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Delhi - Places of Worship

When people speak of Delhi, they usually speak of the city’s imposing Mughal and colonial buildings, its corridors of power, its great bazaars, its universities, its personalities and so on. Very rarely do they speak of the city’s spiritual significance. Why it should be so, is easy to understand. Its importance in other spheres of the life of India, outweights its religious importance. That is not to say that the religious places of Delhi are not important enough; on the contrary, they are religious places of Delhi are not important enough; on the contrary, they are of monumental importance and worthy f as much adoration and devotion, as any of the greatest in the country. True to the secular principles of the constitution of India, there are temples from every faith in Delhi Given below is a selection.

Located very near the inter state bus terminus, on the same side of the river, St.James Churah at Kashmere Gate is an unexpected haven of peace amidst the noise, smoke and dust of the old city that surrounds it. Consecrated in 1836, it has the distinction of being the first Christian church in Delhi and is a remarkable example of colonial architecture. As one enters the churah, one invariably steps on the grave of Col.James Skinner, the man who built the church, just as he had wished it. Let devout Christians trample over the mortal remains of the chief of sinners. Once within one is transported back in time to colonial India. Two exquisite stain glass windows (made in England) dominate the spacious hall lined with carved mangowood pews. All the fixtures including the church organ but accepting the prayer books date back to the last century. One can easily visualize the Skinner family sitting in the front row in the pew that still bears their name.

Col. James Skinner was a very well known military personality of British India. Born of mixed parentage (half Rajput and half English), he rose to great heights of fame at the head of his cavalry regiment Skinners Horse which till today remains one of the most elite regiments of the Indian army.

Like the church, the gurdware Sisganj too is located in a most unlikely surroundings; at Chandani Chowk the biggest and busiest market in north India. It is built at the spot where Guru Tegh Bahadur, the 7th of the 10 spiritual teacher-leaders of Sikhs was beheaded at the order of the Emperor Aurangzeb in 1675. Swathed in pearl white marble and golden domes the tragic-sacred spot exudes a rare feeling of devotion from not only Sikhs but also Hindus and anyone else who might come. A constant stream of people, with reverence writ large over their person, passes through the richly decorated hall, prostrating before the sacred spot and stopping for a while to listen to Shahbad Gurbani (Sikh devotional songs) being sung by traditional gurdware singers. Guru Tegh Bahadur became a martyr to the causes of an individuals right to practise the religion of his own choice.

Laxmi Narayan Mandir also known as Birla Mandir, this temple has been included in this selection for its preminent position in the realm of contemporary Hindu temple architecture. Spread out over a huge complex, it looks like a little citadel of temples, with several domes gracing the skyline. Enshrined within are all the major deities of the Hindu pantheon with Narayan (Vishnu, the preserver) and his consort, Laxmi the goddess of wealth, presiding. The meticulously clean spacious halls are tastefully decorated with frescoes and plaster of Paris carvings. Several carved panels depict the lives of great Hindu saints. A great bell, gifted by a Chinese Buddhist delegation adorns the meditation hall. An unusual temple, where people come not to make a ritualistic worship but for Darshan, to be blessed by merely seeing the images of the Gods. A tour of Delhi’s houses of worship would be incomplete without a visit to the Laxmi Narayan Mandir.

Located five kilometers from the center of the city, Dargah Nizamuddin Aulia this is the capital’s second most important Muslim shrine after Jama Masjid. Hazrat Nizamuddin Aulia, a 14th century sufi mystic saint, was the fourth in line of the famous Chishtiya order of Sufism brought to India by khwaja Moinuddin Chishti. The shrine, which was built soon after his death in 1325, is the object of unstinted adoration by all who visit it. All around, the area, which is named after him, speaks of the holy saint’s presence. Many are the stories of miracles that the great saint is said to have caused.

The Bahai, House of worship is the latest of the great houses of worship in Delhi. Opened in 1986, it is one of the seven great edifices that the Bahais have raised in different parts of the world. The 47 metres high marble structure is inspired by the lotus, the Hindu symbol of purity. It has nine doors because nine, the highest digit, symbolizes comprehensiveness, oneness and unity. There are no images or icons, just rows of marble topped seats for the visitors to meditate in silence.

The above selection is obviously like the proverbial drop-in-the-ocean of temples that abound in Delhi. Whatever one might say about the people of Delhi one can’t doubt their religious fervour. Temple building is a continuous process; at any given time, a score o more temples might be found in various stages of construction. Even in the poorest slums, where the people have barely enough to keep body and soul together, they find enough money time and spare to give expression in stone wood and mortar to their religious sentiments.