January 19, 2020
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The Jama Masjid mosque in New Delhi – Religious architecture (1/5)

The Jama Masjid mosque
was built in the mid-17th century by Shah Jahan, the Mughal emperor
who built the Taj Mahal. It is situated
in the ancient town of Old Delhi. Before the Jama Masjid,
we had 400 years of Islamic rule which meant mosques were being built. The first mosque
was simply a large screen giving the direction of Mecca
which is the holy city which every devout Muslim
looks towards while praying. Mosques then evolved
because of the climatic conditions and became completely covered
until the 1400s. This mosque formula with its one
covered bay and large courtyard and Shah Jahan took that
into his ideal of symmetry. So everything is symmetrical
around the central axis. And Shah Jahan developed some
very specific architectural elements such as the cusped arch
which is repeated in this mosque, such as fluted columns
which are repeated in the colonnade and the whole monumentality of white
marble being used with great skill. White marble’s
a very expensive material. So these were traditional elements which were both used in a structural
manner and in a decorative manner. And having been involved in the Taj, the whole concept of the minaret
was then added to this mosque. Because this is the royal mosque, this is the main congregational
mosque of the empire, you have this whole grandeur
of entrance gates which are towards
the east, north and the south. The mosque is strictly guided
by certain principles, one of which is the mihrab wall, the wall which you look towards
should face Mecca. So the mihrab is the first thing which gives you
the direction of prayer. The halls where you
do your ablutions before you pray is the other essential element. And there is the minbar where
the imam guides the prayer from which is in the central mihrab. I think what is interesting
about Islam everywhere in the world is that Islam picks up
from local traditions, cultures. A lot of Islam prohibits the use of
human and animal motifs on buildings which were very extravagantly
used in Hindu temples. But the same skills were used to make
floral motifs, geometric designs. The lotus bud comes again and again
and again, on top of the dome, on the bosses and the medallions and
the spandrels of the arch and so on. So it picks up different elements which you can see are sometimes
shared with non-Islamic buildings.

Jean Kelley



  1. Sarfaraz Sarfaraz Posted on August 10, 2019 at 1:27 pm

    MA sha Allah