This Friday mosque, one of the earliest in South India, was built by Muhammad I (r. 1358-75) to commemorate Gulbarga as the capital of the Bahmanid Sultanate. The Bahmani dynasty was founded by Ala al-Din Hasan Bahman Shah, a Brahmin's servant at the court of Muhammad Shah Tughluq. The Bahmanids established themselves in Gulbarga once the Delhi Sultanate began losing its hold.
The mosque does not adhere to an established prototypes of mosque architecture. It resembles a courtyard mosque, except that what would have been the open space for the courtyard is completely covered with sixty-three small domes. A minaret, typically associated with mosques, is absent. The outer walls, which usually are solid, are instead open arcades to allow in much needed light that would generally be filtered in from a courtyard. Only the west (qibla) wall is solid. The main entrance is from the north side where a tall arch breaks the otherwise linear form of the mosque.
The floor plan measures 216 feet by 177 feet (66 by 54 meters) with wide vaulted cloisters defining the perimeter. The corners are marked by domes. The west bay is spacious and covered in the center with a high dome, which is surrounded by twelve smaller domes. This high central dome is given even greater prominence by not only being slightly larger but also because it is placed on an arcade, forming a square cloister that rises above the smaller domes.
The interior of the mosque was the result of experimentation with the span of arches, which turned out rather appealing and were utilized in many other Deccan buildings. The arches here have a very wide span and are support on short imposts. These unconventional 'stretched' arches later became a characteristic of Deccani architecture.
The reason for the 'stretched' effect was that the rooms were all approximately of the same height, the span of an arch had to adjust to the differing width of the square rooms. In other words, any arch could be inscribed with the square plan of its room. These wide-span arches contrast sharply with the arches of the covered courtyard, making them look even more slender.
Alfieri, Bianca Maria. Islamic Architecture of the Indian Subcontinent. London: Laurence King Publishing, 2000. 147, 148.
Volwahsen, Andreas and Henri Stierlin, editors. Islamic India. Vol. 8 of Architecture of the World. Cologne: Benedikt Taschen Verlag, 1990. 44.
Hoag, John D. Islamic Architecture. Milan: Electa Editrice, 1975. 150.
DK Eyewitness Travel Guides. India. London: Dorling Kindersley Limited 2002, 544.