The Jami Masjid is located in the central part of the eastern sector of the city near the Mar Canal and is the main mosque of Srinagar. It was originally built by Sultan Sikandar Butshikan (1393-1416), who was dubbed Butshikan ('iconoclast') because of the many idol and temples he destroyed. The mosque was expanded by his son, Zain al-Abidin and since then has been reconstructed and restored many time due to incidences of fire , a common problem given the amount of wood used in Kashmiri architecture.
The first incidence of fire was in 1479. The subsequent reconstruction of 1503, 1620 - 37 during Jahangir's reign, 1674 during Awrangzib's reign and that of 1913 have remained fairly true to the original floor plan with some changes occurring in the style to suit the taste of later periods, the last being in the Indo-Saracenic style. The construction of 1913 was done under Maharaja Pratap Singh with substantial government aid and supervision.
The main entrance to the mosque is through the Southern gateway where the history of the mosque is found inscribed and on a block of black marble is the royal decree (farmam) of Emperor Shah Jahan records his orders of cutbacks on taxes levied by Governor Itaqad Khan and the appointment of Zafar Khan as the new provincial governor.
The perimeter of the mosque is a quadrangle of approximately 383'-10" (117m) long and 32'-9" (10m) high. Based on the Iranian mosque model, it has 4 iwans, one on each side of a 262'-6" (80m) inner square courtyard. Done mostly in wood and some brick, it is an impressive adaptation of the Persian mosque form to the traditional mosque (ziyarat) which draws inspiration from Buddhist, Hindu and indigenous wooden architecture. The façade, windows and arches are in the Persian style while the pillars, colonnades and ceilings are done in the indigenous style of a log cabin.
The mosque is accessible from the north, east and south, each projecting entrance corresponding to an iwan. The southern gateway forms the main entrance. Unlike the typical iwan of a Persian mosque, the iwans for this mosque are done in the style of the local mosque or ziyarat, which usually is an independent structure. The form of a ziyarat is a cubic hall that is roofed by a series of low pyramidal roofs on which is an open pavilion for the muezzin that terminates in a spire. The open pavilion and the spire together represent the minaret. Each of the four minarets (minar) is capped by an umbrella shaped finial associated with Buddhist dagoba. The main prayer hall in under the west iwan.
The roof of each minaret is supported on eight columns of deodar pine, each 50' (15.2m) in height and over 6' (1.8m) in girth, each made from a single deodar tree trunk. The roof of the cloistered halls that border the courtyard and connect the four iwans are also supported by 378 similar deodar columns that soar to the height of 26'-3" (8m) and give the impression of a forest, especially since they are plain and unadorned. The original square limestone bases for these columns are still intact.
Alfieri, Bianca Maria. Islamic Architecture of the Indian Subcontinent. London: Laurence King Publishing, 2000. 177.
Kaul, Manohar. Kashmir: Hindu, Buddhist and Muslim Architecture. New Delhi: Sagar Publications, 1971. 133, 134.