Chapter 9

Mughal India, Pakistan, and China

1220 - 1858

Kondugallur, Kerala
Cheraman Perumal Juma Masjid

Malik Ibn Dinar

Malik Ibn Dinar left us a small mosque resembling the "palm hut of the Prophet" but of no other architectural interest.
The Cheraman Perumal Juma Masjid after a recent up-grading.

A not entirely fantastic lore persists in the Indian Islamic community that one of the earliest Muslem settlements was founded in 625 at Kondugallur/Cochin in Kerala - India!
It appears that Kondugallur has a history (see Wikipedia for a poorly written article). It was known as Muziris to Pliny the Elder (23 –79 AD) who describes it as
primum emporium Indiae. The Greek explorer, Hippalus (1st cent BC), the discoverer of the monsoon trade winds, described this port. Roman coins have been found here in 2000.
Apparently in the 1st cent BC a small community of Jewish traders existed in Kondugallur, and there are conjectures of a much earlier presence of Jewish traders on the Malabar Coast.
So, the "legend" that Malik Ibn Dinar landed here in 625 with 20 Muselmans and built the second earliest mosque after Medina is not entirely without merit. Moreover a search of a few kilometers from the Juma Masjid produces another find: the oldest Christian settlement (52) outside of Palestine! There exist a church at Kondugallur in which St. Thomas, the Syrian founder of the Christian community is buried !

The thorough Islamisation of India started only in the late 12th cent with the invasion of the Ghorids from Khorasan. A sequence of Islamic rulers summarily refered to as the Delhi Sultantes followed in Northern India (1205-1525) which in 1526 were suceeded by the Moghuls who ruled until 1858.

The Delhi Sultanates

During the last quarter of the 12th century, Muhammad of Ghor invaded Northern India, conquering in succession Ghazni, Multan, Sindh, Lahore, and Delhi. Qutb-ud-din Aybak, one of his generals proclaimed himself Sultan of Delhi and established the first dynasty of the Delhi Sultanate, the Mamluk dynasty after Muhammad Ghori's death (1206-1290). Thereafter several Turkish and Afghan dynasties ruled from Delhi: the Khilji dynasty (1290-1320), the Tughlaq dynasty (1320-1413), the Sayyid dynasty (1414-51), and the Lodhi dynasty (1451-1526). In 1526 the Delhi Sultanate was absorbed by the emerging Mughal Empire.
Perhaps the greatest contribution of the Sultanate was its temporary success in insulating the subcontinent from the potential devastation of the Mongol invasion from Central Asia in the 13th century. The Sultanate ushered in a period of Indian cultural renaissance. The resulting "Indo-Muslim" fusion left lasting monuments in architecture, music, literature, and religion. From Wikipedia.

Delhi, India
Mosque of Qutb al-Din Aibak

1197-1199, 1305

Ruins of Qutb Mosque and the Minar.

Quwwatu'l Islam, or 'the might of Islam' also known as Qutb Mosque, was the first mosque in Muslim Delhi, built by Qutb-ud-din Aibak, its first sultan. The mosque and its complex of associated buildings, including extensions, the Qutb Minar, several tombs, a gate, and other monuments, were built in the heart of the occupied Rajput citadel, on the ruins of twenty-seven Hindu and Jain temples. The enclosure was subsequently enlarged northwards by Qutb-ud-din's successor, Shams-ud-din Ilutmish (reigned 1211-36) and Ala-ud-din Khalji (reigned 1296-1316). (Text (Photo Navin Bhatt, Panoramio)

Khalji also added a gateway in the southeast, known as the Alai Darwaza. This richly decorated gate is renowned for its composition, and for being the first use of the red sandstone and white marble juxtaposition, soon to become a favorite facing device. (Photo by Arturo García, Panoramio)

The original mosque was built using the components of the Hindu temples it replaced. Columns intricately carved with Hindu motifs were used intact. (Photo Arturo García, Panoramio)

Ajmer, Rajastan
Ardhai-din-ka Jhompra Masjid


The construction of the mosque is attributed to Qutb al-Din Aibak (1206-1210) The original mosque is thought to have been of modest proportions. The current form of the mosque is the result of the additions made between 1220 and 1229 by Shams al-Din Iltutmish (1211-1236). The mosque is made of yellow sandstone and many of the building materials are the spoils of razed Hindu and Jain temples. (Photo SINHA, Panoramio)

Pandua, Bengal
Adina Masjid


In 1353 AD, Haji Shamsuddin Ilyas, the first independent nawab of Bengal, transferred his capital from the nearby (and now ruined) town of Gaur (32 km from Pandua) to Pandua. However, Pandua's glory was shortlived. In 1453 AD, the capital was transferred back to Gaur. Pandua's only celebrated building is the Adina Mosque.

