The mosque is considered one of the finest architectural examples of the Adil Shahi period of Bijapur (1490-1686) which became one of the local sultanates after 1518 when the Deccan based Bahmanids were dissolved into five local sultanates. Construction of the mosque began in the city's eastern quarter, in 1576 under Ali Adil Shah I (r.1558-1580). Ali Adil Shah used the money from the booty gained in the Raksas-Tagdi (Tali Kota), where the united army of Muslim kings defeated Rama Raja in 1565, to finance the construction of this mosque.
It is the largest mosque of Bijapur, covering an area of 54, 250 square feet. The main entrance gate is from the east, though the north gate is used more frequently. The ground plan is a large rectangular structure measuring 492 by 262 feet (150 by 80 meters) with a square courtyard of 164 feet (50 meters).
A passage from the eastern gate leads into the courtyard, which has fountains and a large reservoir in the center. The perimeter walls are articulated on the exterior by two orders of superimposed arches. The lower ones are ornamental while the upper ones form a continuous open gallery that runs along three sides of the mosque and courtyard. The arches of the gallery facing the courtyard have fine proportions and simple lines. There are also several windows of pierced stone-work carved in a variety of pattern. It is said that the Raja of Satara built these side-walls connecting the original mosque or main prayer hall to the eastern wall.
The prayer hall on the west side has a façade of seven bays, each bay having an arched opening. The arches are equal in size, while the central arch is delineated through delicate arabesque patterns in stucco. The prayer hall is crowned by an elegant, well-proportioned dome. It has a diameter of 57 feet (17.4 meters) and rises to 120 feet (36.6 meters) from the ground. The dome is given even greater vertical prominence by its small ornamental balustrade at the base. The continuity of the balustrade is broken at intervals of three arches by a guldasta (slender ornamental minarets). The dome is capped by a metal terminal upholding the symbolic crescent that proclaimed the Adil Shahi's dynasty Turkish origin. By 1686 the mosque was mostly completed. Though two minarets meant for the east façade were never built and neither were the parapets of the gallery around the courtyard adorned with the usual merlons.
The interior of the mosque has refined clean lines with minimal decorative elements. The plan of the prayer hall is a large, measuring 230 by 118 feet (70 by 36 meters), and is divided into five bay that are parallel to the west (qibla) wall. The roof is supported by massive square piers. The multiple lines of arches reach the floor to form the surface of these piers, lending the prayer hall a gothic air. The central bay is a square space of 82 feet (25 meters). The mosque can accommodate 4,000 worshippers at a time. The floor was divided, on the orders of Emperor Aurangzeb, into 2,250 rectangular inlays that mimic prayer rugs.
When the mosque was built, it was conspicuous for its austerity of decoration. Ali Adil Shah I (r.1558-1580) was Shi'ite and the sect preferred not to decorate in their places of worship. Muhammad Adil Shah (r.1627-1656) was a Sunni and it was probably during his reign that and elaborate mural decoration was added near the mihrab. An inscription to the right of the mihrab supports this view and also records a large addition of teakwood made to the ceiling. The mihrab was also gilded and decorated in black and gold. It was then inscribed with Persian verses.
Six Persian inscriptions found in the mihrab are translated as: 1. Put no trust in life; it is short 2. The passing world has no rest 3. The world pleases the senses 4. Life is the best of gifts, but it lasts not. 5. Malik Yaqub, a servant of the mosque and the slave of Sultan Muhammad finished the mosque 6. This gilding and ornament were done by order of Sultan Muhammad Adil Shah, A.H. 1045.
Alfieri, Bianca Maria. Islamic Architecture of the Indian Subcontinent. London: Laurence King Publishing, 2000. 165.
Verma, D.C. Social, Economic and Cultural History of Bijapur. Delhi: Idarah-i Adabiyat-i Delli,1990. 169, 170.
Davies, Philip. Islamic, Rajput, European Volume 2 of The Penguin Guide to the Monuments of India. London: The Penguin Group, 1989. 433.
Verma, B.D. The Glories of Bijapur: a history of its remains. Poona: Unknown, 1964. 106, 107.