Vijayapura's many mosques

Vijayapura's many mosques

There are as many mosques in Vijayapura as there are mausoleums. Islam came to Vijayapura much before the Adil Shahis. The city was established in the 10th and 11th centuries by the Kalyani Chalukyas. It then passed on to the Yadavas. The Khiljis captured the city in the late 13th century and brought along their religion to the region.

Earliest structure
Karimuddin’s mosque is said to be the earliest mosque built in Vijayapura. Karimuddin was the son of Malik Kafur who headed the army of Alaudin Khilji and the mosque was built by him. It is located just inside the south gate of the citadel and was built in 1320 on the site of a Hindu temple.

One can clearly see that a temple was refashioned into the mosque from the Chalukya style beams, pillars and ceiling slabs. All representations of animals, birds and humans have been chipped off from these elements.

The entrance porch is the mantapa of the former temple. The central area of the prayer hall, which is on a higher platform than other areas, is resting on pillars of various designs, piled one upon the other. This structure is now supported by metal rods as the fragile masonry is giving way. An old man, who was the
caretaker, remarked how easily a temple can be refashioned into a mosque as a temple is also built in the east-west orientation.

Karimuddin’s mosque was the principal mosque of Vijayapura until Jami Masjid was built by Ali Adil Shah I. It is the largest mosque in Vijayapura and its dome was one of the first few that dotted the city’s sky.

The mosque is mostly plain and the symmetric arches found here are a treat to the eyes. The black basalt mihrab covered with gold gilding is the most beautiful part of the mosque.

There are representations of tombs and minarets, chains, niches with books in them, vases with flowers and the like are interspersed with bands and medallions bearing inscriptions. All of this is in gold which glitters against the black background. There are two gateways to this mosque. The southern one is the original one through which Ali I used to enter the mosque. The eastern gateway which is ornate and styled elegantly was built by Aurangzeb when he conquered Vijayapura many years later.

Just down the road from the Jami Masjid is Mehtar Mahal (some locals call it Behtar Mahal), which is another monument you can’t miss. It is actually a gateway to a small mosque. A three-storeyed structure with two minarets in the front facade and elegant bay windows studding all four sides, the Mehtar Mahal showcases the skill of the artisans of that time. The carving is so delicate that it looks like it is made from wood though that is not the case.

Small and quaint
Another important mosque is the Asar Mahal which is an unimpressive two-storeyed building originally built as a public audience hall. It houses the holy relics of Prophet Muhammed – two strands of hair from his beard to be precise.

Women aren’t allowed inside, so I couldn’t see the much written about paintings that adorn the walls of this building. The relics of the Prophet are displayed only once a year which is on the night preceding Eid-e-Milad-un-Nabi. Unfortunately, only men are allowed to view that too!

The last of the mosques I visited was  Mecca Masjid. It is a quaint little mosque just inside the citadel close to the south gate. This mosque too predates the Adil Shahis. What is peculiar is the oddly shaped minarets which I later found out were either watch-towers or granaries.

The mosque itself is situated in the centre of a courtyard. The courtyard is surrounded on all four sides by a pillared veranda. A family that lives nearby has the keys. The inside of the mosque is simple and has some well-designed arches. The beauty of the mosque lies in its simplicity and symmetry.

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