Friday Review » History & Culture

Updated: May 1, 2010 15:36 IST

The landscape of faith

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Mosques in Germany, an exhibition at Kalakriti Art Gallery
Mosques in Germany, an exhibition at Kalakriti Art Gallery

A talk on mosques was enlightening

Mounted on the walls were dozens of photographs of mosques in Germany. Of buildings with minarets, domes, intricate tile work, people praying, waiting to pray.

The photographs capture a tapestry of faith in a country, where across the border in Switzerland, the same is sought to be limited. What do the photographs of Wilfried Dechau tell us beyond the obvious?

For that, the Goethe Zentrum arranged two speakers, Qadeer Khwaja of Henry Martin Institute and conservationist Sajjad Shahid, who took the audience at the Kalakriti gallery a walk down the history of mosques.

From their evolution as a simple structures covered with date palm leaves and palm trunks, where there was no gender specific areas to the huge monuments that now dot the globe, the speakers threw interesting light (minar – noor – light) on the phenomenon of mosques.

“The mosques absorbed local influences. When the earliest mosques were built, they followed the path shown by church buildings, they adopted the local influences. The didn't have segregated areas for women. Minarets were not compulsory, even the minbar (the pulpit) made its appearance a little later in the architecture of the mosques,” said Qadeer Khwaja.

Sajjad Shahid continued the talk in the same vein with his focus on how the mosques developed in India. “The earliest mosques in India incorporated a lot of features from temple architecture. There is this mosque in Hampi which the locals built for their Arab soldiers. It hardly looks like a mosque because the locals didn't know anything about mosques. The Qutb Shahis did not use domes because their architects deemed them unnecessary,” said Sajjad who illustrated his point by showing the Osmania Arts College building which has a dome but is hardly visible from a close range.

Between the idea of mosques as they existed at the time of Prophet Mohammed, to the mosques built by people who had only a vague idea of a mosque to the time when mosques became monumental, it has been a long journey for the buildings that are emblematic of a faith.

Keywords: mosques

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