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Mosque of the Moors

K. VENKATESHWARLU

The Spanish Mosque stands alone for its echoes of Hispanic architecture


A STRIKING feature of the mosques in the city is its sheer variety. From the oldest Jama Masjid, then the Mecca Masjid, the Toli Masjid, the Ek Minar Masjid, the Ek Khana Masjid, the Badi Masjid to the ones named after rulers and nobles, they are all known for different architectural styles and the tales that go with them.

Even within this range, some of them stand out for their peculiar style so much so that they are classified as "others", not the usual Qutb Shahi and Osmanian architectural styles that one comes across. You must have seen and heard about most of them. But ever heard of a "mosque resembling a church?" The devout may scoff but the Spanish Mosque (Jama Masjid Iqbal-ud-Dowla) on the Paradise-Begumpet Airport Road falls into this genre, though heritage experts disagree with its similarity to a church. At best it looks very European, as the name suggests.

A small mosque with unique plan elevation, it was built by Sir Vikhar-ul-Umra Iqbal-ud-Dowla, the Paigah noble, in 1906. It is believed to be the only one of its kind in India, with pointed arches, a pointed main roof composed of two truncated octagonal pyramids placed one above the other intervened by octagonal domes. The minarets aesthetically placed at corners of the parapet are in the same style, very unusual from those seen in other mosques in the city and elsewhere. And it is difficult to miss them as you climb on (from Paradise side) to the flyover opposite the Airport.

The other notable features are Moorish arches inside the prayer hall, Quranic verses in exquisite calligraphy inscribed on the inside walls, the absence of an ablution tank and a courtyard. In plan, the mosque comprises a main prayer hall, two rooms in front of it and a central corridor for entering the hall. It is over this central corridor or the entrance porch that the octagonal dome stands.

The mosque is built with stone masonry in lime mortar up to the basement and the superstructure in brick masonry in lime mortar. The roof is of Jack arch type on iron girders with brick and lime concrete. The domes, minarets and small turrets are built with brick and stone masonry and the outer face plastered with lime mortar. The central dome has a perforated screen.

Believed to be a copy of a similar mosque in Spain, it might have caught the attention of the Paigah noble, either during his eight-month long tour of Europe or he may have stumbled on a photograph. Whatever the source, the Nawab lived up to his reputation of being a great builder having a penchant for creating something unique, as seen from his magnificent hilltop palace of Faluknuma.

Spain, once part of the Ottoman Empire is inundated with mosques. The Turkish influence can be seen in many of its buildings especially the religious ones.

The Spanish Mosque here formed part of the sprawling 340 acres of wooded estate of the Paigah nobles studded with seven palaces, all built in European and Indo-European styles. Some of them are the Paigah Palace or the Iqbal-ud-Dowla palace that has now become the Hyderabad Urban Development Authority's office, the Devdi Nazir Nawaz Jung, part of which has been leased to Chiraan Fort Club and the Vikhar Manzil, overlooking the Hussain Sagar Lake.

This was just one of the several estates given the honorific title of Paigah (meaning pomp and high rank) for the first time by the second Nizam, Nawab Nizam Ali Khan to the Paigah family's founder, Nawab Abul Fateh Khan Taig Jung Bahadur.

It is listed for conservation as a Grade II A structure, comprising buildings of regional or local importance possessing special architectural or aesthetic merit, cultural or historical value. They are the local landmarks contributing to the image and identity of the city deserving intelligent conservation and the regulation governing them allows adaptive reuse internally but external changes are subject to scrutiny. Yet the colour scheme of the mosque has been changed from pure white to pastel green in recent years.

For feedback: E-mail: warlu@thehindu.co.in

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