‘Ahmedabad architecture is Hindu body in Islamic apparel’

(Image: www.timesofindia.indiatimes.com)

The architecture of city mosques, which played a major role in earning the city its world heritage site status, has been described by experts as ‘a Hindu body in Islamic apparel’.

There is a unanimity among scholars that Ahmedabad’s mosques are of a distinct style, with a curious mixture of Saracenic (Arabic) and India architectures, which is not found anywhere else in the country.

Ratnamanirao Jote, the prolific of modern historians on the city, tried to get to the root of these unique architectural designs. He writes in his monumental work, ‘Gujarat nu Patnagar – Amdavad’, that the Muslim sultans were second generation converts to Islam. The architects asked to design the mosques and the masons who executed the ideas were all Hindus, as the city’s founder Ahmed Shah was in a hurry to build the city and perhaps had little time to import talent.

“Hence, the architects worked on the principles of Hindu architecture. And Ahmedabad’s architecture remained Hindu in its essential features. It is like a Hindu body in Islamic apparel,” Jote wrote in 1929, citing the examples of the first two mosques built by the founder of the city.

Except pointed arches and minarets in mosques, the scholars find nothing from the Islamic architectural style. Even the minarets are different from those elsewhere, and the design was adopted from the ‘Kirti Stambha’ of Chittorgarh.

A Scottish authority on architecture, James Fergusson, in his ‘History of Indian and Eastern Architecture’ notes, “the mosques are Hindu or Jain in every detail, only here and there the arch is inserted, not because it was wanted constructively but because it was a symbol of faith: while in tombs and palaces even this is generally wanting.” Fergusson considers the city mosques as the most ‘essentially Indian’.

Another scholar, E B Havell, is not even ready to accept the word ‘Mohammedan architecture’ for the city’s monuments. In his ‘Handbook of Indian Art’, Havell opines, “The Mohammedan architecture of Gujarat is Saracenic only in the sense that it is Indo-Aryan architecture adapted to the rituals of Islam.”

For Jote, the mosque of Rani Sipri at Astodia Darwaja is the perfect architecture in Hindu style. Its minarets are designed for the purpose of show only, and not for climbing up to call the azaan. The carved gallery at its south and the arch in its eastern side, which are absolutely of no use, show that Saracenic style was given the go-bye.

On how the Muslim rulers were won over by ancient Hindu architectural traditions in Ahmedabad, archaeologist T C Hope mentions, “While moulding them, they were moulded by them: and though insisting on the bold features of their own minarets and pointed arch, they were compelled to borrow the pillared hall, the delicate traceries, and rich surface ornaments of their despised that prostrate foe.”

(Source: www.timesofindia.indiatimes.com)

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.