The spread of Islam in India produced some of the most spectacular monuments, the mosques stand as testimony to the great architectural skill and expertise of the Indian subcontinent through centuries and constitute one of the most important aspects of the rich architectural culture of the region.
This volume showcase some 54 important mosques spread across the Indian subcontinent from Lahore in modern Pakistan to Gaur in modern west Bengal and from Delhi in the north to Kayalpatnam and Bijapur in South India. It mentions the location of the mosques, their history, structure and plan patterns and discusses various elements of the structures in detail: their entrances, pillars, porticoes, type of mihrab and other aspects. It emphasises the importance of a particular masjid such as its typifying the mosques of a certain period or dynasty and setting the standard for later masjids in some manner. It presents some other plans and proportional elevations in the appendices for a comparative study. An extremely useful list of Muslim rulers of the Indian subcontinent is provided. With maps and drawings of plans of mosques, the book is a painstaking effort to examine the evolution and iconography of the mosques architecture in the region. The volume will be indispensable for scholars and students of Indo-Islamic architecture.
Fredrick W. Bunce, a PhD and a cultural historian of international eminence, is an authority on ancient iconography and Buddhist arts. Has been honoured with prestigious awards/commendations and is listed in who's who in American Art and the International Biographical Dictionary, 1980. he is currently Professor Emeritus of Art, Indiana State University, Terre Haute, Indiana. He has authored the following books all published by D.K. Printworld:
Buddhist Textile of Laos, Lan Na and the Isan The Iconography of Design Elements.
An Dictionary of Buddhist and Hindu Iconography.
An Encyclopaedia of Buddhist Deities, Demigods, Godlings, Saints and Demons (2 vols.).
An Encyclopaedia of Hindu Deities, Demigods, Godlings, Demons and Heroes (3 vols.).
The Iconography of Architectural Plans A Study of the Influence of Buddhism and Hinduism on Plans of South and Southeast Asia.
Islamic Tombs in India The Iconographical and Genesis of their Design.
Monuments of India and the Indianized State.
Mudras in Buddhist and Hindu Practices An Iconographic Consideration.
Numbers Their Iconographic Consideration in Buddhist and Hindu Practices.
Royal Place, Residences and Pavilions of India An Iconographic Consideration.
The Sacred Dichotomy: Thoughts and Comments on The Duality of Female and Male Iconography in South Asia and the Mediterranean.
The Tibetan Iconography of Buddhas, Bodhisattvas and other Deities A Unique Pantheon.
The Yantra of Deities and their Numerological Foundations An Iconographic Consideration.
I came to Islamic iconography late in my various considerations, particularly, via Buddhist and Hindu iconography. This produced, first: Islamic Tombs of India: The Iconography and Genesis of Their Design and them Royal Place, Residences and Pavilion of India: An Iconographic Consideration, which in part dealt with Islamic, palaces. Partially, this interest arose because I also chose to retire in a predominantly Islamic country Malaysia.
The great and powerful of Islamic India built elaborate mausolea to remind subsequent viewers of their position, thereby affecting their position in the Hereafter through Shafa'a or intercession. There were certain passive restrictions within Islam against the construction of elaborate tombs as voiced by The Prophet, Nabi Muhammad. Rulers, as the well as the rich and famous of the Islamic world in general, and India in particular, somehow circumvented or ignored these caveats and raised some of the most elaborate burial monuments in the world. Yet, there was, generally, always a mosque, or a qibla with mehrab, incorporated into the tomb or rauza, however insignificant in size or décor. Perhaps these inclusions i.e. a masjid, or a qibla with mehrab were seen as a way of skirting or neutralizing the restriction against ostentatious tombs.
The construction of a masjid was normally undertaken by a man of wealth or a titled individual or a polity. To construct a mosque is also seen as a spiritual deed that may bring certain spiritual benefits not only to the builder but also to those who come to offer their obligatory prayers. This concept spiritual benefit is similar to the Theravada Buddhist concept of "merit." Furthermore, the construction of a masjid is not dissimilar to the European monarchs' construction of elaborate chapels or great churches for the "Glory of God" and their own position in the Hereafter.
At first, the basically pacific character of the Hindu faith was no match against the aggressive nature of Islam as it entered the vast subcontinent. Not only was north-west India relatively easily invaded and conquered, converts to Islam were numerous. This was particularly true of the two lower castes i.e. vaisya and sudra. Islam did not hold the restricting caste (Ind.: varna) levels that the Hindu faith espoused. However centuries or millennia of culture and tradition would not be easily or totally overthrown. A basic flaw in the intended or unintended Islamization of India was the importation of foreign rulers i.e. Afghani, Turkic and Persian. These rulers were significantly harsher than the indigenous Hindu rulers. That is not to say that Hindu monarchs of the period were kind, benevolent or magnanimous; but there was a sharp, swift, deadly edge to the Islamic rulers' governance that made the rajas, the raos, etc. seem preferable. This was particularly true among the independent and fractious Rajputs as well as the fiercely independent, Dravidian south. The coexistence between the two religious groups was often tempestuous. Numerous Afghani, Turkic and Persian rulers were aware that they were in the distinct minority i.e. Akbar the Great and his great-grandson Aurangzeb one tolerate to a fault, the other a narrow-minded, conservative bigot.
