, this mosque is also an inspiration for the logo design carried by the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad.
Alahazrat Dargah, Bareilly
Alahazrat Dargah is a famous place for Muslims from all over the world. Located in Bareilly, Uttar Pradesh, it is dedicated to the renowned philosopher and prolific writer Ahmed Raza Khan Fazil-e-Barelvi, also famous by the name of Aala Hazrat. People come here in large numbers all through the year to pray to the almighty and seek penance for any of their misdeeds.
Truly speaking, India is one of the most favorite locations on the world map when it comes to pilgrimage for Muslims. It is home to centuries-old monuments that offer devotees an environment of peace and tranquillity that no other place in the world can provide. These holy sites have been an integral part of this nation since ages and will continue to do so in the future generations.