It was through certain random memories, I was trying to think about the various ways in which Jama masjid, as a space, produces and regulates sound (noise). Is Jama masjid a theological space? Or is it a historical site? Or a cultural space reflecting Mughal Heritage? How can we choose from this and imagine Jama masjid as a space? Maybe, we can say that it is a point of confluence. Hilal Ahmed observes that ‘Jama Masjid is not a protected monument inthe strict legal sense. Yet, its the representation or a symbol of medieval Muslim heritage in postcolonial India converted into an officially recognized ‘historical object’ ‘.
Archaeological strictness is very low, compared to other Mughal monuments, where we can witness that the daily prayers are offered without any restrictions. The imagination of sound in a masjid is normally associated with the sound of namaz, aazan and quran recitation. Jama masjid radically subverts this conception, in a limited way though. Jama masjid is a space of noise. Luigi Russolo has shown us that “noise is meant to be celebrated”. Lovers who produce soft sounds and laughs, the sound of mothers who shout at their kids, the sound of families who share jokes and laughs together and so on.
Apart from the interior sounds, The sound from the famous Meena Bazar and food street, all these contribute to the ‘celebration of noise’ ( Before the prayer of Maghrib-Jama masjid ‘reclaims’ it’s theological space after Maghrib ) which makes Jama masjid a peculiar space, apart from it’s religious and historical importance. It is said that namaz is a munajat (conversation) with God. In that sense, Masjids should be a space which should constantly reproduce metaphysical conversations.
It is important to mention in which aforementioned space (as Jama Masjid ) does this material commerce and conversations take place. The recent Anti-Regime protests have also created another kind of influence over the soundscape of Jama masjid, as it was one of the major site of daily protest gathering, where we could witness the sound of women who were singing revolutionary songs and shouting Anti-state slogans from the steps of Bab-Abdulla Gate. Thus, We can see the potential of Jama Masjid which constantly redefines it’s own space by constantly re-conceptualizing it.
(Afeef is currently pursuing BA Hon. in English literature from Hindu College, Delhi University)