Ghazni in present-day Afghanistan was rules by the newly created Sultan Sabuktigin (r. CE 977-97), (see Appendix D), a Yamanid. He was the son of Aptigin (r. CE 962-63) a Turkish slave commander in the Ghazni sultanate. Sabuktigin invaded southward and claimed the area north of the Indus as part of his domain. The Yamanids of Ghazni, after their initial advance, pursued a policy of peace and appeasement. It was during the reign of the Zahid-ud-Dawlah Ibrahim (r. CE 1059-99) that the Ibrahim Shrine/Masjid (see Plate 1) at Bhadresvar and the large Masjid-i Jami (see Plate 5) of Ajmer were built in both instance both Turkic and Persian influences can be seen.
Prince Ghiyath-ud-Din-Mohammed II (r. CE 1163-1203) of the Ghauri Dynasty, defeated the weak Yamanid Sultan, Taj-ud-Dawlah Khusraw Malik, and claimed that part of India conquered by the Yamanid as his own as well as the title of Sultan. Towards the end of his reign Mohammed II had advanced as far as Delhi. His armies pressed even farther eastward. One general subdued Nalanda and Benares. It was during the reign of the last Ghauri Sultan, Shihab-ud-Din Mohammed III (r. CE 1173-1206), that the famed Quwwat-ul-Islam Masjid (see Plate 4) of Delhi was begun. After nearly eighty years in construction, it was to become the largest and most important mosque in northern India for quite time.
Qutb-ud-din Aibak, the occupier of Benares, after the assassination of Mohammed III, was nominated as the supreme commander. He assumed the title of sultan and made Delhi his capital. He therefore, became the first independent Islamic ruler of India and the first Sultan of Delhi (r. CE 1206-10). In northern India, until CE 1266 the Slave or Mamluk Sultans reigned. Some time at the end of Sultan Qutb-ud-din Aibak's life, or the beginning of the reign of Sultan Aram Shah (r. CE 1210-11), the second stage of the Quwwat-ul-Islam Masjid (see Plate 6) of Delhi was raised.
After the supplanting of the original Mamluk Dynasty; a little over fifty years saw two additional dynasties rise and fall i.e. the House of Balban (CE 1266-90) and the khalji (CE 1290-1320). These were turbulent years as one after the other jockeyed for power and the throne of the Sultanate. Assassinations were the coin of the day. Significantly, it was during the reigns of first three Khaljis i.e. Jalal-ud-din Firuz Khalji (r. CE 1290-96), Rukn-ud-din Ibrahim (II) (r. CE 1296) and 'Ala-ud-din Muhammad Khalji (r. CE 1296-1316) (see Appendix D)- that the Quwwat-ul-Islam Masjid (see Plate 8) was finished, reaching the size that is seen today.
Turkic and Afghani related Sultans again reigned in Delhi for little over centuries. First the Turkic Tughluq Dynasty. In CE 1320 Ghiyas-ud-din Tughluq Shah I (r. CE 1320-25) took commend of the government from the incompetent Khalji. His reign was short and relatively peaceful. However, Shah I and a young son were killed in an "accident" near Delhi when a pavilion mysteriously collapsed upon them cutting short the reign of the sultan. There followed his son. Muhammad Shah Tughluq, Shah II (r. CE 1325-51), a ruler of great villainy and ferocity. By the mind-fourteenth century, Firuz Shah Tughluq (r. CE 135-81) Ascended the throne and a series of building projects were begun, many of which were most important, historically. The Tughluqs reigned in Delhi until CE 1414. At the end of the fourteenth century, the Mongols under Qutb-ud-din Timur ibn Taragai (Timur the Lame aka Tamerlane) (r. CE 1380-1405) invaded northern India and broke the yoke of the Turkic Sultans. In their place the Afghani Sayyid Dynasty's (CE 1414-50) Khizir Khan Sayyid (r. CE 1414-21) was placed upon the throne. Soon the Afghani Lodi Dynast (CE 1451-1526) replaced them and they reigned until the Timurud Dynasty asserted their power in CE 1526 (see Appendix D).
