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  • Writer's pictureBenny Kuriakose

Comparison of Kerala Mosques and Maldivian Coral Stone Mosques

The islands of the Maldives in the Indian Ocean are known for their exquisite scenery and rich cultural heritage. With the coral stone mosques of Maldives and other historic buildings built out of coral stones, traditional Maldivian architecture is unique. The islands were a transit point for the sea traders coming to India and the East. Due to the influx of traders from different parts of the world, a blending of different cultures occured in the Maldives. This might be getting reflected in the architectural elements, building styles, and construction techniques of Maldives.


Table of Contents:



1. Introduction to Traditional Maldivian Architecture


Construction in any region in the old days was mainly dependent on the availability of local materials. Maldives with its numerous islands surrounded by beautiful coral reefs led to a unique kind of architectural style, different from that prevalent in many of the countries which would have influenced its architecture. The mosques of Maldives were built with coral stone walls and timber roofs.


2. Comparative Analysis of Architectural Elements of the Coral Stone Mosques in Maldives with the Architectural Styles of Kerala


This article concentrates on enumerating the similarities and differences between the architectural styles of Kerala, mainly focusing on the religious buildings of Kerala, and the six focal Maldives mosques, which have been nominated under the UNESCO World Heritage Tentative List.


The analysis has focused on understanding the similarities and distinctive features in the architectural styles of the two areas by comparing the architectural elements, building techniques, and materials of the various buildings in Kerala and Maldives.


2.1 Plinth


The following images illustrate the similarities observed in the plinth of the religious buildings of Kerala (Photo1) and the mosques of Maldives. It also focuses on the details that can be observed in the foundation and plinth of the mosques of Maldives (Photo(s) 2, 3, 4, 5). It can be observed that the plinths made out of coral stone in some of the mosques had carvings, which are not seen in the mosques in Kerala.


Photo 1.Verendah surrounding the Chaleli Mosque in Kerala
Photo 1.Verandah surrounding the Chaleli Mosque in Kerala
Photo2. Plinth in Ishdoo Mosque in Maldives
Photo 2. Plinth in Ishdoo Mosque in Maldives
Photo3. Plinth in Ihavandhoo Mosque in Maldives
Photo 3. Plinth in Ihavandhoo Mosque in Maldives
Photo4.Carving on the plinth in Ihavandhoo Mosque
Photo 4.Carving on the plinth in Ihavandhoo Mosque
 Carving in the Plinth in Fenfushi Mosque
Photo 5. Carving in the Plinth in Fenfushi Mosque

2.2 Elevation


This component of the analysis draws a comparison between the architectural styles in the mosques of Kerala (Photo(s) 6, 7, 8, 9) and the mosques in Maldives (Photo(s)10, 11, 12)in terms of elevation.


Photo 6. Kuttichira Valia Palli
Photo 6. Kuttichira Valia Palli
Photo7. Chaleli Mosque
Photo 7. Chaleli Mosque
Photo 8. Odathil Palli in Thalassery
Photo 8. Odathil Palli in Thalassery
Photo 9. Thazhathangadi Mosque in Kottayam
Photo 9. Thazhathangadi Mosque in Kottayam

The mosque in Kerala were more elaborate in terms of the roof structure with more than two tiers in some cases, for example Kuttichira Mosque. The roofs of Maldivian mosques were also composed of different levels but were less elaborate and prominent. Verandahs surrounded the main inner core in some of the mosques in Kerala (see Photo 7), whereas this seems to be a prominent feature in the coral mosques, for example, Friday Mosque.


Photo 10.  Friday Mosque
Photo 10. Friday Mosque
Photo11. Meedhoo Mosque
Photo11. Meedhoo Mosque
Photo 12. Ishdhoo Mosque
Photo 12. Ishdhoo Mosque

2.3 Walls


This section of the analysis depicts the coral stone walls of the Maldives mosques. The coral stones are the primary building materials in Maldives since they are considered to be a long-lasting material. The history of construction using coral stones has existed for a long period of time and continues to exist in Maldives even today. This adds to the authenticity and integrity of coral as a building material.


