Read this article to learn about the Mosques in India: 15 Ancient Mosques in India!
1. Ajmer Mosque (Arhai-Din-Ka-Jhompra), Ajmer, 1205 C.E:
Another important structure attributed to Qutb-ud-din is the mosque at Ajmer situated in Rajasthan state. In Hindi language Arhai din ka Jhompra means Hut of 2 ½ days. It is believed to have been built in 2 ½ days. The edifice was originally a Sanskrit college once.
The construction of this mosque began in 1200 C.E. The same course of action, which was taken in Delhi for constructing Qutb mosque, was followed here by dismantling some temples in the surroundings and rebuilding them to make the mosque. This is a very large mosque occupying twice the area occupied by Qutb mosque.
It is designed on the same principle of having a central open courtyard surrounded by pillared cloisters. Three of the Hindu temple pillars were placed one above the other to get the desired height of 6 metres from the pavement. Roof is plain. Pillars show fine ornamentation of Hindu and Jain temple pillars. The sanctuary hall gives the appearance of a Hindu temple mandapa with decorated pillars.
As was done at Kuwwat-ul-Islam mosque at Delhi, here also an arched wall screen was added across the front of the sanctuary. Shams-ud-din Altumush, the son in law of Qutb-ud-din added this wall screen. This is a fine work of art with seven arches extending over a width of 61 metres.
The central arch was raised more higher than the side arches, thus making an emphasizing central rectangle. It rises to some 17 metres high and its thickness is 3.6 metres. There are no upper storey arches.
Above the parapet over the central archway are fluted minarets one on each side. The lines of the main arch are gentle and less curved and the four side arches are of multifold pointed variety, first ever produced in India. The surface of the wall is decorated with patterns of stylized and mechanical order.
The small rectangular panels and solid circular projections in the spandrels are giving relief and beauty to the arches. As a whole the arched screen is a work of great elegance and dignity.
2. Khirki Masjid, Delhi, 1380 C.E:
This was built by Prime Minister Khan i Jahan Tilangani during the reign of Firuz shah Tughlaq in 1380 C.E. The word Khirki means window in Urdu language. The mosque has perforated stone windows and hence named as Khirki masjid.
The mosque is unusual in its design and was built in two storeys like a fort and the upper floor is the mosque. It measures 52 metres square in plan and raised on a high plinth of 3 metres in which some cells were made on outer ring.
It is a blend of Hindu and Islam architectural features and the central court was covered by crossing corridors making the court divided into four courts each measuring 9.4 metres square. Inside it was encircled by arcades and has 180 square columns and 60 pilasters.
Outside there are bastion towers at corners and three protruding gateways having two tapering turrets one on each side. It was built in red sandstone rubble masonry and was plaster finished. Square plan was divided into 25 bays and 9 bays have 9 small domes in each. Main gate on east leads to central Mihrab. Mosque appears like fort by the bastion towers.
Some part of the roof was collapsed and was in neglected condition.
3. Adina Masjid, Pandua, 1364 C.E.:
Adina masjid is located some 20 kilometres north of Malda town in West Bengal state built by Sikandar Shah of Ilyas dynasty. It was mostly ruined in earthquakes. This is one of the largest mosques in India. The design of this mosque is based on 8th century mosque of Damascus. Carved Basalt masonry stones obtained from earlier Hindu temples were used in building this mosque. This was built by Sikander shah II, Sultan of Ilyas dynasty.
It is a large mosque measuring externally 155 metres long and 87 metres wide. This is planned on conventional mosque design with a large open courtyard in the centre measuring 130 metres by 43 metres. This is enclosed by ranges of pillared aisles, five bays on the western or sanctuary side and three bays on the other sides consisting of 260 pillars in all.
The expansive Quadrangular courtyard shows endless archways many of them had fallen. Surrounding the courtyard are continuous ranges of arches numbering to 88 surmounted by parapet up to 6.7 metres high from the ground. Each bay was carrying a cupola numbering to a total of 387 in all.
