The Architecture of the Early Mosques and Shrines of Java: Influences of the Arab Merchants in the 15th and 16th Centuries?
- In spite of the Malay Archipelago’s location at the crossroads of the maritime spice route which allowed the reception of ideas and influences from China, the Middle East, and Europe, Javanese mosques and shrines are widely believed, by local Indonesian and international scholars, to originate from earlier local Hindu-Buddhist predecessors. Variations of local buildings such as temples, cock-fight arenas, communal buildings, and vernacular houses have been suggested as the prototype on which the masjid was modelled. The mausoleums were linked to earlier mountain sites and Hindu-Buddhist practices of veneration of the dead. Two scholars, however, de Graaf and Slametmuljana, contested the dominant perception and suggested a foreign origin for the Javanese mosque; the former, on basis of similarities in the use of timber as the construction medium, suggested the western Coast of India and the latter on basis of reports in a local Javanese history which records the visit of the Chinese Zheng He to a mosque in Java in the early 15th century, proposed China as the source for the earliest Javanese masjid. This dissertation addresses the issue of the origin of the Javanese Islamic buildings (mosques and shrines) by means of an architectural approach. Architecture, as suggested by Hillenbrand, being a combination of form, function, and meaning, the approach used here, therefore, looks beyond the external features of the buildings and into the embedded ideas in order to inspect whether the mosque concept, plan, orientation, functions, and construction, or any of its given cosmic associations relied on contemporary or older local or foreign beliefs. Not only are the mosques concerned here, but the shrines as well. The dissertation is divided into four chapters. The first is a broad historical introduction that gives an overall picture of he Malay Archipelago from the 3rd century A. D. onwards when the Indians arrived at the islands till the 16th century when the Portuguese established their hegemony in the region. Theories regarding the arrival of Islam and the foundation of Muslim polities in Sumatra, the Malay Peninsula and Java and the “Islamization” of the Spice Islands are addressed in more detail. The second chapter is a descriptive and pictorial catalogue of the monuments concerned, i.e., 15th and 16th centuries mosques and shrines of the northern coast of Java. Mosques selected are those of Demak, Banten, Cirebon and the Masjid Panjunan in Cirebon. The shrines are those of Drajat, Gunung Jati, Ratu Kalinyamat, Sendang Duwur, Bonang, and Kudus. The third chapter is an analytical comparison between the architecture of local buildings, their associated iconography and religious beliefs, architectural details, and decorations and those of the Javanese mosque and shrine. The aim is to assess whether the Javanese mosque and shrine are products of the local architecture. The fourth chapter questions the theories on China and India as possible sources for the origin of Javanese Islamic buildings and hypothetically reconstructs the Javanese mosque design process in an attempt to unveil the source of the mosque’s architectural concept. The chapter concludes by evaluating the role of the Arab merchant in the design and construction of the Javanese mosque and shrine.