Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Mosque architecture in Goa


Ibrahim Adil Shah, the ruler of Bijapur built 27 mosques in the Ponda taluka around the year 1560. The Safa Shahouri Masjid situated at Ponda is the biggest and most well known of them. A masonry colonnade once adorned the outer periphery of the mosque's platform, surmounted by finials. Of those tall sentinels, today only stubs of varying height remain.

Adjacent to the mosque is an elaborately built masonry tank. Small dressing rooms encircle the tank with the ubiquitous pointed arches. The mosque and tank were originally surrounded by a large garden with fountains.
The same elements - mosque, colonnade and tank - stand at the Adil Shah Mosque at Surla Tar in Bicholim. The laterite columns in the photos below stand like iron pillars, resisting the ravages of time. Not surprising, as Goa's substrata is rich in iron ore. The laterite stone pillar is almost as good as an iron forged column!
If you type Goa and Mosque in a search engine nowadays, you will only see images of the Safa Masjid at Ponda. Can you tell where the mosque shown below is located?

The crescent finials on the colonnade are simple, but very elegant.
A brief description of the Islamic faith (that I found on the net) describes prayer thus :
"...Muslims gather at their mosque on Fridays at noon for communal prayer. The Imam leads the prayer and addresses the congregation from a stepped platform called minbar. He never preaches from the top step, which is symbolically reserved for the prophet Muhammad.
Mosques are built with a special tower called a minaret, where a person known as the muezzin calls the people to prayer five times a day. When Muslims pray they face toward Mecca, the birthplace of Muhammad. The direction is marked by an alcove known as the mihrab, which serves as a focal point for the prayer hall...."
So I presume the stepped platform in the photo above would be used by the muezzin to call to prayer. The Imam would use the minbar inside the mosque.

A modern mosque designed by Architect Ashok Akerkar stands in the heart of Margao in the Malbhat area, built in reinforced concrete and stone. Four minarets at each corner thrust at the sky. The cornice projected on the outward curve of the walls gives the structure a striking appearance and allows the traditional pointed arch to escape into a three dimensional fluidity. Man, that sounded quite impressive!

Greater attention seems to have been given to the minaret rather than the main structure of this little mosque at Fatorda, Margao.

Shown above is the Shah Faisal Mosque in Islamabad, Pakistan, an impressive modern structure. Those sleek minarets seem ready to take off to the skies !

Photographs by Pantaleao Fernandes, from his book '100 Goan Experiences'.
Shah Faisal Mosque photo from


Jason said...

Dear Ze,

ref your presumption below

"So I presume the stepped platform in the photo above would be used by the muezzin to call to prayer. The Imam would use the minbar inside the mosque."

You presume incorrectly. From what I see, I see an Id-gah. A space for communal Id prayers, that ideally is not done inside a mosque, but in a large area where Muslims from various mosques can gather as one community.

The Wall is the quiblah, it points the direction to Mecca. Normally in Id-gah's the only masonry structure in an open field, it helps the congregration stand in file in the correct direction.

The stepped platform is in fact the mimbar, for the Id-day sermon.

Jose Lourenco said...

You are right, Jason. I have not visited this place, so I asked Pantaleao to tell me about it.

He replied - "The structure with the green dome is not a mosque but a resting room built by Prince Muhammad Akbar (1657-1704), son of Emperor Aurangzeb and grandson of Shah Jahan (the builder of the Taj Mahal). The structure near the steps is the namazgah, which is a sort of a wall in an open area that helps Muslims point in the right direction for prayer. The two structures stand in one compound atop a hill between Mayem and Bicholim."

So the platform performs the same function as the Mihrab niche inside a mosque.

Thanks for the comment and correction.

Amita said...

Great work, Jose! Will use your blog as a base when I start my long-delayed plans to travel around looking at Goa's astoundingly rich architectural remains.

Vishwanath Bhagat Sharma said...

You have posed a question about the location of a mosque.

I guess, it is the Nimuzghar (Namaz ghar) in Bicholim. It is on top of the hill that overlooks the Bicholim town. You may check if is the same. It is under ASI now I guess. You can reach it from the road that leads to Mayem from Bicholim.

pappu said...

I do agree with Vishwanath Bhagat Sharma