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  • Translating Sacred Space in Bijāpur:The Mosques of Karīm al-Dīn and Khwāja Jahān
  • Katherine E. Kasdorf

Celebrated for its 'Ādil Shāhī (1490–1686 CE) architectural treasures, the city of Bijāpur, in northern Karnāṭaka (Fig. 1), has in recent years gained prominence, both in the popular domain as a destination for travel and tourism, and in the scholarly domain as an object of academic study.1 Although art-historical studies of Bijāpur have tended to focus attention upon the monuments and urban layout developed during the 'Ādil Shāhī period,2 the city was already marked by a cosmopolitan population and architectural activity before the 'Ādil Shāhīs transformed it during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries to serve as their capital.

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Fig. 1.

Map of Khaljī sultanate (approximate boundaries).

The city's pre-'Ādil Shāhī periods, however, have received less attention. Two of Bijāpur's lesser-known [End Page 57] monuments, the Mosque of Karīm al-Dīn (ca. 1320 CE) and the so-called Mosque of Khwāja Jahān (ca. 14th c.), stand approximately 400 yards apart within the citadel at the center of the city, just inside its southern and northern entrances, respectively (Figs. 2–6).3 Built during a period when migrants from northern India were changing the character of Bijāpur's population, they constitute the city's earliest surviving "buildings of Islamic worship."4 Both mosques were constructed in local trabeate techniques from a combination of reused and new architectural materials, which were carved from stone and which bear a stylistic resemblance to their counterparts in the region's surviving eleventh- to fourteenth-century temples.

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Fig. 2.

Bijāpur citadel. 'Ādil Shāhī period. From Cousens, Bījā pūr and its Architectural Remains. Mosque of Karīm al-Dīn is no. 281, labelled "K-ud-D's Mosque." Mosque of Khwāja Jahān is no. 294, labelled "Old Mosque."

A bilingual Persian and Old Marāṭhī foundation inscription dates the Mosque of Karīm al-Dīn to 1320 CE and names its patron, a local governor for the Khaljī sultanate of Delhi, which held power from 1290 to 1320 and expanded its territories into the Deccan during the early fourteenth century.5 Both versions of the inscription also name the mosque's builder, Revaiye (called Rībayya in the Persian transliteration of his name), from the town Salehauṭage, identified as present day Salotgi in Bijāpur district.6 This bilingual inscription is indexical of the cooperative interaction and communication between members of multiple language groups and communities7 that will be central to my interpretation of both mosques' incorporation of reused materials and forms.

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Fig. 3.

Plan of Mosque of Karīm al-Dīn. Bijāpur. Ca. 1320 CE. From Cousens, Bījāpūr and its Architectural Remains.

Although previous scholarship has largely treated the mosques of Karīm al-Dīn and Khwāja Jahān as footnotes to a broader discussion on Bijāpuri or Deccani architectural history, usually emphasizing constructions from the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, I hope to demonstrate that bringing the fourteenth-century Bijāpuri mosques out of the margins and into the center of historical study yields rich material pertaining to a transitional moment in the region's history. By considering the architecture of the mosques, the inscriptions they contain, and the specific examples of reuse they present, I shall argue that the ways in which reused materials were incorporated into each mosque suggest an attempt on the part of the mosques' architects and patrons to [End Page 58] express a conceptual similitude between two different types of sacred space—in effect, to enact a visual and conceptual translation between temple and mosque.8

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Fig. 4.

Schematic plan of Mosque of Khwāja Jahān. Bijāpur. Ca. 14th c. CE.

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Fig. 5.

Mosque of Karīm al-Dīn. Bijāpur. Ca...


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