Built by Sikandar Shah, the second sultan of the Ilyas dynasty, the Adina mosque is the only hypostyle mosque in Bengal. Similar in plan to the Great Mosque of Damascus, it is a rectangular, hypostyle structure, with an open central courtyard.
A series of secondary mihrabs runs along the whole western wall. In total, the 39 mihrabs, the minbar and other ornamentations are rigorously Islamic in their general conception but Hindu in almost all the details: small scalloped columns and plinths in the shape of lotus flowers, corbels, trilobate arches each with its sharp end cuspidated with a vase of flowers, volutes representing leaves, rhomboid lozenges and friezes of lotus petals. Along with the Hindu motifs, the interior of the mihrab niche is divided into panels containing the Islamic motif of the 'hanging lamp' commonly used in Bengal and is thought to be the visual representation of the Surah "Al-Nur", the light. (Text and photos from

Triple-aisled south cloister viewed from southeastern corner of mosque

Interior columns

Central nave and main mihrab. The barrel vault has collapsed

One of the mihrab naves with "lamp" motif decorations.

Srinagar, Kashmir
Shah-e-Hamadan Mosque


View from the Jelum River

This mosque is an excellent example of indigenous wood architecture that draws inspiration from Buddhist, Hindu and Islamic architecture. Constructed by Sultan Sikandar and dedicated to the memory of Mir Sayyid Ali Hamdani, a Muslim saint from Hamadan, Persia, this mosque also serves as a khankah.
Ravaged by fire in 1480, it was reconstructed and expanded by Sultan Hassan Shah. In 1493 it was demolished and rebuilt as a two-story structure. Again in 1731 fire destroyed the mosque; Abul Barkat Khan reconstructed it. (Text and photos from

Main entrance to Mosque

Ahmedabad, Gujarat
Jamii Masjid


Built in 1424 by Bhamani ruler Ahmad Shah I (1411-1442), the Jami Masjid of Ahmedabad was probably the largest mosque constructed on the Indian subcontinent at the time. Conceived as a part of the emperor's grandiose urban vision, the mosque lies to the south of a royal processional way that travels eastward from the Maidan-i Shah and the triple gateway known as Teen Darwaza. The central nave rises up to three stories in height and is overlooked by balconies from the central gallery enclosed by perforated screens. (Text and photos from

Columns in the prayer hall

Interior view of the prayer hall from gallery level

Mughal India

Zahir ud-Din Mohammad, commonly known as Babur (1483 – 1530), was a Timurid Chaghatay (half Mogolian - half Turk) and a grandson of Timur Tamerlane. In a series of wars and political maneuvers - aptly described in Wikipedia - Babur conquered Delhi and succeeded in laying the basis for the Mughal Empir. He became the first leader of one of India's most important empires lasting until the British conquest of the country in 1858.

Delhi, India
Mausoleum of Humayun


Humayun's tomb is the first example of the monumental architecture that would characterize the subsequent Mughal imperial style. Commissioned by Humayun's senior widow, Haji Begam the tomb is the first grave of a Mughal emperor. Humayun's father Babur, who founded the dynasty, had requested out of piety that he be buried in a garden. Humayun's Tomb is now one of the best-preserved Mughal monuments in Delhi.

The tomb design is attributed to Sayyid Muhammad and his father, Mirak Sayyid Ghiyath (Mirak Mirza Ghiyas), Persian architects and poets active at the Timurid and later the Mughal courts. (Text and photos from

Cross-section showing the double-shell dome. See the Mausoleum of Il-Khan Öljeitü 1307-1313 in Sultaniyya

Fatehpur Sikri, Rajesthan
Shayk Salim Chishti Tomb, Friday Mosque Complex


Fatephur Sikri, the abandoned city of Emperor Akhbar's dreams, is the most magnificent complex of Moghul India. It has an unusual foundation history

Shaikh Salim, a Chishti Sufi who lived in the village of Sikri came to imperial notice when he correctly predicted the birth of Akbar's son Jahangir. It was to honor this saint that Akbar, in 1571, established the palatial-religious complex of Fatehpur Sikri on the site of Shaikh Salim's village, making it his capital. The tomb of Shaikh Salim is of white marble, and sits in an enclosure with a pool. The entrance porch is held up by unusual, serpant-like supports. A verandah enclosed by a finely carved perforated screen surrounds the main tomb hall. At its center is the cenotaph, sheltered by a canopy decorated with mother-of-pearl. A wide marble dome covers the structure. (Text and photos from

One of the ornamental posts of the porch imitating wood carvings in marble.