As the Tughluq reigned in Delhi, the fourteenth century saw numerous and significant Mosques constructed throughout India. Among the most notable were the Masjid-i Jami (see Plate 10) at Cambay (CE 1325), the Masjid Begampuri (see Plate 15) of Delhi (C. CE 1325), the Jami' al-Kabir (see Plate 11) in Kayalpatnam (C. CE 1333), the Masjid Kalan (see Plate 17 of Delhi (C. CE 1351), the impressive Adina Masjid (see Plate 13) in Pandua (CE 1364), the Majestic Masjid-i Jami (see Plate 14) at Gulbarga (C. CE 1367), the Khirki Masjid (see Plate 18) of Delhi (C. CE 1375), and the important Masjid-i Jami (See Plate 19) of Srinagar (C. CE 1385).Similarly, the fifteen century with the Sayyids and Lodis in Delhi produced in India an equally impressive array of mosques the Atala Masjid (see Plate 20) of Jaunpur (C. CE 1408), the interesting Solah Khamba Masjid (see plate 24) at Bidar (C. CE 1424), the Rani Rupmati Masjid (see Plate 25), in Ahmedabed (C. CE 1430), the impressive Masjid-i Jami (see Plate 27) of Jaunpur (C. CE 1438), the Masjid-i Jami (see Plate 28) at Mandu (CE 1440), the dramatic Masjid-I Jami Sarkhej (see Plate 30) in Ahmedabad (CE 1451), and the large Masjid-i Jami (see Plate 32) of Campaner (C. CE 1485).
The brilliant Afghani-Mughal (Mongo) Zahir-ud-din Muhammad Babur, King of ferghana, also known as 'the Great Mughal" (r. CE 1526-30) pushed south from his small kingdom and defeated the Delhi Sultan Ibrahim Shah Lodi (II) (r. CE 1517-26), thus establishing one of the most spectacular and long lasting dynasties in Asia the Timurid or Mughal Dynasty (CE 1526-1876) (see Appendix D). A brief interruption the Suri Period (CE 1540-55) did little to tarnish this dynasty's lustre. His son Nasir-ud-din Humayun (r. CE 1530-40 and 1555-56) was the least successful of the early Mughals, however; in the end he prevailed. But, it was Jalal-ud-din Akbar the Great (r. CE1556-05), Nur-ud-din Jahangir (r. CE 1606-27) and Shihab-ud-din Shah (r. CE 1628-66) that stand out as great rulers and builders during this period.
Architecturally, the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries each saw a dominant figure Akbar the Great and Shah Jahan, respectively. That is not to say that Akbar's son and Shah Jahan's father, Jahangir was without merit, but he paled in comparison to his father and son. Jahangir's greatest monuments were the Tomb of Akbar at Sikandera and his own tomb in Lahore. Doubtless, Akbar had overseen the original plans for his tomb, it was left to jahangir to attend to the major of the construction.
The sixteenth and seventeenth centuries saw a plethora of great monuments. For example, there is the elaborate Safa Masjid (see Plate 37) at Ponda (C. CE 1550), Bijpur's Masjid-i jami (see Plate 38) )C. CE 1560), the monuments Badshahi Masjid (see Plate 39) of Fatehpur Sikri, the elegant Ali Shanid Pir Masjid (See Plate 41) (C. CE 1600) and the Strange Anda Masjid ( see Plate 42) (CE 1608) both in Bijpur, the Masjid Wazir Khan (see Plate 46) of Lahore (CE 1634), Shajahanabad's Sublime Pearl Mosque (see Plate 47) (C. CE 1639), the Masjid-i Nagina (see Plate 45) of Lal Qila, Agra (C. CE 1628), the Truly monumental Masjid-i Jami (see Plate 48) of Delhi (C. CE 1644) the largest in India, and the grand Masjid Badshahi (se Plate 54) in Lahore (CE 1673).
Along with the impressive and great monuments noted above, there are myriad example of masjid constructed by men of far less financial resources and/or power than the rulers. Many of these may be found along the Malabar and Coromandel coasts in port cities inhabited by merchants and traders. Many of these businessmen had immigrated to these rich ports from the Islamic centres to the west and north while others were indigenous, sons of the soil i.e. bhumiputras. They constructed modest structures for the local faithful as well as for their shafa'a.
The Solahkhambi Masjid (see Plate 2) at Bhdreshvar (C. CE 1166), the Ahmad Nainar Masjid (see Plate 12) of Kayalpatnam (C. CE 1350), Qadiriya Masjid (see Plate 29) also at Kayalpatnam (C. CE 1450), and the elaborate Safa Masjid (see Plate 37) of Ponda (C CE 1550) are but a few examples of masjid raised by local entrepreneurs. They may be far less ostentatious, but, nonetheless, important as they offer the other side of the coin.
Islam may have a religion that was imposed or insinuated itself into upon the Hindu/Jain/Buddhist fabric of India. Without exception, the Sultans of Delhi, Ahmednagar, Baroda, Berar, Bidar, Bijpur, Golconda, jaunpur, Kashmir, Malwar, and of course the Mughals were first Islamic, but secondly sons of another soil, another land. Initially they were either Turkic, Persian or Afghani. The last Mughal, siraz-ud-din Bahadur Shah II (r. CE 1857-76), could trace his ancestry back to Badur and even claim descendence from Genghis Khan and Tamerlane, but one-hundred-fifty years since the Great Mughals had diluted the energy and through intermarrige had made this last Emperor of India, less Mughal than Indian. However, whether imposed or insinuated, the Islamic faith provides some of the most spectacular architectural monuments of that vast subcontinent, Mother India.
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