A small village in coastal Kutch has the first verifiable piece of Muslim architecture in India that predates the iconic Qutab Minar in Delhi,a Japanese architectural historian said on Friday. According to the Arabic inscription at Ibrahim dargah in Bhadreshwar,east of Mundra,the structure was constructed in 1159 AD and predates Delhis Qutab Minar by 34 years,said Professor Fukami Naoko of Tokyos Waseda University,speaking at a lecture organised by the Transindus Foundation.
Professor Naoko has been researching Islamic architecture across the globe,including Europe,Africa,the Arab world and Asia,since the 1980s. The Ibrahim dargah is made up of a domed room and porch,which hosts four pillars. Parts of the dome have cracked and a beam atop the pillars was partially broken in the Bhuj earthquake of 2001. It was this that brought Naoko to Gujarat. She wanted to help save old monuments damaged by the quake. She,along with her fellow researchers,even erected a column of bricks to hold up the broken beam.
She later drew a map of Bhadreshwar and organised heritage walks for locals,especially schoolchildren,to create awareness among the community that consists of fishermen,salt-pan workers and farmers. The village is home to a few other old structures of both Islamic and Jain origins.
The academic had read about the Ibrahim dargah before,she said,including a 1959 piece by D A Desai that first described the inscription and a later book on Bhadreshwar that detailed the dargah.
Besides being the first piece of Islamic architecture in present-day India,the Ibrahim dargah is also the first example of corbelled arched walls and a corbelled dome, she said,referring to the architectural technique of a solid structure on a wall that supports an arch.
Another interesting aspect of the dargah is that it was built from new material as opposed to most other Islamic structures in India where material is normally sourced from razed temples or other structures,said Professor Naoko.
The historian from Wasedas Organisation for Islamic Area studies added the dargah appears to have been built by Hindu and Jain artisans who were subjects of the Jain ruler who presided over the area in those days and who probably hosted Arab merchants. Bhadreshwar is known to be one of the oldest port towns in present-day Gujarat.
Gujarat Tourism cautiously says on its website that the dargah and the adjoining mosque there are in all likelihood the first mosques built in India.