Fatehpur Sikri, Rajasthan
Jami Masjid


The mosque, known as the 'Glory of Fatehpur Sikri', on the western side of the religious and palatial complex of the city, was built by Akbar to honor Shaikh Salim, the Chishti saint. It was the largest mosque of the Mughal Empire in its time. The main entrance into its large courtyard is through the Buland Darwaza, an enormous monumental gate. A large pistaq, a type of high arched gate of Timurid origins, leads into the main prayer hall, which is finished in red sandstone and white inlay. Paint and gilt add to the intricate ornamentation. Flanking the main hall are large, pillared side wings. (Text and photos from

View from afar

Exerior view from the east showing the arched entryway and colonnade.

Detail of one of  the marble screens

Fatehpur Sikri, Rajesthan
Jodh Bai Palace

16th cen

Also known as "Shabistan-I-Iqbal" (Principal Haram Saray), it is the largest and most important zenana, or palace for the imperial women. Baths and latrines project to the south, a viaduct and splendid balcony, to the north. It has but one entrance facing east across a wide paved courtyard. It used to be connected to the Emperor's Daulat Khana, which was destroyed. (Text and photo from

Agra, India
Taj Mahal


The Taj Mahal mausoleum was built by Shah Jahan in memory of his favorite wife Arjumand Banu Begam, better known by her title Mumtaz Mahal (d.1631), from which the name of the monument is taken. The pinnacle of classical Indo-Persian architecture, the Taj Mahal is representative of Shah Jahan's interest in building and aesthetic innovation. The new architectural style includes aspects that were to influence much of subsequent Indian architecture: Symmetry along two sides of a central axis, new columnar styles, curvilinear forms, and symbolic decorations based on naturalistic plant motifs are all characteristics of the Shahjahani style that can be found in the Taj Mahal Complex. To the mausoleum's west stands a triple-domed red sandstone mosque, and to its east the mosque's jawab or compositional echo.

The Taj Mahal from Jamuna River backside and the two symmetrical mosques, which are usually cut out of the standard pictures.

The Mosque in a photo by Jørgen K H Knudsen, Panoramio

And finally one of the best of the frontal views among the Panoramio photos by BigMoe

Old Delhi, India
Masjid, Great Mosque

The Jami Mosque is the principal mosque of Shahjahanabad, or "Old Delhi", the seventh Muslim city on the Delhi site. The mosque, like the city, was founded by Shah Jahan, its building supervised by 'Allami Said Khan and Fazl Khan. It is one of the largest in India. (Photo ramses II, Panoramio)

Dehli from the minaret. (Photo by Richard Guy, Panoramio)

Pakistan 14-17th cent

Having expended all its artistic energies into Greco-Buddhist art, today's Pakistan floated in the backwaters of Khorasan until Mughal-Indian architecture reached it: A number of tombs of the late Timurid period in Multan and Dera Gazi attest to the 14th and 15th century. Lahore shines with the large, 17th-cent-Moghul Badshahi and the Wazir Khan Mosques.

Multan, Pakistan
Shah Rukn-i-'Alam Mausoleum

Architect Muhammad Wali Ullah Khan

Still subject to historical debate, the Mausoleum of the Suhrawardia saint Shaykh Rukn al-Din Abdul Fath is said to have been first built by Ghiyath al-Din Tughlaq (1320-1325) for himself, yet later dedicated to the saint by Firuz Shah Tughlaq (reg. 1351-1388) at the request of Shaykh Sadr al-Din Muhammad, his adopted son and spiritual successor.
Also known as the Rukn-i-Alam or the pillar of the world, the dome is second only to the Gol Gumbad in Bijapur, India. It is the most prominent feature of the Multani skyline. (Text and photos from

Dera Gazi Khan, Pakistan
Tomb of Khazi Khan


I did not find the exact location of this unusual tomb of a gazi, a hero of the holy war. (Photo from

Lahore, Pakistan
Badshahi Mosque

1673-1674, restored 1983

The Badshaahi Mosque was founded by Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb (1658-1707) and completed between 1673 and 1674. (Text and photos

The conservation work comprises the cladding of hujra façades with a veneer of red sandstone.