A fine lofty gateway in the middle of eastern side to this large impressive mosque would have been better. But in an unusual manner these arches are opened outside. It may be to serve the purpose of using it as Baradari. Three other small doorways are provided in the western wall in the sanctuary in northwest corner and two of these lead to upper storey.
Sanctuary is divided into central nave and side aisles of 5 bays. The nave is the most impressive portion of the mosque containing no pillars inside. It is a large hall measuring 21 metres by 10 metres and the height from the pavement to the ridge of the roof is 15 metres.
On each side on north and south there are tall pointed arches giving access into the bays of aisles, showing the perspective row of piers. The nave is now roofless. The huge brick vault over the nave might have collapsed due to its heavy weight. The front screen of the nave also is disappeared now. Nave still retains some of its appearance.
The treatment of the western wall is exceptional. It shows a Mihrab in the center and a supplementary one on one side and contains a minbar or pulpit on other side. The central Mihrab is in the form of a trefoil arched alcove set within a rectangular frame delicately inscribed with arabesques.
This is the earlier mosque in India to have upper floor for its use by royals and women as a private worshiping hall. In the ground storey the pillars took the form of piers, abnormally thick, short and square surmounted by massive bracket capitals. The upper storey pillars are graceful fluted shafts with expanding lotus capitals, removed from the same pre-existing Hindu structure. Within the royal chapel in the western wall, 32 alcoves (Miharbs) have been sunk, each one opposite the centre of each bay. These are exquisitely designed and ornamented.
Both materials of stone and brick were used in construction. The substructure was built with basalt stone brought from pre-existing temples of Lakhnauti. The arches, domes and upper parts were built in brick.
4. Atala Masjid, Jaunpur, 1408 C.E:
Atala masjid was built on the site of a Hindu temple of Atala devi at Jaunpur during 1408 C.E. Hence its name came as Atala masjid. The stone materials of Atala Devi temple and other nearby temples were utilized in the construction of this mosque.
The mosque plan is as per the convention with a central large open courtyard of 54 metres square. There are cloisters on three sides and the sanctuary on western side. The cloisters are five aisled and are spacious with a breadth of 13 metres rising up to two storeys.
The two aisles of the lower storey are separated for its use as Baradari consisting a row of cells and a pillared verandah facing outside to the street to provide accommodation to visitors, pilgrims and others.
In the middle of each of three sides and interrupting the cloisters are impressive structures forming gateways. The two on north and south are prominent and the domes surmount them.
The sanctuary is the most striking structure of the mosque. This occupies the whole width on western side. The sanctuary has its nave and the aisles. The nave is a rectangular hall of 11 metres by 9 metres with pillared transepts on either side. The nave has three stages vertically.
The lowest one is a compartment containing three Mihrabs and a high pulpit with steps on western side. The nave is flanked by transepts on both sides by arched openings.
Above this, the second stage has eight decorated arches, four of which are squinch arches at angles changing the square to an octagon. Light is admitted through perforated screens fitted in these arches.
The third or uppermost storey is converted into a sixteen-sided form by means of brackets fitted in each corner. At the top, it is roofed by a hemispherical dome. The dome at 17 metres high is placed over this drum. The centre of the transepts opened into an octagonal bay roofed by a smaller dome.
The end transepts are two storeyed. The upper storey was enclosed by perforated stone screens reserved for Zenana (Women’s chamber). Many of the elements like recessed arch with its fringe ornamentation, the shape of the arch and the sloping side of its supports were derived from the buildings of Tughlaqs of Delhi. The arch is absolutely simple and it is just a straight line and a gentle curve and there is no ogee curve at top.
The sanctuary façade has most prominent features like pylons- a larger one in the center and two smaller ones on sides. The main pylon is a commanding structure with sloping sides recalling Dravidian temple Gopurams and the pylons of Egyptian temples.
Its height is 23 metres and width at the base is 17 metres. This pylon contained a great arched recess of 3.3 metres deep and contains the entrances to the nave. This also has arcaded window openings on its top.
