Guest Post by Rashmi Kala
|The gallery towards the Jama Masjid in Ahmedabad. @rashmi kala|
“Change is constant; change is essential and most of the times, change brings with itself a breathing space. A space, which allows you to come out of the typical nutshell of life, look around, breathe and feel life. This space provides us with the opportunities to search for ourselves. Such moments are obviously soulful. I am happily living such moments these days.
When a change happened, what came out of me is a traveler who loves being adventurous. So, here is a girl, with her walking shoes, a bagpack and her mobile camera in her hand, exploring the colourful streets of Ahmedabad. This is my visit to Jama Masjid, which made the feminist inside me really happy. Want to know why?
“Ben tum hindi Pradesh se aayi ho?” (Sister, are you from Hindi speaking state?), asked the auto driver as I disconnected the phone after a chat. Ben is what every girl or woman is referred as. “mujhe pata waha ka pani meetha hota yahan ke jaisa khara nahi…par tumko market achcha lagega haan” (I know water is sweet there and not salty like here…but you would like the market) was his next comment. Gujaratis have a habit of saying ‘haan’ with an interrogative remark in their typical Gujarati tone after every sentence. I was headed to Teen Darwaza market, situated in old Ahmedabad, where he dropped me with his greetings and a warm smile.
|The Teen Darwaza area @rashmi kala|
Teen Darwaza market is a huge desi market having shops of everything you could think of. It has three huge historic and carved entrances. I am a sucker for typical local, colourful footpath bazaars. As the shops capture most of the space one gets very little space to move in those narrow lanes. Cosmetics with duplicate tags, mirrors, decoratives like toran that hang at the entrance of homes, apparels, kitchen utensils, artificial flowers, handbags, artificial jewellery…you just think of it and it is there…and everything at very subsidized rates. It was for the first time when I saw a shopkeeper shouting, “aao aao sau ki chaar sau ki chaar” (come come four in hundred). He was selling men’s shirts. Imagine! One shirt for ₹ 25.
While I was enjoying the crowd and just inhaling the essence of Gujarati culture, I saw some young Gujarati Muslim girls entering a mosque. I was pleasantly surprised as normally girls and women are not allowed to enter mosques. I moved towards the mosque. It was Jami Masjid of Ahmedabad, one of those very few mosques in India that allow women to enter and offer prayers. More interestingly there is no separate place for them to offer prayers and no separate Wazu khana. The mosque was built in 1423 during the reign Sultan Ahmed Shah. The verandah was so hot that I had to run to reach the main hall of the mosque.
|From L to R - The entrance to the Masjid, the lovely pillars in the hallway and the beautiful and intricate architecture @rashmi kala|
The beautiful mosque that is supported by 260 pillars and 15 domes, initially had a special second floor section beyond latticed screens for women to pray. Presently, one could find women and girls sitting anywhere in the premises and offering prayers. One is also allowed to take photographs. While I was busy in capturing the architecture, corridors and domes, a group of giggling girls washing their hands and feet at wazu khana ran towards me asking “humara bhi photu paado na” (take our photo). With all those bright smiles, they posed for photographs and asked me to show them their pictures. The glittering smiles burst into a brighter and loud laughter after looking at their own pictures.
|Some reflections of the beautiful architecture of the mosque @rashmi kala|
I, personally, have been a firm believer of the thought that religion has been mostly patriarchal and has broadened the gap of gender inequality. With the later developments of the analysis and interpretations by religious masters, the patriarchy and inequality was further strengthened and women were pushed even backwards. They were confined behind the bars decided by patriarchal traditions that were supported by these religious interpretations on the basis of women’s sexuality.
The divide is seen in many ways in different religions. Just for an e.g. one would rarely find the main priest of any big temple, a woman. Also women are expected to maintain a distance from lord Hanuman as he is supposed to be a bachelor.
Similar is the system in mosques where women are not allowed to enter and offer prayers as it creates discomfort for them and men as well. Different practices of prayer for different sexes. Despite of the gender, caste, class or region etc; freedom of belief and decision to pray and follow a specific religion is a basic right and choice of an individual and to an extent Jama Masjid of Ahmedabad takes a step towards bridging up the gap. I could feel the space of choice and sense the comfort I was talking about in the beginning.
|And that's Rashmi Kala, the beautiful and lovely girl, posing...|
The icing was a gesture by an old woman beggar. Sitting at a corner and leaning on a pillar, she was shooing the squirrels that were coming down to fetch her food. While I was capturing her in my camera, she said, “money do money, chai peeni hai sham ki” (give me money, I need to have evening tea). I was coming out of the mosque with a smile as I saw her sipping her evening tea..."
PEL Shouts : That's a beautiful travel post Rashmi. It does bring some happiness, as it shows that traditionally, religion does not create the gender bias at all. Your thoughts make me want to visit the place for sure. Welcome to PEL.
Here's more on Rashmi : Rashmi Kala is a young girl from Lucknow who loves her two roles of a feminist and a life lover to the core. A social activist, she is enthusiastically sensitive about everything living. Her other side makes her love makeup and everything good in life too. All said, its that beautiful smile on a child's face which makes Rashmi feel that life is worth it.
How did you like this post? Are you a traveller too? Share your travel posts and pix with us and we would surely put them here. Also, do leave your comments below because they really encourage us.