Bara Gumbad and Bara Gumbad mosque, Delhi inspired Gol Gumbaz and other domed structures of Bijapur, KA


Renovated Bara Gumbad after 2003, Delhi.

 Bara Gumbad ( Bara Lao ka Gumbad - meaning "big dome"), a fine monument that came up in Delhi (Lodhi gardents) in 1490 CE, during the heyday of the Lodhi dynasty is an early example of Islamic architecture in India and an interesting design style is the incorporation of native Indian style. The Neo Indo-Islamic architecture is well infused in the construction of artistic bracket and load bearing  lintel beams, blending Islamic and Hindu architecture  It showed the rulers of Lodhi dynasty were great builders of structures that were  constructed with proper planning, giving prominence to structural engineering. The important features were wall constructions with arches  to bear vertical down stress caused by overlying structures that have wide span between walls. Thus the ingenious architects of the Lodhi period developed what is believed to have the earliest big  dome or cupola of any building in Delhi. 

During the colonial era, Bara Lao ka Gumbad was in what was then Palam tehsil of Delhi. South of Shah Jehanabad. prior to that the site was left to rot. when delhi became the capital of the Raj, efforts were made by the monument lovers to preserve them for the posterity.

Bara Gumbad and mosque ,

Bara Gumbad, Delhi

For the construction of big free-standing  domes in India, the architects during the Lodhi regime chose masonry construction  and   innovative safety design features like quinch and Pendentives (particularly the former) to shift the overlying  load to the corners. These features were adopted by Iranian building designers way back in the 3rd or 4th CE.

arcaded Bara Gumbad mosque, Delhi

interior Bara Gumbad, Delhi

Interior Bara Gumbad, Delhi

This big domed structure  with no support in the intervening space was later  adopted  by other Muslim and Hindu rulers across India. The architects of the Adil Shahi dynasty of Bijapur, Karnataka state  in the Deccani region took inspiration from the domes of Lodhi buildings like Bara Gumbad and Gumbad mosque  that has three domes over the bays out of five out; the remaining two have vaulted roofs  The central bays feature low domes, while the end-bays feature flat roofs.

Gol Gumbaz, Bijapur, KA. (ASI image)

The Bijapur architects  adopted the techniques  with vaulted arcades and pendentives to support the hume dome (with whispering gallery). Unlike the Bijapur domes, the Lodhi domes internally rest on quinches. This 17th-century mausoleum of  Mohammed Adil Shah (1627-1657) - Gol Gumbaz  was technically one of the most  advanced domed structures in the world,  featuring the largest single chamber. The dome (external diameter is nearly 44 m)  is built of brick and cemented with layers of lime (to reduce weight) . It has six small openings in its base as well as a flat section at its crown. The dome rests on a circular base, which is internally supported by interlocking pendentives, formed from eight intersecting arches that arise from the interior hall. For unknown reason, this pendentive support system was never adopted by others outside of Bijapur as the design style was a bit complicated and needed  geometric skills with reference to weight distribution below the dome.  

pendentives and  squinches

Above image; Gol Gumbaz dome, Bijapur  rests  on pendentives and arches asin Bara Gumbad Mosque. The domes of Lodi period mostly rest on squinches...................


Gpl Gumbaz section, Bijapur, KA.

During the early British time under the English company the famous and innovative  British architect Robert Chisholm with support from the then Governor of Madras Presidency, Napier visited, Nayakar Mahal in Madurai, Tamil Nadu and the mausoleums of Bijapur. Quite fascinated by the big domed structures and  ornamentations  for the first time he introduced Indo-Islamic elements along with European architecture. This design fusion called Indo-Saracenic style was widely adopted by the British architects in the public buildings across India. There are  many Indo- Saracenic buildings in Madras (Chennai) and in Baroda (Vadadora)  designed  by Chisholm during the reign of Maharajah Sayajirao Gaekwad. A fine example is the large dome in the art department of M.S. university, Vadodara.

semi circular turret. minaret, Gumbad mosque, Delhi

projected Balcony, Bara Gumbad,

Above image: Both the oriel or bay windows and the tapering minarets of Gumbad  gave rise to future  architectural styles.

Bara Gumbad, (29 metres (95 ft) high, 20 metres (66 ft) long and 20 metres (66 ft) wide) like Shisha Gumbad is a one story structure with a huge free standing dome and is  close to the Tomb of Sikandar Lodhi and Shisha Gumbad in the Lodhi gardens that has  a group of historical monuments. Lots of tourists visit this site. It also includes a Friday mosque (Jama Masjid) and the "mehman khana" (guest house) with 5 bays. 

Historians are of the view that  the Bara Gumbad was built  to provide a gateway to access  the nearby mosque or a large walled enclosure.  The purpose of the Gumbad  is unexplainable as it has no tombs inside unlike Shisha Gumbad . The presence a central platform suggests it could have been a burial place in the past turret of Mosque