New Delhi: Taj Mahal may count amongst
the most stellar Mughal monuments in India but numerous lesser
known mosques and tombs, across the country stand testament to
the heritage of Islamic architecture.
From the oldest mosque in the country located in
Kerala to fine monuments in Agartala and Kashmir, art
historian and filmmaker Benoy K Behl has captured almost all
of them in "A world of beauty and grace - Islamic Architecture
"India has perhaps as much medieval Islamic
architectural heritage as that of the rest of the world put
together. The quality of the beautiful monuments of India
ranks with the best anywhere. The world is not aware of how
much or how great India`s Islamic heritage is," says Behl.
The 31-minute documentary with a 26 minute TV version
made by Behl for the public diplomacy division of External
Affairs travels from Kerala in the south to Kashmir in the
north, from Tripura in the east till Gujarat in the west.
The historian captures the confluence of local talent
with inspirations from Iran, Arabia and Central Asia in the
mosques, tombs, madrasas, palaces and fortresses that reflect
the cultural links that India shares with other countries.
"Islam came to India not from the North, as is
commonly believed. but from Arab traders in what is today the
region of Malabar in Kerala and Muslims developed as a trading
community there. You can see still traces of that community
amongst the Mopalas in Kerala, who trace their ancestry back
to the Arabs," says Behl.
The film shows the first mosque built in India at
Kodungalur in Kerala by Raja Cheraman Perumal in 629 AD. In
Kayalpattanam Arab traders built the first mosque in Tamil
Nadu in 633 AD.
"A distinct culture developed in the cosmopolitan
community of the Deccan. The streets of the Deccani sultanates
were filled with Turks, Persians, Arabs and Africans," says
The documentary shows Gol Gumbaz in Bijapur, tomb of
Sultan Muhammad Adil Shah, who ruled from 1627 to 1657AD and
is the second largest in world after St Peter?s Basilica in
The massive Bidar Fort built in the 14th and 15th
centuries, Humayun`s Tomb, considered the first great
masterpiece of the Mughals, Akbar’s most ambitious
architectural project the city of Fatehpur Sikri are among
other monuments figuring in the documentary.
"Several hundreds of mosques and Islamic tombs of
great beauty are spread throughout India. In Gujarat there is
15th century world heritage site of Champaner. In the east,
there is the impressive Nakhoda Masjid and several others in
Kolkata. There are famous dargahs in Hajo and other places in
Assam," says Behl.
"There are fine mosques even in the furthest corners
of India. In the North East of India, in Agartala in the state
of Tripura, is the beautiful Gedu Mia Ki Masjid, says the
filmmaker who has travelled extensively to document the sites.
"In the mountainous state of Kashmir, Islamic
architecture was influenced by ancient Hindu and Buddhist
traditions. This was combined with influences from Persia and
Turkistan. Wood was used extensively in the mosques and tombs
of Kashmir," points out Behl.
The filmmaker and photographer has to his credit over
35,000 photographs of Asian monuments and art heritage and has
previously made a hundred documentaries on art history. His
exhibitions have been received in 24 countries around the
world and he holds the Limca Book Record for having travelled
to all corners of India.