The Jama Masjid of Ahmedabad, also known as the Jumma Mosque, was the largest mosque constructed in India prior to the arrival of the Mughals. Part of a fort complex built in the early 15th century, the Jumma Mosque is arguably the most magnificent mosque of the era. Other than its missing minarets, it is also one of finest surviving examples of pre-Mughal architecture in the state of Gujurat.
By the late 14th century, the Delhi Sultanate had largely disintegrated and many of its territories outside of north-central India splintered off into smaller realms. Many of these areas continued to be ruled by Muslims, and one of the most important of these was Gujarat. Gujurat broke away under the leadership of its governor, who established a new sultanate here. In 1411 the capital was relocated to Ahmedabad, and the city was completely overhauled.
Under the sultan Ishaan Shah, Ahmedabad underwent a renaissance, with many grand new structures, including the construction of the massive Bhadra Fort and the neighboring Jumma Mosque. These two landmarks became the heart of the new capital. As the capital of one of the most populous and wealthy Islamic states in India, Ahmedabad’s mosque was one of the most important centers of Muslim worship in the sub-continent.
By the early 16th century, Gujurat was firmly in the crosshairs of both the Mughals and the European colonial empires. It was eventually absorbed into the former. After the Mughals took over most of Northern India, they began constructing magnificent new mosques around the country, overtaking Ahmedabad’s mosque’s primacy.
Despite this, the Jama Masjid remained an incredibly important center of Islamic life in Gujarat all the way through the British colonial era. One noteworthy event in the mosque’s history took place in 1819 when a major earthquake rocked the city. While the mosque survived, its minarets collapsed, and the building remains minaret-less to the present day.
The monumental Jumma Mosque still dominates the city, even without its pair of magnificent monuments (which fortunately have been preserved for posterity in artwork). Although hemmed in on all sides by the bustling city, the magnificent façade can still be enjoyed in all of its glory thanks to the broad courtyard which fronts it. The influence of Central Asian and Persian architectural styles is minimal but still present. Interestingly, the bases of the twin minarets are still standing.
The mosque interior is a sea of stone columns more reminiscent of styles prevalent in native Indian architecture, with a mix of low and high ceilings. Scattered around the mosque are a number of royal tombs of the Gujarat dynasty, including that of Ahmed Shah.
The Jumma Mosque is located close to the city center of Ahmedabad on the east side of the Sabamati River, approximately 250 miles north of Mumbai. It is open year round. There is no cost of admission. Web: www.ahmedabad.org.uk (official website of the city of Ahmedabad).
As one of the major early centers of Islam in India, Ahmedabad has a number of fantastic mosques. After the Jama Masjid, the best of these are the Saiyad Usman Mosque and the Rani Sipri Mosque.