ATALA MOSQUE built by Sultan Ibrahim (1401-1440), Sharqi
Atala Masjid or Atala Mosque is a 15th century mosque in Jaunpur, Uttar Pradesh, India. It is one of the chief tourist attractions in Jaunpur. The mosque bears the evidences of the times in which it was built. The Atala Masjid is a useful specimen of mosques, not only in Uttar Pradesh but also in India.
The Jaunpur Atala Masjid was built by Sultan Ibrahim (1401-1440), Sharqi Sultan of Jaunpur on foundations laid during the reign of Tughluq Sultan Firuz Shah III (1351-1388). Though the emergence of this mosque dates back to 1377 A.D., the construction work was completed in the year 1408.
The Mosque is open for its devotees from 7.30 in the morning till 8.00 at night. Besides, special prayers are held every Friday.
A Madarsa named Madarsa Din Dunia is also housed in central courtyard of the mosque.
KHair-u’l-din Muhammad mentions that Sultan Ibrahim Sharqi accompanied by his nobles and officers ofte used to offer Friday as well as Id prayers there. Tradition has it that the Sharqi rulers used to go there for prayers after finishing their daily official duties and that they even used its chambers for storing their booty and spoils. Like the rest if the jaunpuri mosques, this was also partly destroyed by Sikandar lodi. But in 1860 it was restored to a great extent by the efforts of Munshi Haidar Husain of Jaunpur and is still intact.
The Atala mosque, and early specimen of the Jaunpur style, is the most ornate and most beautiful of all the Jaunpuri mosques. This splendid piece of architecture covers an area of 258 square feet. Its courtyard is 177 feet in diameter, around which on three sides are the cloisters and on the fourth the sanctuary. The west side where the sanctuary stands is divided into five compartments. At the back of the principal propylon is the central room. Next to it on either side is one oblong room,62’-0” by 28’-8” , of one storey. Then there are two more small rooms in each corner. These small rooms consist of two storeys, and had originally been separated with stone screenwork from the rest of the buildings.
The central chamber is oblong in form, i.e. , 25 feet in length and 29’-6” in width, and has been roofed above wit
h a grand dome. Thies entire chamber which once formed an elaborate and artistic piece of work, has now been marred by various coats of whitewash form time in time. It has transept pillars on either side. Its decorative treatment consists of three different stages, each depending on an arrangement of arches or arcades for its effect. The lowest atage of this compartment has three mihrabs; of these the central one has been recessed 4’-4” from the face of the wall. All these mihrabs have been beautifully carved and have black bands round their arches. To the north of the central mihrab stands a pulpit.
The second decorated stage of the above-mentioned compartment, i.e., of the central chamber, has decorative arches, four of which are squinched as well as bridged across the angles. This gives it the shape of an octagon. Through the screened openings of these arches light comes to its upper part. Then comes the upper stage which is sixteen-sided and supports the dome.
The grand dome, which has an octagonal shape, is 56’-2” in height from the inner side. For its interior decoration black marble has largely been used for the same purpose there of this dome is sixteen- sided; from its springs the cupola, which has been divided into enriched panels by projecting ribs of black marble. The external cornice from which this dome springs is executed in stone, through its external coating has been cemented. Its crowing bands are ornamented with pointed arcading which projected from the face. Finally there are rosette carvings in the centre of each other in relief, which give a very noble appearance.
Each of the pillared olong rooms on either side of the central room measures 62’-0” by 28’-8”. They are also rofed by smaller domes. These domes have stone molding around their bases, in the same wat as that of the drums and cornies of the other ones.
Then in each corner at the further end, there is another low room of two storeys on either side. Their upper storeys are surrounded by perforated stone screens for use as Zamana(female) galleries. Their ceilings are paneled are richly carved. The external wall of these Zamana galleries on the north and south sides respectively, are pierced with window openings filled in with stone trellis-work, and their western walls are divided into bays.
