The Mesmerizing Architecture of Taj-ul-Masajid Mosque | Bhopal, India

I was feeling benumbed when I stared out the window of the bus and saw the sky reddened with strokes of sunrise. “Dawning of a new day” I told myself and instantly, burst of excitement shot up my body as this meant a new opportunity to explore. It was the first morning of the Madhya Pradesh Travel Mart where I was invited to cover. Before the event started, the organizers took our group of travel writers for a short incursion to the city’s landmark known as the ‘Crown among Mosques’—the biggest mosque in India, the Taj-ul-Masajid.

A Crowning Work of Architecture

The imposing Pink-colored facade of the Mosque arrested my attention even from the outer gates as I was taking my shoes off to enter the compound. Upon walking closer, the sheer height of the dual 18-story (296 feet) octagonal minaret with marble domes appeared to me in spectacular fashion. I must have mouthed the word "Wow!" a few times as I took my time taking photographs of the Mosque's massive external walls.

Heavily influenced by the Mughal architecture prevalent all over India from the 16th to 18th centuries, the Taj-ul-Masajid is also highlighted by its common building characteristics of trim minarets, huge spherical domes, wide halls, spacious hallways and intricate embellishment.

Inside, the Mosque took me into another notch of fascination as I sensed its hugeness while I walked over the marble floors and into the red carpeted prayer halls. A Madrasa—an Arabic word for school—is located inside the Mosque. During our visit, I observed how the kids despite deeply engrossed in their learning of the Quran, took time to smile and wave at us.

Measuring almost 40,000 square meters inside, the Mosque can hold a capacity of 175,000 Muslim faithful. It is very easy to get lost inside especially if you direct your eyes at the ornate work of craftmanship evident in the (what our tour guide counted as) "eleven arches designed with fancy canopies of trellis workmanship". The massive pillars inside are highlighted by 27 arched ceilings most of which were adorned by overelaborate petaled designs.

Begums of Bhopal

This mosque was built between the years 1868-1901 upon the order of Nawab Shah Jahan Begum—wife of Nawab Syed Siddiq Hasan Khan. After her death, her daughter Shahjehan Begum continued the mosque's expansion. Interestingly, this period coincided with the rise of a succession of women rulers of Bhopal, who lorded over a patriarchal society. They became known as the "Begums of Bhopal”, a dynasty of powerful women: Qudsia Begum, Sikandar Begum, Shahjehan Begum and Sultan Jahan Begum.

More than a place of worship, the Taj-ul-Masajid Mosque is also a living symbolism of a feminist movement that has long fought and won over a patriarchal society. If the women of India today would look for inspiration in their continuing fight for equality—then, these massive walls of Bhopal's crown among mosques should give them a plenteous shot in the arm.