A Wonder in Marble
Times News Network Thursday, February 28, 2002
This is one structure in the city that was not built by Sayajirao Gaekwad . Instead the history of this marble structure greeting you at the entrance of Badri Mohalla can be traced back to more than 300 years during the rule of the Babis. However, that isn't the Masjid-e-Noorani only claim to fame.
This Alavi Bohra mosque situated right in the heart of the old city area dazzles you with its sheer magnificence. Buried under the stones of marble, are over three centuries of history. Syedna Ziyauddin Bin Nuh (Q.R), a missionary heading the Bohra community when they arrived in Vadodara centuries ago, built the original mosque. But the old structure was demolished to make way for the new one in 1973. The objective being to make a bigger, better version of the old mosque.
Architecturally, the mosque has several interesting features. For instance, one unique fact about its construction is that the entire building has no pillars. Apparently, the whole structure is supported by a single girdle, which was brought especially from Kolkata. Then of course, there is the generous use of marble on every floor of the three-storey structure, brought from Makarana in Rajasthan. Also two huge minarets, (almost 75-80 ft long, among the largest in Vadodara), 12 smaller minarets, and the dome attract the eye on the façade of the mosque.
Inside the first sight that greets the eye is a huge inscription of Ya Ali in gold. The huge wooden door leading to the main hall itself is reminiscent of olden times when houses had large doors, enclosed as they were by a fort. “Even now we need at least three persons to open and shut the door, hence we keep it open all the time,” says Hatim Zakiyuddin , belonging to the royal family of the Alavi Bohras .
The main hall of the mosque contains Quranic inscription on the walls, almost 225 ft long, again a unique feature as few other mosque in Vadodara boasts of such a huge collection. While ornate carvings adorn the ceiling one cannot miss the huge chandeliers imported from the erstwhile Czechoslovakia .
Unlike other places, this is one mosque where women, are allowed to offer prayers, only they have to be seated on the second floor where purdah has been put up. Interestingly, the community members (though not so strictly) also follow a dress code for prayers. They are mostly dressed in white.
But the mosque is not merely a place for prayer and religious ceremonies. It also houses a madrasa and is an important center for celebrations during festivals be it Moharram or id. “Festivals are important occasions.” Says Zakiyuddin,”Religious discourses, propagation of Islamic thoughts and so on are just some of the activities.”
Moharram is especially important, when almost the entire mohalla comes out on the street in mourning and reciting Noha or Marsiya (elegy).
Even otherwise, the Masjid-e-Noorani is a hubbub of activity. Truly, a place where architectural magnificence meets the religious fervor.
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