During restoration (1983)

Lahore, Pakistan
Wazir Khan Mosque


The mosque was founded by Hakim Ilmud Din Ansari, a distinguished physician from Chiniot who received the Ministerial title of 'Wazir Khan' under the reign of Shah Jahan, and was later promoted to the position of Viceroy of Punjab. (Text and photos from

One of the unique, painted minarets

Interior before restauration

In 1977 the mosque was extensively restored using local craftsmen and revived ancient techniques.

Islam in China

Islam in China usually evokes the mosques and tombs of Chinese Turkestan (Kashgar, Turfan). People who have seen more know of the Great Mosque in Xian, but few realize that remnants of one of the earliest (7th or more likely 9th cent) Islamic mosques is in Guangzhou (Canton).

Guangzhou, China
Huaisheng Great Mosque and minare
625 (?)

Manuscripts from 1206 (Mongol Yüan Dynasty!) claim that the mosque was built by an uncle of the Prophet, Abi Waqqas, on his first Muslim mission to China in the 630s, a date which is otherwise undocumented but would make it one of the earliest mosques in Islam. Modern specialists believe it was built in the 10th cent during the Song or Tang Dynasty. Anyway, the mosque has been rebuilt many times, the minaret is the only surviving part of the original. (Text Wikipedia,  photos

The very un-Chinese "Light Tower" minaret

Interior of prayer hall: mihrab

Xian, China
Great Mosque

1368-1398, restored 1980

The present mosque was erected in 1398 and has since undergone three restorations. The mosque was built on a long, rectangular site in the densely populated, residential area. The complex is based on a symmetrical, linear plan composed of five courtyards. (Text and photo

Kashgar, Xinjiang, China
Aidgah Mosque

1426, rebuilt in the 19th cent
Khoja Khanate

Although the mosque was probably first built in the 1440's when Islam was introduced to Kashgar, the layout and most of the built fabric date to the nineteenth century. (Text and photo from

Architecture without Architects

This chapter illustrates a number mosques in most unlikely places which I found on my wanderings: Mali and the Island of Djerba in Algeria. They are of no consequence, but of great architectural appeal. Entirely indigenous they are true Architecture without Architects - possibly the products of local female masters.

Mali, Central West Africa

Timbuktu, Mali
Djingarey Ber Mosque

1327, restored 2000

Djingarey Ber, 'the Great Mosque', is Timbuktu's oldest monument and its major landmark. The mosque is almost entirely built in banco (raw earth), which is used for mud bricks and rendering. The mosque's maintenance, consisting mainly of repairing the mud rendering, is regularly undertaken upon appeal by the imam to the population, whose contributions take the form of money, materials and labour. - For a very interesting report on the recent restoration and rendering see Timbuktu,

East façade and rooftop minaret of mosque

The rooftop minaret

Gao, Mali
Tomb of Askia Mohammed

16th cent

The Tomb of Askia in the town of Gao, Mali marks Islamic architecture in sub-Saharan West Africa's beginning. It is situated in one of the flourishing cities of the Sudanese caravan route. Located near the Niger River, the city of Gao became the capital of the Songhay (Songhai) Empire upon its founding in 1493 by Askia Mohammed.
The tomb itself is built of mudbrick measuring about 14 by 18 meters by 10 m high. The earthen exterior walls are distinguished by protruding toron, or stakes, of acacia wood. Such stakes bristling from the walls provide a permanent scaffolding for replastering the mud that has washed away. The tomb is enclosed within the eight-foot wall of the larger mosque complex the area of which is about 45 by 50 meters. - For additional description see Gao in

Interior passage of the mosque's compound surrounding the tomb

The Island of Djerba, Tunisia

Djerba, Tunisia
10th-13th cent

On the island of Djerba unknown architects (the local women?) have left us with a dozen of white-washed mosques which are not found in the books - but have their very own charm. Without words I show the few I found photographs of.

Mosque in Medrajen, Djerba

Medrajen, Djerba

Mosque in Elmay, Djerba