The echo of the azaan from a mosque in Gujarat wafts back further in time than anywhere in India, historians say.
This land of ours has always been a melting pot of cultures — India houses the maximum number of places of worship in the world. It might come as a surprise, India also has the largest number of mosques after Indonesia, the country with the largest Muslim population in the world. India is home second-largest Muslim population in the globe.
Islam came early to India, and in fact the first mosque to be built in the country was the Barwala Mosque in Ghogha taluka of Bhavnagar district in Gujarat.
Several archeologists and historians have made different claims about various mosques as having been the first mosque to be built in India. For instance, the Cheraman Juma Mosque in Kerala is believed to have been built in AD 629 and the Palaiya Jumma Palli in Tamil Nadu is believed to have been constructed between AD 628 and AD 630. However, the veracity of these claims can be ascertained from the history of Islam.
The Islamic history dictates that devotees have to offer namaz (prayer) in the direction of holy Kaaba. In the ancient times, this direction was towards the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem. However, after Prophet Mohammad received the revelation, he decreed that the direction of all the mosques be turned facing towards Mecca-Medina. As the mosques constructed in Kerala and Tamil Nadu face towards Mecca-Medina, it can be ascertained that they were built after the decree by the Prophet.
However, the mosque in Barwala faces towards Jerusalem. Hence, it can be claimed that it had been established much before the decree issued by the Prophet. It is also to be noted that no other mosque in India, except for the one in Barwala, faces towards Jerusalem. Hence, it can be claimed that the mosque in Barwala was the first mosque of India.
The mosque in Barwala is located at the Gulf of Cambay in the north part of Ghogha city. After examining the historical facts, it is believed that the mosque was built by the Arabian traders who would come to Gujarat for trade.
It also raises a question whether the Arabian traders were interested in trade or spreading their religion in the region. We should also look at the geographical point of view to explore this possibility.
In that era, the trade between Arabia and Gujarat used to depend on the weather. The ships were sail driven. As during summer, the sea wind would blow towards the east from the west, the ships could easily set sail towards Gujarat from Arabia. However, after summer, the direction of the wind would change. The ships would get stuck in the doldrums. The traders would have to wait and stay in Gujarat for the next five-six months till the wind direction would change towards Arabia. It is believed that during their stay in Gujarat, in order to practise their religion, they had established the mosque in Barwala.
According to Professor Mehboob Desai, the head of the history and cultural department of Gujarat Vidyapith, though the mosque in Barwala has little value in terms of architecture, it definitely stands out by dint of its claim of being the first mosque of India.
“Going by the direction the mosque faces, it is believed to have been built in the fifth century,” Professor Mehboob told Vibes of India. “I would like to make the reference of Zliyauddin Desai, the epigraphist of the department of archeology. Zliyauddin claims that in its survey, the Archeological Survey of India had found that the inscriptions in Arabic inscribed on the walls of the mosque were the oldest Arabic inscriptions in India and probably the first ones. Apart from this, there is an ancient Muslim graveyard on the seashore of Ghogha which houses 1,000 to 1,500 graves. This denotes the fact that the Arabian traders had established their colony in Ghogha.”
Since the dawn of history, India has been home to many different cultures. The mosque in Barwala and the mosques in Kerala and Tamil Nadu bear testimony to the Indian values of religious tolerance and the conservation of historical monuments.
It is the duty of every Indian to preserve our cultural heritage.
I need references on the subject as I want to research more about this historical mosque.