Mecca Masjid: A Pilgrimage
Mecca masjid is one of the oldest masjids in the city and easily the biggest. Muhammed Quli Qutub Shah began building it in 1617 under the supervision of Mir Faizullah Baig and Rangiah Choudhary. Mughal emperor Aurangzeb completed the construction in 1694. It took 77 years to come up as the magnificent edifice we see today. Like many other ancient buildings in the city, the mosque is a granite giant with awe-inspiring innards. The main hall of the mosque is 75 feet high, 220 feet wide and 180 feet long, big enough to accommodate ten thousand worshippers at a time.
Mecca masjid is just a hundred yards southwest of the historic Charminar. Between Muhammed Quli Qutub Shah and Aurangzeb, Abul Hasan Tana Shah of Golconda also continued the task launched by the Qutub Shahi kings. It is believed that Muhammed Quli commissioned bricks to be made from earth brought from Mecca and inducted them into the construction of the central arch of the mosque, which explains the name of the mosque.
Fifteen graceful arches support the roof of the main hall, five on each of the three sides. A sheer wall rises on the fourth side to provide mehrab. The three arched facades have been carved from a single piece of granite, which took five years to quarry. More than 8,000 masons and workers were employed to build this grand mosque. Mohammed Quli Qutub Shah himself laid the foundation stone of the mosque, when he failed to find one person who had never missed his prayers. The king seemed to be the only person who never missed on his prayers ever since he was 12 years of age.
It is about 50 years since they began to build a splendid pagoda in the town which will be the grandest in all India when it is completed. The size of the stone is the subject of special accomplishment, and that of a niche, which is its place for prayer, is an entire rock of such enormous size that they spent five years in quarrying it, and 500 to 600 men were employed continually on its work. It required still more time to roll it up on to conveyance by which they brought it to the pagoda; and they took 1400 oxen to draw it, says Tavernier in his travelogue.
As the tourist gets past the main gateway and enters a huge plaza, a large man-made pond of bluish waters greets him. On the edge of the pond are two stone and slab benches and whoever sits on them, according to legend, returns to sit on them again. A room in the courtyard is presumed to house the hair of prophet Mohammed. At the peak of the minarets flanking the masjid is an arched gallery and above that a smallish dome and a spire. Inscriptions from Quran adorn many of the arches and doors. The majesty of the façade of the grand mosque is somewhat obscured by huge walls of wire mesh erected to prevent pigeons from entering the prayer spaces and ruining them.
The main structure of the mosque is sandwiched between two massive octagonal columns hewn out of a single piece of granite. The cornices running around the entire mosque structure and the floral motifs and friezes over the arches remind the tourist of the great attention paid to detail in Qutb Shahi architecture. They have a close resemblance to the ones the tourist sees on the arches at Charminar and Golconda fort.
Though an overview of the masjid yields a picture of a massive rectangular granite monolith, closer scrutiny discloses the sculptural excellence of this axis of Muslim faith and of the parts that constitute its sum. If the tourist can deflect his gaze from the sheerness of the façade, everything from the cornices, the alcoves, the balconies to the parapets and the sundry, reveals an unparalleled aesthetic brilliance. Look at the cornice running on the four sides of the mosque, you will find 25 windows positioned between the consoles. These windows have awnings, not very different in their lineage from Hindu temple architecture.
On the four sides of the roof of the main mosque are ramparts made up of granite planks in the shape of inverted conches perched on pedestals. From the cornice of the mosque, its minarets are not as high as the minarets on the mazaar (Nizams tombs) haven from their cornice. The octagonal columns have arched balconies on level with the roof of the mosque with an awning for a canopy above which the column continues upwards till it is crowned by a dome and spire.
As the tourist enters the great courtyard of the mosque, to his left he will find an exquisitely graceful, rectangular, arched and canopied building housing the marble graves of Asaf Jahi rulers from Nizam Ali Khan to Mehboob Ali Khan and their family. It is possible that this structure came up during the rule of the Asaf Jahs because it contains the tombs of the Nizams and their family. At both ends of this resting place for the Asaf Jahs and very much a part of it, are two rectangular blocks with four minarets each.
These minarets have elegant and circular balconies with low ornamental walls and arches. Above them is an octagonal inverted platter from which the rest of the minaret soars till it is arrested by a dome and a spire. This mazaar sanctuary is in reality a far greater specimen of architectural sophistication than the principal masjid and proclaims the artistic penchant of the Asaf Jahis.
The Mecca masjid is a listed heritage building crying for constant supervision and maintenance. Stains and patches can be seen disfiguring the exterior of this majestic structure and cracks are appearing in the octagonal columns. The mosque received a chemical wash in 1995. The tourist is also irritated by the growth of foliage in the crevices of the façade.