Similar pylons in a smaller scale are repeated on either side to the transepts. These pylons are the most striking features of this mosque with their recesses, projections, solids and voids well-disposed and catching strong light and dark shadows.
Solid Rear Side:
The rear sidewall on west side shows plain wall with no openings and has three projections. At each corner of these projections tapering turrets were added. The rear side shows the solid parts like retaining walls, turrets and domes and had no voids and arches.
5. Lal Darwaza Masjid, Jaunpur, 1450 C.E:
Lal Darwaza mosque (Red Door mosque) was built around 1450AD. It is a royal mosque within the palace. This was planned and executed by Bibi Raja, the Queen of Mahmud shah. The approach to the mosque is through a distinctive high gate painted in red colour, hence its name as Lal Darwaza. The mosque is a simplified version of Atala masjid, Jaunpur and about two-thirds in size.
This mosque is of conventional design with an open court of 40 metres square. In its interior, Zenana is placed adjoining the nave in the upper floor enclosed with stone grill screens. Here Zenana means a secluded area or a chamber for women. The influence of the Queen Lady worked out here in this Jaunpur mosque. The religious needs of women were taken into consideration and given special attention.
The largest and ambitious mosque of Jaunpur is the Jama masjid constructed about 1470 C.E during the reign of Hussain shah. He was the last king of Sharqi dynasty. This is more similar to Atala Masjid in its design and other features. The entire structure was raised on a large terrace to some 4.80 to 6 metres above its surroundings to give impressive elevated appearance. Its entrances are approached by steep flight of steps.
The cloisters surrounding the courtyard are two storeys in height. They are only two aisles in width, unlike the five-aisle width of Atala masjid. In the middle of each side is an entrance hall, each with a dome over. In the western end of the quadrangle the great pylon raises high giving access into the sanctuary. It is 26 metres high and 23 metres wide at its base. On each side of this pylon are the arcaded aisles (transepts). A vaulted roof covered these two large halls.
The nave of the sanctuary is 11.6 metres in square designed in the same lines of Atala masjid. But here the clerestory arcade is open in order to light the inside of the dome. The central hall is flanked by aisles (transepts) on its both sides connected by arched openings. These transepts contain spacious hall on its upper floor, which is the private chapel for the royal family ladies (Zenana).
Each hall measures 15 metres long, 12 metres wide and 14 metrs high having openings filled with perforated stone grilles, opening into the courtyard. The spacious halls are skillfully designed and daringly built with no support obstructions within the halls. There are three mihrabs in the opposite wall on west side.
The roof of nave of sanctuary is a pointed vault. This is unique in its design. Construction of such large interior space with no supporting interruptions is rare and uncommon. Similar attempt was done in the nave of the Adina mosque at Pandua, Bengal a century ago, which was built in brick but has fallen. And in Jama Masjid of Jaunpur the great vaults are still intact. This is due to the sound and scientific method employed in construction.
For achieving this, along the 12 metres width, four pointed arches or ribs consisting of two transverse ribs in the middle were laid. This system has become permanent centering. On this the flat stones are filled on the back of the ribs. This formed a solid stone shell of large blocks. To counteract the heavy outward thrust, the exterior walls were built strong and solid of some 3 metres thick.
The façade design and the pylons of Jama masjid, Jaunpur is undoubtedly remarkable in its design and style. The pillars of the mosque are square monolithic shafts with a moulded band across the middle. Similar band forms the capital above, from which the brackets spring.
The building art of Jaunpur came to an end with this Jama Masjid. This independent state was absorbed into the kingdom of Lodi Sultans of Delhi at the end of 15th century.
i. Khalis Mukhlis mosque, Jaunpur, 1430 C.E
ii. Jahangiri mosque, Jaunpur, 1430 C.E
7. Jama Masjid, Cambay, 1325 C.E:
This was built at ancient seaport town of Cambay about the year 1325 AD. The mosque has an arched screen in front of its sanctuary as was built in Qutb mosque, Delhi and Arhai-din-ka Jhompa mosque at Ajmer. As Gujarat province was under the rule of Khalji dynasty kings, hence the structures built here had the influence of contemporary Delhi architecture.
