Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh
The Makkah Mosque is often overlooked in the shadow of its more famous neighbor, the Charminar Mosque. However, the Makkah Mosque is more than worthy of attention in its own right. Begun during the reign of the Qutb Shahi Dynasty and completed under the Mughal emperor Aurangzeb, this 17th century masterpiece is the largest mosque in Southern India. It is also considered by some to be more sacred than the Charminar. It is a popular destination for pilgrims due to the tombs that are on site as well as to its collection of religious relics.
The Golconda Sultanate was the predominant Muslim realm in South-Central India between the times of the Delhi Sultanate and the Mughal Empire. Founded by Shia Muslims from Persia, it was also the largest Shia realm in India’s history. Under the Qutb Shahi Dynasty, the local capital was established at Golkonda, which is now incorporated into the modern city of Hyderabad.
Under the Qutb Shahis, Southern India became known as a region of relative (if periodic) religious freedom, and Muslim and Hindu culture and art were often blended in the region. This was especially true in the architecture of the period. The Qutb Shahis were prolific builders, and many of their building incorporated Hindu and other traditional Indian elements.
Arguably the greatest mosque constructed during this era was the Makkah Masjid in what is now Hyderabad. According to tradition, dirt or clay from the city of Mecca in Arabia was brought to India and used to make bricks which were subsequently incorporated into the construction. It is from this tradition that the mosque gets its name.
In 1636 the Colconda Sultanate became subject to the Mughal Empire under Shah Jahan, and in 1687 the realm was conquered outright by his son Aurangzeb. It was under the latter, who was also known as a greater builder in Northern India, that the Makkah Mosque was completed. The progression of the construction was observed on several occasions by the French merchant explorer Jean-Baptiste Tavernier, who recorded and described some of the work. Today the mosque is among the largest and most popular in India, and typically visited in conjunction with the Charminar Mosque.
The Makkah Mosque is architecturally unlike anything else in India. Enclosed in a huge compound, the mosque is deceptively simple: a giant rectangular box with a smaller rectangular mosque on the west side pointing towards Mecca. The front of the mosque is dominated by five immense archways that almost give the place and open-air feel (they are in fact now filled in by glass), making it one of the best naturally-lighted mosques in the world. The two minarets flanking the façade are not the towering monsters typical of other mosques, but instead are flush with the roof of the main building. The crowning domes suggest the Southern Indian architectural influence.
The mosque is dominated by a huge hall which can accommodate over ten thousand worshippers, but is better known for its unusually high 75-foot ceiling. The entrances arches rise almost to this height, which is why so much natural light makes it into the place during the day. The bricks from Mecca are incorporated into the central archway. An annex in front of and two the left of the mosque contains the tombs of a number of members of the Qutb Shahi dynasty. According to tradition, the mosque is in possession of a hair of the Prophet Muhammad.
The Makkah Masjid is located just a short walk south of the Charminar Mosque close to the center of Hyderabad, approximately 800 miles south of Delhi. As of this writing no visitor information was available. Web: www.aptdc.gov.in/heritage-in-hyderabad.html (official tourism website of Hyderabad).
Obviously, the other major mosque to see in Hyderabad is the Charminar Mosque, which is less than a tenth of a mile away. Another treasure of the Qutb Shari dynasty is the Toli Masjid, also in Hyderabad.