September 2017


A Mosque in the Fort
September 2017




Meeran Jumma Mosque blends with the Dutch glamour of the legendary Galle Fort

A grand white mosque, lying close to one of the Indian Ocean's most legendary ancient ports, exuding British colonial splendour, reflects the diverse legacy of the Galle Fort.


Words: Yomal Senerath-Yapa
Photography: Menaka Aravinda and Geeth Viduranga


A storm was gathering from the sea in grey clouds, amassing and looming majestically from great high heavens over the old Dutch ramparts that had stood defying the Indian Ocean for centuries. The old lighthouse was framed by palms with feathery fronds, which danced in the quite bracing wind. The sea was grand, tempestuous, black and raging; so was the sky. Wedged between Leyn Baan Street and Rampart Street was a white spiritual sanctuary of Islamic faith.


The Meeran Jumma Mosque blends well with the Dutch glamour of the Galle Fort. This is in keeping with the fort's quaintly cosmopolitan sea-port elegance that the mosque does not have prominent domes or Samarkand mosaics. It is as white as the foam of the sea and has a chaste dignity. Looking at its immaculate façade it is difficult to say where the British architecture transcends to the Islamic. The stately, elegant British colonial features are capped by small minarets and a curvy Middle Eastern ‘crown'. The low wall that bordered the mosque seemed to imitate the waves of the sea, curving in classic scrollwork.


The mosque as it stands today was built in 1904, but people have worshipped here from the mid 18th Century. The name Meeran, cropping up frequently in the south western coast mosques, commemorates the patron saint of sailors from South India. Yet another saint associated with the shrine is Pallak Awuliya, a picturesque character who owes his name to having travelled extensively on his pallakeen or palanquin. Among the genteel Muslims of the fort there is a belief that all the great Islamic saints have graced this masjid. This is hard to disprove, especially seeing as the shrine near the ancient port is believed to be the Tarshish of King Solomon.

The mosque as it stands today was built in 1904, but people have worshipped here from the mid 18th Century. The name Meeran, cropping up frequently in the south western coast mosques, commemorates the patron saint of sailors from South India.


Walking in to the mosque, we found a place of sanctity and peace. From the very venerable glazed black ceilings of Burma teak dangled a silver-grey candelabra chandelier. The fanlights above the doors leading to the inner mosque glowed in celestial pink, yellow and green. The floor was a mosaic of tiles said to be from Italy. Its tapestry of trefoils and scrolls, very stylized, exudes Persian splendour for the devotee.


As we were admiring the masjid a deep, sonorous and magnified voice intoned "Allah-Hu-Akbar", and the devotees, after quick ablutions in the blue-tiled pond fronting the mosque's façade, congregated for the evening prayers.


It was time for us to leave. The storm had cleared and there was the promise of a beautiful sunset over the magnificent rampart. The dusk colours around the mosque almost seemed like a serene halo as we took a cobbled street leading to the world outside the Galle Fort.

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    The chaste and dignified fa├žade of the mosque

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    Tasbih, Islamic prayer beads

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    The Noble Quran, the central religious text of Islam

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    The faithful gather for prayer at the mosque

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    The mosque exudes Persian splendour

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