Putrajaya is a modernistic planned city just under an hour away from Kuala Lumpur. The city started being built in 1995 and Malaysia’s government was transferred there in 1999. Putrajaya has been planned as a less congested city with plenty of open green space and many beautiful landmarks. One of which is Putra Mosque.
Putra Mosque is an absolutely beautiful rose-tinted granite building that took two years to construct and cost about RM250 million (~$60.13 million USD). Construction began in 1997 and drew on influences from the Middle East and Persia as well as traditional Malay architecture. The mosque was named in honor of Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra Al Haj, the first Prime Minister of Malaysia.
This iconic mosque was built on the edge of man-made Putrajaya Lake. One item to note is that part of the mosque is on solid ground while over half of it has been built over the water. This is a favored technique with mosques as it gives the image that the building is floating on the water. We have seen several mosques built over lakes, and even the ocean, and the effect is really quite stunning.
As for specific details of this structure, the main dome of Putra Mosque is 160ft high (50m) with a minaret of 381ft high (116m), making Putra Mosque’s minaret the third tallest in the world. The minaret was inspired by Sheikh Omar Mosque in Baghdad, built in the 12th century, shown above on the right. The layered beveling is seen in both minarets, though each has been done a little differently. You can see that Sheikh Omar’s Mosque has a larger diameter with 11 short levels and more beveling. Putra Mosque’s minaret has five elongated levels with a modern, simpler design. I can see where the inspiration comes from, but they both are still quite unique. My preference is for the Putra Mosque minaret due to the elongated levels and more distinctive beveling. It feels more classic and iconic.
Something else that is classic across Islamic architecture is the symbolism towards the Islamic religion. As I previously mentioned, the minaret at Putra Mosque is divided into 5 sections. Each of those sections represents one of the 5 Pillars of Islam, which are:
- Shahadah: declaring there is no god except God and that Muhammad is God’s Messenger
- Salah: ritual prayer five times a day
- Sawm: fasting and self-control during the blessed month of Ramadan
- Zakat: giving 2.5% of one’s savings to the poor and needy
- Hajj: pilgrimage to Mecca at least once in a lifetime if he/she is able to do
The exterior of the mosque also follows traditional Islamic design elements of creating art that represents nature, such as the screen embellishments at the entrance to the mosque, which I feel look like suns or possibly flowers. It’s really quite pretty.
The interior of Putra Mosque is vast and can accommodate 15,000 worshipers. There is a prayer hall, auditorium, lecture room, dining hall, funereal chamber and library inside the mosque. The main prayer hall is the biggest room in the mosque. It is an open space where congregants gather to pray, either at one of the five prayer times or whenever they feel the need to have a prayer inside a sacred space. This particular prayer hall is under a large pink dome that is supported by 12 columns.
At the far end of the prayer hall is the mihrab, which is an ornamental indentation in the wall of a mosque, marking the direction of the qiblah, which is the ‘direction of the Ka’aba.’ The Ka’aba is the most sacred site in Islamic culture, considered to be the House of God, and is located in Mecca, which is why many people think Muslims pray to Mecca. They aren’t praying to Mecca, they are praying towards Mecca, specifically to the Ka’aba. Muslims are required to pray facing the direction of the Ka’aba and the mihrab marks that direction for them.
Mihrabs vary in size and color, but are usually shaped like a doorway and are elaborately decorated to make the space stand out. Adjacent to the mihrab is a minbar, which is where sermons are preached from. You can kind of see off to the right of the mihrab, partially behind the pillar, where a detached minbar stands. It looks to be wooden and has a pretty onion dome atop. Domes are a very popular feature in Islamic architecture.
The main dome at the top of Putra Mosque is 118 feet in diameter and adorned with the same vegetal designs as the rest of the mosque. I absolutely love the symmetry and clean lines of Islamic art. The orderliness of it is very appealing to me. The pink is almost a bit too much, but then the beautiful stained glass windows contrast nicely with the bright light and gorgeous color variances. This dome was very well done.
Looking at this dome, it made me think of all the different styles of domes and how they’re used. It’s interesting how often domes are used in architecture. The circle of the dome base symbolizes perfection, eternity, and the heavens while the dome itself symbolizes divinity.
Another interesting piece of symbolism is this design here. This is one of the small stained glass windows from around the prayer hall. They don’t show up very well in my previous picture of the room. This design looks simplistic, but when you look at all the elements, you can see how complex the geometric pattern is. There are a variety of shapes intertwined to make what is called Khatem Sulemani. This is an 8-pointed star that is a common and prominent element of Islamic architecture. This star is created by superimposing one square over another, one of which is rotated 45 degrees. These two squares are then laid inside a circle and filled with squares and concentric circles that create a multi-pointed star in the very center. This design is used quite a lot in the Islamic world.
I almost didn’t notice the Khatem Sulemani in this light fixture. I was fascinated by the old-world style of this chandelier and almost missed the design in the center. It’s beautiful and so intricate. I love how the 8-point star design is still there, just with a slightly different presentation. I kind of wonder how many other renditions I missed while visiting. I may have to go back and take a closer look.
If you are in Putrajaya and have time to check out the city, I highly recommend visiting this mosque. There are only a few areas where visitors can go, but it’s worth it to see how unique this mosque is and the beautiful artwork that adorns the building. There are several beautiful buildings in the area and a lovely lake just next to the mosque, so the whole area is quite picturesque.
As with other mosques, Putra Mosque is very welcoming to visitors and there is no entrance fee. They just ask that non-Muslim visitors come outside of prayer hours and follow some basic rules. The visiting schedule and rules are:
Saturday-Thursday: 9:00am-12.30pm, 2:00-4:00pm, 5.30-6:00pm
Friday: 3:00-4:00pm and 5:30-6:00pm
The dress code they have is enforced. Women must wear a long skirt or loose pants and a loose, long-sleeved shirt. Men should wear pants and a shirt with sleeves, they don’t have to be full sleeves, but if the sleeves are short enough to be considered sleeveless, you will be given a robe to wear. Or if your clothes aren’t loose enough, you’ll have to wear a robe. I wore pants and a tshirt and they had me wear a robe to go in because they were too tight. So, if you want to avoid wearing the robe (it’s heavy and a little stifling), dress appropriately and bring a headscarf if you’re a woman. Troy’s mom wrapped a scarf around her head and I wore a headscarf I’d bought here. They were fine with both.
Have you visited Putra Mosque? What did you think?