Saturday, April 25, 2009

Is Kalhuvakaru Mosque Mughal Architecture?

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.]


Anonymous said...

Many 'archeologists' have taken Maldivians for a ride. This includes Thor Hyderhal. These people just float some wild theories, enjoy local hospitality and go.

Anonymous said...

our own researchers have always been ignored. may be because they are not fair skin or no PHD. example Mohamed Lutfee's work on how maldives became islam.

Anonymous said...

I believe the influence of Budhism is more in our architecture and many mosques have been converted from temples, by way some remnants of temples may have existed as parts of mosques.
Sadly we have no locals studying these details. all goes to the fact no University was established till now to study on such things.

Abdullah Waheed's Blog said...

@ Anon 7-23pm. I agree. In fact, the existing features of Kalhuvakaru Mosque (stone carvings, ceiling decoration) can be explained by Budhism.

Anonymous said...

Before conversion to Islam we had many temples. But most are now ruined.

Stewie said...

That's what they do when they conquer the places. Religion was spread and changed constantly through out history and each time, they just change the name of the building. Its easier than building new mosques or temples to just put a sign you know "Under new management".

Abdullah Waheed's Blog said...

To Stewie: Very nicely put. The latest example was the Church in Gan, which became a mosque when the Brits left. (Recently the old building was demolished to make new building.)

Anonymous said...

the Goa designs look more like a old local craft. I don't know...I want to ask if Goa woodcraft got anything to do with old Maldivian woodwork?

Anonymous said...

to Anon 7.23 pm.Like the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem , now a famous mosque.Eh?

Anonymous said...

to anon 11:53 - Maldvians and Goans have much connection. Maldives head of state lived in Goa for about 100 years starting with King Hassan 9.

moyameehaa said...

trying to connect with the mughals i guess.i dunno why these people want it. dhivehin as we are, can be proud of our history and culture. ofcourse it is influenced by so many cultures.apparently we were here in 200 BC also...and around 4 BC weve travelled across the globe on ships (probably built in maldives with what is available here).

it is said we had a practice of converting the places of worship as we convert to another religion.this explains why hukuru miskiy is not facing qibla, but instead faces east? sun worship? we may have followed a form of hinduism or a dharmic religion with nature worshipin. as for the ruins of temples we find, maybe they were all part of the forceful conversion of maldives in to islam. there is evidence that people of isdhoo were forced to convert...40 years after the official conversion.

maybe if they want to connect us with the mughals so much, they can go for the beeruboluvazeeru stories. maybe that proves akbar had power over maldives.