International Ibnu Batuta Conference on Travel, Trade, Tradition and Trajectories

Natalie Honoria Shokoohy

Natalie Shokoohy’s family association with India goes back to the eighteenth century.  Her ancestor Alexander William Lawrence survived the assault on Seringapatan and was at the taking of Cochin from the Dutch in 1795. He married in the old Dutch Church at Cochin. His sons who served in India include Sir Henry Montgomery Lawrence.

On leaving school Natalie taught at the Lawrence School in Sanawar (founded by Henry and Honoria Lawrence). She later studied Urdu and Persian, as well as Middle Eastern and South Asian art and architecture at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London (1982). She also took a challenging course with the late Professor A.D.H. Bivar on Early Muslim Epigraphy. During her studies at SOAS she met and married her colleague Mehrdad Shokoohy, and together with her husband continued her studies and research on South Asian art and architecture, including a comprehensive survey of the monuments in the districts of Hisar in Haryana; Nagaur in western Rajasthan and Tughluqabad in Delhi.

She completed her MA thesis: “The development of architectural design in the early Islamic Architecture of India (12th-13th century)” at the Royal College of Art (1986) and her Doctoral Thesis entitled “Auhadi and Lodi Architecture of Bayana, Rajasthan (1400-1526)” at London Metropolitan University (2005). Natalie and Mehrdad Shokoohy continue working as a team and she has been closely involved in all projects, including those where her name is not given as an author. For more details of her research and publications please visit www.shokoohy.com.


Planning and structure of Kerala mosques and their influence on the architecture of South India

For the Muslim trading communities of Malabar the mosque was an architectural representation to their Hindu hosts of an egalitarian faith. While in a temple, walls and gates barred low caste Hindus and outcastes from entry, and within the complex the architectural spaces led progressively to the dark inner sanctum reserved for the Brahmins, a mosque had an entirely different concept. It was a bright airy hall open to all with a simple niche marking the direction of Mecca for the worship of an invisible almighty under whom all were equal. The Friday sermon, which was intended to guide the faithful to the right path, but which elsewhere in the Muslim world had become a device for acknowledging the governing ruler, in the multi-national merchant communities of the Indian littoral the sermon kept to its original concept and gave a sense of unity under the aegis of their single faith.

The mosques of Calicut and elsewhere in Malabar, distinctive in planning and general appearance, consist of features which are absent in the North Indian and Deccan mosques. Instead of the enclosed, or often central, courtyard, the mosques stand in the open, the prayer hall fronted by an ante-chamber or an open porch. While the indigenous structural principles employing ship-building techniques are employed for the upper tiers of mosques, it is the distinctive plan which was to spread well outside the boundaries of Malabar, throughout the peninsula of South India. It even penetrated to the Deccan and examples can be found in Ponda, now part of Goa and in the Bahmani capital, Gulbarga.