The Jami' Masjid of Mandu is considered one of the finest of Afghan mosques built in India. It was begun by Hushang Shah Ghuri the second Muslim Sultan of Malwa (r.1405-1435), but was completed by his successor, Mahmud I Khalji (r.1436-1469), in 1454. Inspired by the Great Mosque of Damascus, though not a replica, similarities are found in the shape of the domes that resemble the false wooden domes found in Palestine and Syria.
Based on a courtyard plan, it rises 16 feet (five meters) from ground level and has a square entrance portal attached to the east façade. The entrance portal is approached by a flight of 30 wide steps. The portal measures 44 feet 8 inches square and is crowned by a dome. The dome is framed in by a small cupola placed at each of the four corners of the square portal. The entrance is a trabeated doorway with an equilateral arch superimposed in relief.
The ground level of the east façade and the entrance portal has a running, six feet deep, arched verandah behind which are cells measuring eight feet by six feet. There are 12 arched openings to the south of the portal and 13 to the north. These cells formed a sarai and were used by visitors, the staff of the mosque, and various public uses. The exterior façade is plain with only a few openings above the ground level. A few decorative bands relieve the stark stone façade. There is a strip of carved merlons in relief that runs over the dripstone protecting the sarai and at the cornice is a band of delicately carved blind filigree work. The carved merlons were originally set with color tiles and thus may have softened the grimness of the facade.
Inside, the mosque is arranged around a central courtyard. The courtyard is a square measuring over 164 feet (50 meters) square and is surrounded by an arcade, two bays deep to the east, three to the north and south, and five to the west in the prayer hall. A worshiper, upon entering the courtyard, is greeted by a forest of columns and domes that punctuate the skyline. There are no minarets here. The prayer hall is the most impressive with three large domes and 158 small cupolas arranged symmetrically over each interior bay. Two of the large domes are placed at the ends of the prayer hall, while the third is in the middle.
The prayer hall has 17 mihrabs with delicate crenellations along the edge of the arches and jambs of polished black stone worked with intricate Hindu patterns. The main mihrab is decorated with an epigraphic band displaying verses from the Quran. The minbar is a Hindu chhatri (kiosk) with S-shaped brackets placed on the head of a stepped platform. At each end of the prayer hall, under the side domes, is an apartment supported on nine dwarfish columns. The apartments were reserved for royal ladies and other royal guests. Like the outside even on the interior, the ornamentation of the bays and the pillars is sober and along with the severe pointed arches, the mosque evokes an almost mystic atmosphere.
Alfieri, Bianca Maria. Islamic Architecture of the Indian Subcontinent. London: Laurence King Publishing, 2000. 133, 134.
Yazdani, G. Mandu: The City of Joy. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1929. 50-55.
Sahai, Surendra. Indian Architecture: Islamic Period, 1192-1857. New Delhi: Prakash Books, 2004. 71-3.
Singh, A.P. and Shiv Pal Singh. Monuments of Mandu. Delhi: Agam Kala Prakashan, 1994. 108, 109, 110.