The minaret at the Masjid Menara (Minaret Mosque) in Kudus is the earliest example of a Javanese minaret. This early sixteenth century minaret is remarkable for its syncratization of Hindu-Javanese style and Islamic function. The 20 meter high square brick tower resembles the watchtower, or kukul, of fortified Hindu temples as well as the chandi, an East Javanese sepulchral monument built from volcanic rock. The stepped brick structure is entered through a split gateway, or chandi bentar, and rises to a wooden pavilion where the bedug and the kentongan are kept. The elevation of the bedug, the drum used to summon Muslims to prayer, is unique as the drum is usually located at ground level in a serambi or covered open area. The kentongan, also used to call for prayers, is a hollowed wooden instrument that resonates when struck.
The top of the minaret is covered by an overlapping hipped roof system that accentuates the verticality of the tower. This roof system, which is said to resemble the mythical Hindu mountain meru, allows air to circulate through spaces between the roof layers. The meru roof is a common type for Javanese mosques and indeed is mimicked on the adjacent mosque. This type of roof is supported by an open-timbered beam formation of concentric squares wherein the lower roof is supported by four outer beams and the higher roof is supported by four centralized inner beams. This principle of saka guru can similarly be applied to multiple hipped roofs.
Though the mosque that the minaret serves has been recently rebuilt, the plan of the mosque complex adheres to its original form. Both the mosque and the sequential walled courts surrounding it are aligned from east to west. The complex consists of several inner courts, with the split-gate, candi bentar, providing access to this inner sanctuary while kori agung, or a gate with both a roof and a door, connect one court to the next.
As well as sporting both Arabic and Javanese inscription, the minaret is inlaid with blue and white pottery dishes that were added in the eighteenth or nineteenth centuries. Further additions that have been made include the clock atop the west façade and the "Allah" sign which glows neon at night. An inscription above the mihrab inside the mosque states that the original mosque, built in 1549, was named Aqsa by Jafar Shodiq, one of the nine walis, or saints, said to have spread Islam through Java.
Dalton, Bill. Indonesia Handbook, 104. Chico, California: Moon Publishing, 1983.
Frishman, Martin and Hasan-Uddin Khan, eds. The Mosque: History, Architectural Development and Regional Diversity, 234-236. London: Thames and Hudson, 1994.
Prijotomo, Josef. Ideas and Forms of Javanese Architecture, 45-65. Yogyakarta: Gadjah Mada University Press, 1984.