Photo 13.  Meedhoo Mosque
Photo 13. Meedhoo Mosque
Photo 15. Coral Stone walls in Medhoo Mosque
Photo 15. Coral Stone walls in Medhoo Mosque
Photo 16. Interlocking coral blocks in Meedhoo mosque
Photo 16. Interlocking coral blocks in Meedhoo Mosque

2.4 Doors


This section represents the difference that can be observed in the appearance and ornate workmanship of the doors in the mosques in Kerala (Photos 17, 18, 19) with comparison to the doors in the mosques of Maldives (Photos 20, 21, 22, 23, 24). Although door frames are similar, the shutters are quite different.


Photo 17. Timber Door entrance in Ponnani Palli
Photo 17. Timber Door entrance in Ponnani Palli
Photo 18. Intricate Stone details in Ponnani Palli
Photo 18. Intricate Stone details in Ponnani Palli
Photo19. Entrance to Kutchi Memorial Mosque in Alleppey
Photo19. Entrance to Kutchi Memorial Mosque in Alleppey
Photo 20. Timber entrance door of Meedhoo Mosque
Photo 20. Timber entrance door of Meedhoo Mosque
Photo21. Exquisitely Carved entrance in Ishdoo Mosque
Photo 21. Exquisitely carved entrance in Ishdoo Mosque
Photo 22.  Entrance to Fenfushi Mosque
Photo 22. Entrance to Fenfushi Mosque
Photo 23. Ornate details in the entrance of Fenfushi Mosque
Photo 23. Ornate details in the entrance of Fenfushi Mosque
Photo 24. Elaborately carved door of Friday Mosque
Photo 24. Elaborately carved door of Friday Mosque

2.5 Columns


Although timber columns are seen in Kerala mosques (Photos 25, 26, 27 & 28), the shapes and proportions are very different from that of the Maldivian mosques. The level of ornateness and detailing that can be seen on the columns in Maldives are higher (Photos 29,30, 31, 32, 33 & 34).

Photo 25. Timber columns in Cheraman Masjid
Photo 25. Timber columns in Cheraman Masjid
Photo 26. Symmetrical columns in Kuttichira Cheria Palli
Photo 26. Symmetrical columns in Kuttichira Cheria Palli
Photo 27.  Masonry Columns in Ponnani Mankutam Palli
Photo 27. Masonry Columns in Ponnani Mankutam Palli
Photo 28. Columns in Thanur Palli
Photo 28. Columns in Thanur Palli

While masonry columns are common in many mosques in Kerala (Photo 27), mosques in Maldives are supported by coral stone columns and capitals(Photos 31, 32, 33 & 34).


Photo 29. Columns in Fenfushi Mosque
Photo 29. Columns in Fenfushi Mosque
Photo 30. Column Capital in Fenfushi Mosque
Photo 30. Column Capital in Fenfushi Mosque
Photo 31. Intricately Carved capital in Eid Mosque
Photo 31. Intricately carved capital in Eid Mosque
Photo 32. Ornate capital in Friday Mosque
Photo 32. Ornate capital in Friday Mosque
Photo 33. Columns at the entrance of Friday Mosque
Photo 33. Columns at the entrance of Friday Mosque
►Photo 34. Elaborate carving on capital in Friday Mosque
Photo 34. Elaborate carving on capital in Friday Mosque

The design of the timber columns is very different in both places. The similarities in the design of the capital of the timber columns inside the Medhoo mosque (Photos 39, 40) and columns in roof ears of the Kerala mosques can be seen in the images (Photos 35, 36, 37 & 38).


