Sarkhej Roza is located 8 km southwest of the city of Ahmedabad in the Indian state of Gujarat. This mosque and tomb complex is known as “Acropolis of Ahmedabad”, due to 20th century architect Le Corbusier’s famous comparison of this mosque’s design to the Acropolis of Athens.
Sarkhej was once a prominent centre of Sufi culture in the country and is where the influential Sufi saint Shaikh Ahmed Khattu Ganj Baksh lived. The architecture of this complex is credited to the Persian brothers Azam and Muazzam Khan. The complex was originally spread over 72 acres, surrounded by elaborate gardens on all sides. Over time human settlements came around it, eating into the gardens and reducing the area to 34 acres.
Shaikh Ahmed Khattu Ganj Bakhsh the friend and advisor of Ahmed Shah I, retired to Sarkhej in his later life and died here in 1445. In his honour, a tomb was constructed by Ahmed Shah II. The construction of the tomb was begun in 1445 and was finished in 1451. The next sultan Mahmud Begada was fond of the place and expanded the complex greatly. He dug a large lake, surrounded it with cut stone steps and built a splendid palace on its south-west corner. He also raised a mausoleum for himself and his family opposite to Ganj Baksh’s tomb.
There is a sixteen pillared structure popularly known as Baradari is situated in the central portion of the open courtyard and is seen when we enter the main gate of the Roza. There is a folklore which says that the excavation of the lake and the building of the Jama masjid in its initial states were supervised by Shaikh Ahmed Khattu himself from the Baradari.
Beyond the Mausoleum of Ganj Bakhsh is a courtyard, covering more than an acre of ground, surrounded by cloisters, is a huge mosque. The other side of the lake on the south-west corner are Mahmud Begada’s palace and harem.
Like many of Ahmedabad’s structures the architecture of Sarkhej Roza is a combination of elements of Hindu and Islamic design. Most of the buildings do not have arches and depend on pierced stone trellises for stability.
This much neglected but aesthetically built vav or stepwell is situated in Asarwa area of Ahmedabad city. When it was built in 1500 AD, Asarwa was a village by itself, which has now become an area of the city of Ahmedabad. The stepwell was built by Dhai Harir, a household lady of Sultan Mahmud Begada. She was believed to be the superintendent of the royal harem. Behind the stepwell is the mosque and a tomb built by Dhai Harir, where she was buried.
Built in sandstone this octagonal stepwell is five stories deep. Each floor is built on intricately carved large numbers of pillars and spacious enough for people to congregate. There are air and light vents in the roofs at various floors. From the first storey level, three staircases lead to the bottom level of the well. At the level of the ground, it is 190 feet long by forty feet wide. At the east end, from a domed canopy, a descent of few steps leads to a covered gallery. Built along a east west axis, the entrance is from the east and the two spiral staircases in the west. These spiral staircases are now closed.
The air and light vents in the roofs at various floors and at the landing level are in the form of large openings. From the first story level, three staircases lead to the bottom water level of the well, which is considered a unique feature. The top part of the well is vertical and opened to sky. The carvings of flowers and symbols of Islamic, Hindu and Jain gods are carved at various levels of the well.
The first gallery of the well bears two inscriptions, one in Sanskrit and one in Arabic. As per these inscriptions, the well was constructed in 1500 AD during the reign of Mahmud Shah by Dhai Harir Sultani. The name later corrupted into Dada Hari.
Behind the stepwell is the 16th century mosque built on a platform. The mosque is a 5 domed structure with 2 minarets (which collapsed long ago). The mausoleum contains the tomb of Dhai Harir Sultani. The tomb is beautiful structure with stone carved lattice windows.
Mata Bhavani’s well
This is another stepwell which is located about 200m north of Dada Hari’s. This well is several hundred years older and is used as a Hindu temple now.
The Raj Babri Mosque was built in 15th century during the rule of King Ahmed Shah and is famous for its shaking minarets. The mosque originally had two shaking minarets out of which only one remains today. One of the minarets was dismantled by an inquisitive English man in an unsuccessful attempt to find out how it worked. The remaining minaret stands 40 feet high with carved balconies and windows along with a narrow staircase from inside. Its lower parts are richly carved with floral ornamentation of varied patterns.
The east of the mosque is the mausoleum of Makhduma-i-Jahan or Bibiji, mother of Sultan Qutbuddin Ahmad Shah.
This mosque is believed to be constructed by Sidi Bashir, a slave of Sultan Ahmed Shah. The mosque was constructed in 1452. Only the minarets and arched central gateway remain today, as the body of the remaining part of the mosque was destroyed in 1753 during the war between the Marathas and the Gujarat Sultanate.
