Dr Imran bin Tajudeen researches architectural encounters in Singapore and Southeast Asia across the longue durée, first in their intersections with colonial and nationalist representational tropes in heritage, and second through historiographical questions on Southeast Asia’s Indic and Islamic architecture.
Dr Imran is currently working on a monograph on the formation of Southeast Asia’s Islamic architecture, and another on rooted cosmopolitanism in maritime Southeast Asia’s vernacular urban heritage.
The historical mosques in Melaka like Kampung Hulu, Kampung Keling, and Tengkera, are often recognized from its tilted rooftops, winged gateways, and “Chinese-Pagoda” like minarets. It is generally assumed that these features borrowed its influence from Chinese architecture design. But nothing could be further from the truth. During our sixth Tawarikh Talk yesterday, Dr Imran bin Tajudeen states that these mosques share more similarities in form with the minarets in southern India.
“I’m very dismayed the dossier submitted to UNESCO for listing Melaka as a world heritage site, states that it [Kampung Hulu Mosque minaret] has a “distinctive Chinese-Pagoda pyramid-tiered roof form.” It’s wrong, it’s really wrong. It does violence to all the history that we can put together. It one fell sweep, everything I’ve told you have been nullified. Buang dalam tong sampah sudah. Because what for? I think it is a real problem because we don’t know our history. We don’t know it enough, we don’t know it at all. I find it really regrettable that Masjid Kampung Hulu obvious Chulia minaret is misidentified.”
Another important history that Dr Imran highlighted was that the Portuguese built the original A Famosa fortress using stones salvaged from the ruins of the Melaka royal mosque. “Melaka, before its rulers converted to Islam, already had a stone working tradition. One tantalizing proof is that Melaka still has one makara [decorative ornament found in Hindu-Buddha temple] fragment which means Melaka did built temples, we just don’t know where all the stones went. My conjecture is that the stones were reused for mosque construction.” No wonder then the Portuguese later had to use 300 paid local men to bring down the royal mosque!