“Honk honk,” the autos blare. We pull ourselves together and trudge along, drained after attending Ahmedabad’s heritage walk. Our eyes fix on the modest sandstone structure which stands without much ado in the centre of the road— Sidi Saiyyed Mosque. Apparently the humble mosque has lent its art to become an icon of the city of Ahmedabad. Sidi Saiyyed Mosque stands like a true leader who reserves a place of importance in the community but never asserts his power over his subjects, but instead, lives a modest life. It is a living mosque where prayers are still held.
The emerald green waters of the ablution pool reflect the imposing crown of leaves on the tree adjacent to the pool. From the small courtyard we gaze through the columns at the central attraction, the carving of the ‘Tree of Life’. It has become synonymous with the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad and also serves as the unofficial symbol of Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation.
The jaali or the lattice windows on the two sides of the western panel of the mosque has put the mosque on the tourist map. The delicately intertwined branches of a tree metamorphose the mere stone panel into a scene from a royal garden. Intricately carved on 22 pieces of yellow sandstone, the tree is an example of the world’s finest trelliswork. Popularly known as the Tree of Life, the palm motif can also be interpreted as an imagery of the Kalpavriksha, which has divine significance in Hinduism, Jainism and Buddhism. Its incorporation in the beautification of a mosque heralded an era of Indo-Islamic style of architecture. Inside the mosque chandeliers hang from chains, geometrical patterns adorn walls and a lotus motif points to Hindu influence.
The mosque was built in 1572-73 by an Abyssinian named Saiyyed. The Nawab of Junagarh, Rasul Khan, wanted to protect the lions of his state so he brought many people from Africa to look after the lions. These migrants were mostly Muslim who came to be known in India as the Sidi people. Saiyyed was one of them and hence he is referred to as Sidi Saiyyed. He served under the rule of Sultan Nasir-ud-din Mahmud III. The Sultans of the city offered grants to their servants. Sidi Saiyyed used his grant to erect the mosque for the welfare of the city under the reign of Sultan Muzaffar Shah III, the last independent ruler of Gujarat Sultanate. Sidi Saiyyed was laid to rest in the compounds of the mosque.
The Mughals attacked the city while the mosque was still under construction. It is said that even grander filigree was foresighted for the central portion of the western panel which never saw the light of the day due to the Mughal siege. The minarets of the mosque were taken down. During the British rule the mosque was used as a government office.
Under the soft embrace of the cool breeze by the shore of the pool an old man lay half asleep. Quietly we put on our footwear and left the icon of Ahmedabad behind.
Have you been to Sidi Saiyyed Mosque in Ahmedabad? Have you seen the exquisite Jaali windows? Comment below and let me know!
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