Hence, this Jama masjid building is similar to the buildings built during Khalji dynasty at Delhi. Group of artisans who were working in building construction at Delhi were recruited to work with indigenous builders at Cambay.
The foliated arch is a modified variant of arch containing spear heads hanging from the intrados of arch. This became more prominent in the architecture of Gujarat. The sanctuary façade has three arches of horseshoe type with wider and higher opening in the center. The arched openings were fitted in a projected rectangular frame, which is common in most instances. The remainder of the scheme is usual.
Jama masjid Ahmedabad was built during the reign of Bahmani ruler Ahmed shah I, completed in 1423 C.E. The mosque design was considered as perfect and complete in Western India. It is conventional in its design containing central open court, sanctuary on west and cloisters on three sides. The central court measures 78 metres long and 67 metres wide.
The sanctuary has its nave and aisles. The nave is a hypostyle hall of 64 metres long by 29 metres deep and consists of some 300 tall slender pillars, closely set, that the distance between the pillars is less than 1.5 metres. Whereas the naves of Adina masjid, Pandua, West Bengal and the mosque of Jaunpur are spacious halls containing no pillars inside. There are 15 square bays each covered by a dome. The central nave rises to three storeys, the side aisles into two storeys, while the remainder is one storey in height.
The nave contains two pillared galleries one above the other. These galleries enclose a central open area extended to top, called here as ‘rotunda’. The lower gallery is square and the upper octagonal. A dome covers this rotunda on top. At each stage is a platform with a balcony overlooking the rotunda and provided with Asana (sloping seat backs) in the manner as built in temples.
Around the exterior of these galleries are pillared verandahs. These galleries are enclosed by perforated stone screens in between pillars for ventilation. The same design of the galleries is repeated in the transepts, but one storey less than the central nave. The increased height and better ventilation with an upward sweep was artistically solved in the sanctuary.
The arches excel in their beauty with their fine curves. The pillars, beams, bracket capitals and interior show the workmanship of indigenous temple builders.
The whole architectural effect is concentrated in its sanctuary.
Especially there are two different conventions in the façade:
i. The screen of arches placed in the center.
ii. The pillared portico placed on the wings.
The volume of sanctuary wall was well relieved by the skillful adjustment of deep vault arched recesses, buttresses, simple pillared porticos at both ends and geometrical decorative inscriptions. The façade is superb in composition of solids and voids and it has three main arched openings. The large central archway supported by the richly moulded buttresses of minarets, the upper parts of which are now disappeared.
The graceful curves of arches against inner dark background, interplay of light and shade in the front columns, the slender shafts, the fanciful engrailed arches all superbly composed giving a perfect composition and beauty. The transepts at the far end are simple pillared porticos containing five arches on each side.
The Jama masjid, Champaner is within the citadel at Champaner. Champaner was the capital city captured by sultan Mahmud Begarha from the Hindu king Jaysingh Patai Rawal in 1484 C.E. Champaner is situated some 117 kilometres southeast of Ahmedabad. These monuments are now UNESCO’s world heritage site.
In plan and general arrangements, the mosque is more similar to Jama Masjid, Ahmedabad, built some 60 years before. The size of the mosque is about three fourth of the area of Jama Masjid of Ahmedabad. The mosque measures a rectangle of 82 metres by 55 metres and the sanctuary occupied less than half of this area. The courtyard is surrounded by cloisters only one aisle deep.
The sanctuary is a pillared hall measuring 82 metres across and 40 metres deep and containing 176 pillars. The pillars of the sanctuary are soft in their design than the pillars of Ahmedabad mosque. The nave is in three storeys and there is a mezzanine gallery for the zenana at the northern end.
The sanctuary façade contains five pointed archways with two slender minarets on each side of the larger central opening. These towers are well ornamented at the bottom level and the remaining top five stages are left unadorned. The front screen is rather more enclosed and the walls are plain and unadorned.
