Dome in Mosque Architecture originated in India before Islam

sudheer birodkar sudheer_birodkar at
Tue Jun 24 05:08:23 UTC 1997

Dear Indologists


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 
a roof.

 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.

If you are interested read more about this at the site "INDIA'S 

Visit the home page for this site:

This site aims to satisfy the urge of Indologists, NRIs who have 
distanced themselves from their roots and others who would like to know 
about the advances made in ancient India in the fields of science and 
technology and their transmission the world over.

I am looking for more such authentic references about the advances made 
in the construction of domed roofs in ancient India in:

1) Dictionaries and Encyclopedias
2) References to Indian architectural styles techniques in the 
chronicles of foreigners who visited ancient India 
3) Similar references to India in current western literature (on the web 

 I want to continue this kind of study in association with those 
interested in ancient Indian History with specific reference to advances 
made in science and technology.


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