According to an article in Haveeru Daily, Kalhuvakaru Mosque is an example of 'miniature' Mughal architecture. How accurate is this statement?
Examining the mosque, the first thing one observes is that the mosque does not exhibit any of the typical features of Mughal architecture. These features are:
- Jaroka: Overhanging balconies;
- Chhatri: Stone canopies that resemble umbrellas;
- Chhajja: Stone eaves;
- Jali: fenestrated stone carvings. Dhivehi word 'jaali' has more or less the same meaning;
- Guldasta: Flower shaped pinnacles;
- Charbagh: Quadrangular gardens.
So what architectural features does the mosque have? The most prominent feature is the coral carving in the base structure. This is more or less identical to the carvings in Hukuru Mosque, built during the time of Ibrahim Iskandharu (1648-1687). (Hukuru Mosque was built a few years after Taj Mahal was completed in 1653.)
Coral carving is an ancient art practiced in the Maldives since time immemorial. Evidence of this can be found in tomb stones in Koagannu Cemetery of Meedu Addu Atoll, which date back to the 12th Century CE. This was 400 years before the first Mughal Emperor, Babur, defeated Ibrahim Lodhi at the First Battle of Panipat in 1526 to establish the Mughal Empire. Mughal architecture came much later. (The picture above contrasts Mughal stone carving and those found in Male mosques.)
The other striking feature in Kalhuvakaru Mosque is the wooden ceiling decoration. This type of ceiling decoration is not part of Mughal architecture, which uses interlaced stone-and-masonry arches and vaults for this purpose. On the other hand, such ceiling decoration is found in some temples of Sri Lanka.
It might be interesting to find out why experts who saw Kalhuvakaru Mosque thought it is Mughal architecture. Is it simply because it's a mosque and Mughals were Muslims? In the 16 years I spent in India, I have seen hundreds of Mughal buildings and mosques, none of them resembling Kalhuvakaru Mosque even remotely.
[To read the Haveeru article in Dhivehi click here.]