There are prominent oriel windows one above the central archway, and one each by the side of two minarets. These projecting windows supported at the bottom by a row of brackets. The oriel windows are the charming features of buildings of Gujarat and Rajasthan, whether they belong to Hindus, Jains or Islams.
Similar to Jama masjid of Ahmedabad, here also the rotunda is carried up and roofed by a dome. Stairs in the minarets provide access to each upper floor. The first floor is continuous with wide terraces and with rotunda opening in the centre of the nave. The second floor is a pillared gallery with the oriel window above the main arch of the façade. The balcony in this floor is octagonal with ribbed and richly fretted dome rising on pillars immediately above this storey. Around these balconies are the sloping seat backs of stone.
Gujarat craftsmen have well executed these buildings in every feature. The pillars, arches and other decorative elements in these mosques of Ahmedabad and Champaner are unique, indigenous and appreciable.
10. Jama Masjid, Mandu, 1440 C.E:
Jama masjid, Mandu is a large and most impressive congregational mosque begun by Hushang Shah Ghuri and completed by sultan Mahmud Shah Khalji-I about the year 1440 AD. The mosque has exceptional features.
The mosque covered a spacious square area of 88 metres side. On eastern side it is prolonged by 30 metres forming an entrance hall roofed by a dome approached by wide flight of steps. Two subsidiary entrances on north side are one for priesthood and the other a private doorway for Zenana. Both are elegant in their features.
The design of mosque is conventional containing a central open courtyard and surrounding cloisters. Arched cloisters surround on all sides of the open courtyard 49 metres square with eleven openings on each side.
The north and south side aisles are three aisles deep and that on the east has two aisles. On the west it was elaborated into a sanctuary of five aisles making it spacious. The sanctuary carries three large domes. All other bays carry cylindrical cupolas each one placed over each bay, numbering to 158 in all. There are no minarets in the mosque.
The interior of the sanctuary and the colonnades produced stately appearance by the repeating arcades of arches. The pointed arches are plain and simple. There are 17 Mihrabs at regular intervals decorated with Hindu delicate patterns and carvings in black polished stone. The Minbar has a chatri (kiosk) having ‘S’ shaped brackets richly ornamented. The architectural effect is simple, broad with graceful lines, curves and planes.
The wall surfaces are unadorned. It may not be the intention of the builders to leave the surfaces unadorned, as it is often the common practice of artisans, builders and the rulers showing much desire in exquisite decoration, carvings and ornamentation. But the simple unadorned surfaces, graceful lines and simple curves are showing modern beauty to the architects of today and fitted into order of this day.
The exterior is relatively plain and simple. The building is raised on a high plinth and the arcaded chambers of the basement are used as a Sarai. The gatehouse still retains some of the coloured borders and panels in glazed tiles.
11. Jama Masjid, Gulbarga, 1367 C.E:
This is a rare mosque in India having no usual central open courtyard. The whole structure was covered by a roof. The design is not as per custom. This was built under the direction of a hereditary architect named Rafi from north Persia. The building was finished in plaster.
It measures 66 metres by 54 metres in plan. The central area was filled by rows of 68 bays each roofed by a cupola. Around three sides of the central rectangle are wide cloisters. On western side is the sanctuary.
The sanctuary contains spacious nave roofed by a high dome. The main dome was mounted on a lofty square clerestory with additional height. The same type of domes were repeated at corners to a smaller scale. The dome over the nave was supported on a clerestory by means of squinch arches of graceful foliated type.
The design of the cloisters is remarkable, as they are not the usual multi aisled type with number of rows of pillars. But here it is only one row of an archway of extremely wide span supported on lower height posts.
The interior opens into square bays after passing through the receding arches. The interior has solid piers, vaulted ceilings and plain plastered surfaces with solemn dignity. The surfaces are absolutely plain without any decorations, bands, inscriptions or so. The construction is bold and daring in its abnormally wide arcades of cloisters.
Though the covering of the central court in a mosque presents advantages in having a large central hall, but it was never practiced. The main reason is that the design is unorthodox and is not in accordance with tradition.