Photo 35. Roof ear in a temple
Photo 35. Roof ear in a temple
Photo 36.  Detail of the roof ear of the temple.
Photo 36. Detail of the roof ear of the temple.
Photo 37. Roof ear in Thazhathangadi mosque
Photo 37. Roof ear in Thazhathangadi mosque
Photo 38. Detail of the roof ear in Thazhathangadi Mosque
Photo 38. Detail of the roof ear in Thazhathangadi Mosque
Photo 39. Columns in Meedhoo Mosque
Photo 39. Columns in Meedhoo Mosque
Photo 40. Column Capital in Meedhoo Mosque
Photo 40. Column Capital in Meedhoo Mosque

2.6 Window


Although initially, the small widows (Photos 42, 43, 44 & 45) of the Maldivian mosques look similar to those of the mosques in Kerala (Photo 41), they are in fact quite different. On the outside, latticework can be seen in Isdhoo mosque, but this is absent in the Kerala mosques. In Fenfushi mosque, you can see timber arched openings which are very similar to the doors in Maldivian mosques (Photos 48 & 49).


Photo 41. Jalli Work in Ponnani Palli
Photo 41. Jalli Work in Ponnani Palli
Photo 42. Timber Jalli work in Friday Mosque
Photo 42. Timber Jalli work in Friday Mosque
Photo 43. Timber Jalli work in Eid Mosque
Photo 43. Timber Jalli work in Eid Mosque
Photo 44.  Timber window in Meedhoo Mosque
Photo 44. Timber window in Meedhoo Mosque
Photo 45. Window in Ishdoo Mosque
Photo 45. Window in Ishdoo Mosque
Photo 46. Lattice work screen in Ishdoo Mosque
Photo 46. Lattice work screen in Ishdoo Mosque
Photo 47.  Lattice screen work in Ishdoo Mosque
Photo 47. Lattice screen work in Ishdoo Mosque
Photo 48. Carved window in Fenfushi Mosque
Photo 48. Carved window in Fenfushi Mosque
Photo 49. Ornate windows of Fenfushi Mosque
Photo 49. Ornate windows of Fenfushi Mosque

2.7 Interior Details


In both areas of study, the elements in the mosque such as the Mihrab, which is the main praying area, appear to be similar in form. It is also analogous to each other in the subtle yet elegant designs and details that can be seen on the Mihrab (Photos 50 to 54).


Photo 50.  Mihrab in Chaleli Mosque
Photo 50. Mihrab in Chaleli Mosque
Photo 51.  Elegantly Mihrab in Cheraman Masjid, Kerala
Photo 51. Elegantly Mihrab in Cheraman Masjid, Kerala
Photo 52. Mihrab in Meedhoo Mosque
Photo 52. Mihrab in Meedhoo Mosque
Photo 53. Ornate timber mihrab in Fenfushi Mosque
Photo 53. Ornate timber mihrab in Fenfushi Mosque
Photo 54. Mihrab in Friday Mosque
Photo 54. Mihrab in Friday Mosque

2.8 Minbar


The Minbar in the mosques of Kerala (Photos 55, 56) and the mosques of Maldives (Photos 57, 58, 59, 60) are similar in terms of their form. In Cheraman Masjid, a minbar carved out of timber has been lacquered (Photo 55). In Munambam mosque, the minbar is made out of masonry. In Maldivian mosques, one can see minbars made out of timber and masonry.


Photo 55. Lacquered Minbar in Cheraman Masjid, Kerala
Photo 55. Lacquered Minbar in Cheraman Masjid, Kerala
Photo 56. Masonry Minbar in Munambam Mosque
Photo 56. Masonry Minbar in Munambam Mosque
Photo 57. Minbar in the Meedhoo Mosque
Photo 57. Minbar in the Meedhoo Mosque
Photo 57. Minbar in the Meedhoo Mosque
Photo 58. Minbar in the Meedhoo Mosque
Photo 59. Coral stone Minbar in Eid Mosque
Photo 59. Coral stone Minbar in Eid Mosque
Photo 60. Coral stone Minbar in Isdhoo Mosque CEILING
Photo 60. Coral stone Minbar in Isdhoo Mosque Ceiling

2.9 Ceiling


There are lot of similarities and differences in the way the timber is used and decorated in Kerala and Maldives. Even within Kerala, there are a lot of different ways of making the timber ceiling (Photos 61, 62, 63, 64, 65, 66 & 67). In some of the mosques, they are very simple, while in the others, there are carved panels (Photos 66 & 67).