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From Marrakesh to India: A Colonial Maharaja’s Pursuit of Architectural Glory in Kapurthala

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This article explores a case of feisty internationalism in India's Islamic architecture during the colonial era. An Indian ruler with a passion for building, Maharaja Jagatjit Singh (1872-1949), ruler of the princely state of Kapurthala, commissioned a mosque in his capital, Kapurthala, in the early decades of the twentieth century. Departing from convention, the archetype was not drawn from the subcontinent's mosque-building tradition, but from Morocco in the Maghrib (Muslim North Africa). The patron was an inveterate traveller and tourist who frequented Europe and also visited its colonies including Morocco. He was impressed by Marrakesh's landmark twelfth-century Kutubiyya Mosque that became the prototype for Kapurthala's Jami Mosque. Designed by a French architect, Kapurthala's Jami Mosque is a complete aberration in the subcontinent's Islamic history owing to its allegiance to a Maghribi prototype. It represents a unique, idiosyncratic endeavour by a non-Muslim ruler subscribing to western cultural practices and seeking inspiration beyond the scope of his home in order to raise a mosque for his Muslim subjects. The article asserts that the Maharaja's endeavour, sadly neglected both by the public and academia, deserves a place in the subcontinent's vast corpus of Islamic built heritage as an invaluable cultural resource to be safeguarded for posterity.

Keywords: Jami Mosque; Maghrib; built heritage; colonialism; princely patronage; travel

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1386/ijia.1.2.269_1

Affiliations: Deenbandhu Chhotu Ram University of Science & Technology

Publication date: August 17, 2012

More about this publication?
  • The International Journal of Islamic Architecture (IJIA) is intended for those interested in urban design and planning, architecture, and landscape design in the historic Islamic world, encompassing the Middle East and parts of Africa and Asia, but also the more recent geographies of Islam in its global dimensions. The main emphasis is on detailed analysis of the practical, historical and theoretical aspects of architecture, with a focus on both design and its reception. The journal is also specifically interested in contemporary architecture and urban design in relation to social and cultural history, geography, politics, aesthetics, technology, and conservation. Spanning across cultures and disciplines, IJIA seeks to analyze and explain issues related to the built environment throughout the regions covered. The cross-cultural and interdisciplinary nature of this journal will significantly contribute to the knowledge in this field.
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