The most striking feature of this Sharqi architectural gem is its propylon, where Jaunpur architects have combined their artistic skill with remarkable originality. This splendid part of the mosque recalls the propylon of an Egyptian temple. It was used instead of minarets. Its height is 75’-0” and its width across the base is 54’-7”; across the top it remains only 47’-0”. There are staircases on each side of it leading to its top. Their exterior is divided into six storeys which have been decorated by string courses. All storeys except the first and the sixth storey are embellished with recessed arches. The central portion has a great arched recess of eleven feet in depth. Its upper portion is pierced with openings and was filled in originally with screen work. It also has entrances to the nave on its lower portion. There are propylons on a smaller scale which have been placed on either side of it and have also been decorated with carvings and other geometrical devices.
The courtyard of this grand mosque is reached by here massive gateways, which lie in the centre of the north, south and east facades. They have staircases on either side of them which lead to the upper cloisters. The height of each of these gateways is 34’-6” from the base and from the top which remains 38’-0”. The screen walls of these gateways over the inner arch are paneled where in the centre of each a Persian inscription still exists, through in a broken condition. Towards the courtyard side at the front of both north and south gateways there is an octagonal room of one storey high with doomed roof. These paneled domes are enriched by decorative cornices both internally and externally. The whole structure of these gateways is supported by square pillars; shafts of these are of Hindu design, placed one above the other to the height of one storey.
But the third entrance of the eastern side is the largest and most beautiful, and in design generally resembles that grand propylon whixh is in the front of the grand dome. From the centre it is recessed and spanned by a four-centered arch of ogee form and the spaces above its spandrels are paneled and ornamented by pietra dura. The upper part of the gables is pierced whereas the lower is divided into paneled bands which are beautifully fretted. The whole structure stands on a massive podium. Its top iscrowned bt an elaborate, hold cornice and its dome has the same sort of decoration as that of the other two. Like the other two gateways it also has a Persian inscription slab, which has now been replaced by a new one.
This mosque has the usual cloisters on its three sides, each very spacious and 42 feet in width. So far as the ground floor cloisters are concerned they are three sides in depth and have square and coupled columns. Towards their outer side there is a row of rooms and in front of them is a pillared verandah which faces the street. The upper storey differs from the lower. There the space is occupied by those rooms which have been built in front of the cloisters. The first of these cloisters is covered by a verandah. Its entire breadth is divided into five open aisles and there are also rows of square as well as octagonal columns.
A thorough study of this mosque testifies that many elements in its design were directly derived from the Tughluq architecture. For instance, the recessed arch with its fringe of ornamentation as well as its shape and sloping sides is to be found in Sultan Muhammad Shah’s (1390-93) tomb at Tugluqabad. Also the irregular arches here are borrowed from the same source, and the plain square shafts of the pillars and particularly the tapering turrets on the quoins of the western exterior wall seem to have been copied from Sultan Firuz Shah’s buildings. It shows that the workmen who were employed here were trained in the same traditions as those of the imperial capital of Delhi; in fact, most of them had taken refuge under the Sharqis after the disintegration of the Tughluq Empire, and flourished here under their benevolent patronage. Moreover, the original and distinctive manner in which the elements comprising the scheme have been combined here indicates that this final conception was achieved by the genius of master builders, who had a very high training and mature vision. Local Hindu artisans were also employed; they made their own contribution to the architectural synthesis.
Shahi Atala Mosque of Jaunpur (Uttar Pradesh) is in queue for UNESCO world heritage list. .Archaeological Survey of India is going to send report to the UNESCO. Patna circle office of Archeology Department has kept the proposal of Tomb of great ruler Sher Shah Suri, situated in Sasaram (Bihar) along with Shahi Atala Mosque. Special team of Archaeological Department visited Shahi Atala Mosque and Tomb of Sher Shah Suri. The Director Conservator Gyan Veer Sharma, Superintendent Archaeologist Patna circle Dr. A.K Manjul and Senior Conservative Assistant P.N Tripathi were in the team came from Delhi. According to officers, Buddha Vihar, Sarnath (Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh) and Nalanda (Bihar) are also suggested for the UNESCO list