Dome in Mosque Architecture originated in India before Islam
sudheer_birodkar at hotmail.com
Tue Jun 24 05:08:23 UTC 1997
In ancient times in India, there was evolved a method of constructing
interlocking domes. This technique was used mainly in the making of
roofs for Buddhist Stupas in around 300 B.C. onwards i.e. 2300 years
back. The Stupa at Sanchi in Madhya Pradesh is one surviving example of
this architecture. There are other examples of such architecture in
other parts of India.
The style of interlocking structures had been perfected by the Romans in
the interlocking arch which they used in constructing bridges and
aqueducts. The Roman interlocking arch is a one-dimensional structure,
but the interlocking dome is a three dimensional structure. Again, this
was perfected in the days when we did not have cement or concrete. Hence
the technique of constructing domed roofs which originated in ancient
India 2,300 years back can be looked upon as a significant invention of
humankind to defy the rules of gravity.
It is from this architectural style of the Buddhist Stupa that - the
Gumbaz - the Islamic style of constructing domed roofs on Masjids could
have originated. And interestingly, while this architectural style
totally disappeared from medieval and modern India as a symbol of
indigenous architecture, it was preserved and popularised through
Islamic architecture all over the Islamic world (as also in India in the
mosques that were constructed during Muslim Rule).
The interlocking dome is reported to have gone from ancient India to
pre-Islamic Sassanian Persia, and from there further on to the Eastern
Roman (Byzantine) Empire which had Constantinople (Istanbul of today)
as its capital.
The famous Sophia (Selimiye) Mosque at Istanbul overlooking the
Bosphorous straits which separate Europe from Asia in Turkey has domes
which closely resemble the dome over a Buddhist Stupa. This mosque was
originally constructed by the Byzantine Emperor Constantine as a
Basilica of St. Sophia. The minarets were added in 1453 A.D. after the
town came under the rule of the Ottoman (Uthman) Turks. Without the
minarets, the structure would strongly resemble a Buddhist Stupa.
Another fact supporting the hypothesis that the Islamic style of
constructing Gumbaz is borrowed from outside the Islamic world is that
the oldest and most holy mosque (Kaaba) at Mecca does not have a dome
over it. It is only the mosques constructed later which have the dome as
Today the dome (Gumbaz) has become so stereotyped with Islamic
architecture that it would be fantastic to claim that it could have
originated in ancient India or anywhere outside the Islamic world. The
Interlocking dome - called Anda (egg) in Sanskrit texts on architecture
dates back to 2300 years; while Islamic architecture is 1400 years old,
hence the probability that the Islamic style Gumbaz originated from the
earlier Stupa architecture of ancient India.
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