The mosque is famed for its 21.3 meter high shaking minarets (jhulta minars). A gentle shaking of either of the minarets results in the other minaret vibrating, though the connecting passage between them remains free of vibration. The minarets were designed to shake to protect against earthquake damage, which certainly worked in 2001.
This Mosque is one of the less explored mosques in Ahmedabad, but rich in intricate carvings and Hindu elements in its design. The mosque was constructed in 1449 during the reign of Sultan Muhammed Shah II by Nizam son of Hilal.
I would like to express my special thanks to Mr. Narendra J Otia (firstname.lastname@example.org), a heritage enthusiast and photographer for his help and assistance in exploring the various mosques and temples in Ahmedabad.
This small mosque is also known as Masjid-e-Nagira (Jewel of a Mosque) due to its graceful construction. The mosque is named after the Hindu queen of Sultan Mahmud Begada, Rani Sipri. The queen commissioned this mosque in 1514 AD when her husband executed their son for some minor misdemeanour. After her death, the queen was buried in this mosque. This mosque is remarkable with delicately carved minarets (which survived many earthquakes) and domed tomb with fine jaali screens (lattice windows).
This mosque was built by Mahmud Begada during 1430-1440 AD. The mosque is named after Rani Rupamati the wife of Sultan Qutubuddin. After the death of Qutubuddin his brother, Mahmud Begada became the sultan and he married Rani Rupamati. The mosque has three domes and slim minarets. These minarets were collapsed during the earthquake of 1819. This is one of the mosques where an attempt was made to combine the arched Islamic and flat Hindu styles. The mosque is remarkable due its richly carved lattice windows and balconies.
Close to the mosque in the same compound, is the tomb of Rani Rupamati and the other queen. These tombs were covered by a large central dome and two side domes.
Built in 1573, this mosque is one of the most famous mosques of Ahmedabad due to its stone carved lattice work windows. Popularly known as Sidi Saiyyed ni Jaali, this mosque was built by Sidi Saiyyed, an Abyssinian one of the advisors of Bilal Jhajar Khan, general in the army of the last Sultan Shams-ud-din Muzaffar Shah III.
The mosque was built in the last year of the existence of Sultanate of Gujarat. The mosque has beautifully carved ten stone lattice work windows (jaalis) on the side and rear arches. The rear wall is filled with square stone pierced panels in geometrical designs. These intricately carved lattice stone windows have designs of intertwined trees and foliage and a palm motif. The mosque was used as government office during British rule in 1880 AD. During this period paper casts of the carved screens were taken and two wooden models were made for museum of Kensington and New York. Today one of the jaali depicting the tree of life has become distinguished symbol of the city of Ahmedabad and the inspiration for the design of the logo of the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad.
It is observed that the central window arch of the mosque is walled with stones instead of lattice work. Probably the mosque was not completed as per the original plan before the Mughals invaded Gujarat.
The Jama Masjid of Ahmedabad is one of the largest and splendid mosques in the Indian subcontinent. Built by Sultan Ahmed Shah the mosque is situated outside the Bhadra fort area. The mosque was inaugurated on January 4, 1424 AD and was originally intended only for the private use of the sultans.
The mosque complex is centred on a large rectangular courtyard 75 m long and 66 m wide. There are three entrances to the mosque complex, one at the centre of each side. The courtyard is lined with colonnade on three sides and the prayer hall occupies the fourth side, which is on the east. In the centre of the courtyard is a rectangular tank for ablutions.
The rectangular prayer hall is covered by four domes. Some of the central domes are carved like lotus flowers, resembling typical domes of the Jain temples. The mosque and arcades are built of beautiful yellow sandstone and carved with intricate details. The two huge minarets flanking the main arched entranceway collapsed in the earthquake of 1819, their lower portions still stand. The main prayer hall has over 260 columns supporting the roof with 15 domes.
Stands outside the Jama Masjid’s east gate, is the tomb of Ahmed Shah constructed after his death in 1442 by his son and successor Muhamad Shah. It includes the tombs of his son and grandsons. The mausoleum, locally known as ‘Badshah no Hajiro’ is a medieval mosque with a large central dome. There are four chambers at all four corners with delicately carved stone screen (jaalis). Women are not allowed to enter the mausoleum and men must cover their heads before entering.
Across the road is the ‘Rani no hajiro’ or the tombs of Ahmed Shah’s Queens, which is in very bad shape and encroached by the market, selling women’s clothing and jewellery