Study – Islamic Architecture in the Malay Peninsula – Part 4 – North Indian Style

Almost two weeks of no posting…I’m sorry but life is getting busier by the day and exhausting me both physically and mentally. But now I have some spare time to spend, I am continuing the Islamic architecture in Malay Peninsula series.

Next in the series is the North Indian Style. This style, mostly used in the Malay Peninsula in the early 20th Century be easily recognized by the usage of of Onion dome in many sizes, spires and domed canopies. This style is similar to the Mughal style architecture in North India, hence the name.

Kapitan Keling Mosque in Penang Malaysia

There are two theories as to why this particular style to be used in the Malay Peninsula. One theory is that this style is the colonialists’ (read : the European powers especially the United Kingdom) to accept their version of Islam or to differentiate the styles in their own countries versus their colonies. This might be true when many of the government offices built during this period also features the same Style. Simply put, the colonialist chose a different, ‘exotic’ style of architecture as opposed to the classical language of their monuments and religious buildings. Thus, they would have the Classical style in their hometown, but an exotic cityscape in their colonies. As the United Kingdom took hold India as their colony, it is a sensible choice to take the architectural style there to other colonies for example in the Malay peninsula as a continuation.

Another theory is that the style is that the Indian Muslim merchants, building mosques in their native styles. As the merchants return to their homelands, it might be the explanation of why the style declined in popularity as the local population no longer associate Islam with the Indian merchants.

The floorplan of mosques in this style is inconsistent unlike the other style mentioned before. However, as stated above, one can easily distinguish the North Indian style with other styles. All buildings of this style features arches with indents, multifoiled or horseshoe. This recalls the Indian mosques with Hindu influences. These arches themselves mostly are used to cover walkways around the mosques or as decorative accents. Domes are of many different sizes from small ones covering the walkways to large ones covering the main prayer hall. These domes were onion in shape(picture the domes of St. Basil’s Cathedral in Russia) and built mainly out of concrete or aluminum sheets. Spires ending in smaller domes are abundant and very common feature in this style, as well as a multitude of minarets and covered, domed pavilions, very similar to ones featured in Hindu temples.


Jamek Mosque in Kuala Lumpur Malaysia By Mohd Hafiz Noor Shams (Earth) by 15:26, 26 December 2005

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