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Magnificent, and elaborate

The pink façade, pillars that soar heavenward, towering terracotta walls that fortify three sparkling bulbous white marble domes topped with crystal finials, gossamer-fine screens of lattice work and bedecked arches, huge central patio with a large water tank – this is an architectural splendour that beckons visitors to Bhopal.

Taj-ul-Masajid, “The Crown of Mosques”, one of the largest mosques in Asia, stands majestic in the old city of Bhopal. Sprawled across an area of 23,312 sq. ft, it is crowned with two, 67m high, octagonal white-domed 18-storey minarets with balconies that flank its eastern fasçia.

The edifice, built on a hillock at the highest elevation in what was then Bhopal’s suburb, was envisioned to be one of the most magnificent mosques in the Indian subcontinent.

Dominating the skyline

Today, its minarets dominate the skyline of the old city, making it visible from a significant distance and from the palaces that surround the lakes which form an integral part of Bhopal. While some claim that the mosque is a replica of Delhi’s Jama Masjid, others opine that its architecture echoes the structural design of Lahore’s Badshahi Mosque.

A monumental flight of steps from the Kaiser embankment leads us to the eastern entrance of the tall minarets and is believed to have been inspired by Fatehpur Sikhri’s Buland Darwaza.

The eastern chamber’s eastern frontage is composed of seven arches. The central arcade which serves as the main entrance is 74 ft. high and is built within a high pishtaq of red sandstone inlayed with marble. The three smaller arches on either sides of the central one have lookouts and ornate jaali or lattice work above them. Tiered marble pergolas capped by sandstone trellis railing, complete the crenellations.

Prayer hall

Once you enter through the main archway, you see the internal northern part of the structure that is reserved as a prayer hall for women. The mosque’s main prayer hall is located on its western side. Its interior is cool and austere in keeping with Islamic architectural traditions. Eleven arches, embellished with intricate trellis work, adorn the wall of the telling hallway with marble flooring, the likes of which are seen, perhaps, only in Delhi’s Jama Masjid. The Qibla or prayer wall faces the Mecca and has four recessed arches. The monolithic pillars of the hall hold aloft 27 ceilings with hollowed domes through squinted arches of which 16 are ornamented with floral motifs. The western side of the mihrab or prayer alcoves displays fine calligraphy with a high degree of finesse. Exquisite jaali work adorn the northern and southern doors of the sacred antechamber.

Taj-ul-Masajid, the result of one woman’s dream, a massive edifice with the prayer hall alone measuring 260 ft. long, took almost a century to complete. Nawab Shahjehan Begum, the 11th ruler of Bhopal, initiated its construction in the last quarter of the 19th century and mobilised the services of Mohammad Raushan, the architect from Delhi. The structure, which was designated as an Idgah, remained unfinished even after her death in 1901. Her daughter, Sultan Jahan Begum, continued the work on it. However, due to paucity of funds, the structure could be completed in entirety only in 1985.

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Printable version | Dec 1, 2021 7:46:53 PM |

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