The exterior of this mosque shows plain solid surfaces marked by dark shadowed archways in the enclosing walls. The stilted dome on a sub-structure has light and aerial effect by its fine proportions. The main entrance to this mosque is not on eastern side as per convention, but it is in the center of northern side.
The earliest monument of Bijapur is the Jama Masjid built by Ali shah I. This is considered as fine and classical example. But the building was not completed. It lacks two minars to flank the front of its eastern entrance and the ornamental merlons above the parapet surrounding the courtyard are missing. Even with these omissions, the mosque presents an imposing appearance. This is a large structure occupying a rectangle of 137 metres by 69 metres.
The internal courtyard is a square of 47 metres side, which contains superb range of arches on its three sides, seven on each side. The middle arch on sanctuary side was emphasized by foliations to make it prominent from others. Over these arches projects a wide and deep cornice supported on closely set brackets.
The sanctuary hall is spacious and impressive. It consists of large hall 63 metres by 33 metres divided into five aisles by means of arches supported on masonry piers.
The nave is a square compartment of 23 metres side and contained 12 arches, three on each side. The beauty of the interior was an outcome of structural and architectural order, mainly the intersection of arches.
The square shape was converted into an octagon and then into a circle by means of intersection of arches to place the dome over the nave. The arches intersect above producing an octagon to support the dome above. The bays of the aisles are square and the roof was built on the same principle of the nave, modified to suit to its small size.
The masonry surfaces are simple and plastered. There are inscriptions from holy Quran in gold on the walls of sanctuary.
The nave of the sanctuary rose into a square arcaded clerestory supporting a great dome and the parapet above is of refined merlons. Above this, a hemispherical dome was placed. It has bold foliations at its juncture with the drum. Its apex is a massive metal finial crowned by the symbol of a crescent.
The exterior presents two rows of arcades within the walls, one above the other. The lower is merely ornamental, and the upper row opens into an arched corridor. As a whole the mosque is a good example of architectural dignity.
13. Jama Masjid, Delhi, 1644 to 1658 C.E:
A notable structure built by Shahjahan is the Jama masjid built in Delhi. This is a congregational mosque occupying a large site outside Delhi fort in southwest side to the fort. This is one of the large mosque buildings in the country. On account of its size and scale, the mosque holds a high place.
As usual adhering to the traditional form, the mosque was raised on a high plinth. Three noble gateways approached by flights of steps had added dignity and height to the structure. North and south gateways are made for entry to public and that on the east reserved as royal entrance. Within these are the cloisters and the quadrangle measuring 99 metres side. The quadrangle is an open place with square tank in the middle for ablutions.
The sanctuary is a great hall divided into bays by massive piers supporting engrailed arches. There are elegant arched Mihrabs sunk in each bay in the western wall. The architectural decoration was set in matching with its large dimensions.
The sanctuary on western side is an imposing structure of red sandstone. It measures 61 metres in breadth and 27 metres in depth. Its exterior presents a wide central archway flanked by an arcade of ten engrailed arches, five on each side of the wings. These wings terminate at the end by a tall minaret of four stages.
Over the sanctuary rise three bulbous domes of white marble, the central one being larger than others on the wings. The white domes are made more prominent by means of inlaid black upward lines, first of its kind of application in India.
The Moti Masjid was added in the fort at Delhi in 1662 C.E by Aurangzeb as royal mosque. This contains sanctuary prayer hall built in polished white marble. There are three cupolas over the sanctuary with a larger one in the center, the contours of which are more curved. Metal finial takes place over these cupolas.
This large mosque is conventional and was built in 1674 C.E. It has more minarets than usual, one at each corner of the mosque enclosure and other smaller ones at each angle of the sanctuary, making them eight in total. Its sanctuary is designed much similar to Jama masjid of Delhi.
The facade contains a large central alcove in the centre with five arches in each wing. Three bulbous domes rise over the sanctuary. The mosque reveals the character of much of the strength and solidity.