THIS is near the Astoria Gate on the South-east side of the city. Unfortunately, its position prevents its being seen to advantage: it stands with its south-west corner to the street, which is much lower than the platform on which both it and the mausoleum stand. Râni Sipri was the wife of one of the sons of Ahmad Shah, and doubtless the daughter of some Hindu chief; and, as was usually the case, the tomb and its necessary adjunct the mosk were probably built by herself during her lifetime. They were completed Anno Hejira 835 (i.e. A.D.1432).
The mosk is hall, open to the east, about 54 feet in lengh over all, and 20 feet wide. The roof is supported by two rows of six double columns, and the towers at the front corners are about 50 feet high.
“Notwithstanding the smallness of its dimensions,” says Mr. Fergusson, “it may be considered the gem of Ahmedabad, and, in its class, as one of the most exquisite buildings in the world. It is also one of the most perfectly Hindu of the buildings of this city, no arch being employed anywhere (except in one side doorway), either constructively or for ornament. The minarets, too, though so exquisite in design, are not minarets in reality; they have no internal stairs, and no galleries from which the call to prayer could be recited: they are pure ornaments, but of the most graceful kind. The charm of this building resides in two things. First, the completeness and unity of the design: every form and every detail is designed for the place where it is put, and is appropriate to that place. And next, to the fact that all the details are beautiful in themselves, and just sufficient to relieve and accentuate the construction, without ever concealing or interfering with it. It would of course be absurd to compare such a building with the Parthenon, or one of our great Gothic cathedrals; but it is, architecturally, a more perfect building than the Erechtheion at Athens; and though we have some Gothic chapels of great beauty, there probably is not one that would not look coarse and plain if placed side by side with this mosk.”1 Elsewhere, the same writer remarks of the minarets that they are “still more beautiful” than those of Cairo, and that every part of the mosk “is such as only a Hindu Queen could order, and only Hindu artists could carve.”2
The view given in the Photograph (No. I.) is taken from the north-east, and shows about half the front of the mosk, with a portion of the tomb, — also a fine building of its kind, but unfortunately much dilapidated, and large portions of the open stone lattice-work in the walls damaged or destroyed.
The two windows in the south end, facing the street (Photo No.II.), are genuine Hindu or Jaina in style and minutest detail: thrown well out on elaborately carved brackets, and shaded above by projecting stone eaves, they are admirably adapted to reduce the bright glare of a tropical clime, and while admitting sufficient light and air, they suggest a feeling of coolness.
The base of the south-east minaret is shown in the same view; it also is Hindu in plan and the main features of its details. In plan it is a miniature of what we find repeated in endless variety in the shrines of Western India. In Hindu and Jaina temples, however, the niches and faces of the re-entrant angles are ornamented with images of their devatas; any image of living thing the Muslim could not endure, and so here, on the base, above the principal niche, and again in the upper niche, instead of the Jaina figure of a bell hanging by a chain, we have the Musalman lamp similarly suspended; and in the principal niches we have for an architectural detail an ingeniously wrought, conventionalised flower tracery. The mosks of Ahmedabad are famous for forms of this kind-some of the best being in the Queen’s mosk at Mirzapur, in the Shahpura mosk, and in the Bhadr. Speaking of these details, Mr. Fergusson remarks that: “After a century’s experience they (the Muhammadans at Ahmedabad) produced forms which, as architectural ornaments, will, in their own class, stand comparison with any employed in any age or in any part of the world.3 ”