Thursday, June 8, 2017

Masjid Ihsaniah Iskandariah | Intricacy of Kelarai

Masjid Ihsaniah Iskandariah; a mosque like Istana Kenangan that I never knew existed. Until now.

The intricacy of kelarai (woven bamboo strips) - a cultural and artistic heritage from the mosque's walls - have made Masjid Ihsaniah Iskandariah's famous nationwide. Also known as Masjid Kampung Kuala Dal, it shares many similiarities with Istana Kenangan in Bukit Chandan, one of its main influences.

Located just 4.8km from the centre of Royal Town of Kuala Kangsar, this unique 1936 mosque with Arabesque influences was financed by Al-Marhum Paduka Seri Sultan Iskandar Shah, the Sultan of Perak. Leafy windows (approximately 20 of them) decorated with "straight punch, no silat" carved with peanuts, crescent moon and star motifs are located around the mosque. It is said that what makes Masjid Ihsaniah Iskandariah unique is its architectural design - aside from its combination of kelarai and Arabesque influences, it is aslo said to resemble a bird cage.

The story behind it is pretty interesting. According to Jabatan Warisan Negara, the mosque was built after the Sultan had fulfilled the vow to build a mosque when one of his children recovered from an illness, promising to donate RM 8,000.00 to build a new mosque on a piece of land granted by Juragan Abdul Shukur bin Mohamad Ali. This decision was made upon the Sultan returning from a picnic at Lata Bubu, seeing his subjects praying in a dilapidated madrasah. Being a pious leader, he believed that a mosque is not just a house of God but an important community centre. Thus, Masjid Ihsaniah Iskandariah was commissioned, and fittingly named after him.

The architecture of the mosque was inspired by the Sultan himself. The mosque was built by Chinese artisans and assisted by local residents. The ornamentations and wall of the mosque were carved and woven by locals, making it even more special. The mosque had a relatively short life - it stopped being used in 1976 after the Al-Wahidiah Mosque was built next to it.

In 2008, Jabatan Warisan Negara (Department of National Heritage) initiated conservation work on the mosque. Upon the the completion of restoration work on 17 Dec 2009, DYMM Sultan Azlan Shah officially re-opened the mosque on 6 May 2011 with a newly accorded heritage status by the Jabatan Warisan Negara.

Above the importance of unique historical buildings and architecture, the National Heritage Department has carried out conservation work in December 2008. Among the problems faced by the project is the preparation of the backdrop due to the absence of skilled craftsmen and the lack of manufacturing materials ie bamboo oils Locally to create a cliff wall. Therefore, the National Heritage Department has obtained a wickerwork and bamboo source from Perlis State according to the original type. This conservation work has been carried out using systematic work arrangements to preserve the originality of original architecture.

- Jabatan Warisan Negara –

Personally I am very happy that Masjid Ihsaniah Iskandariah was accorded heritage status. Whether the mosque will ever serve as the center of the community again remains to be seen, but it's story and origins should always be at the center of the local community.

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