Titled as Independence Mosque, the Istiqlal Mosque was built to commemorate the independence of Indonesia. Istiqlal is the Arabic word for ‘independence’. It is the largest mosque in Southeast Asia. Situated adjacent to Merdeka Square and the Jakarta Cathedral, this place was opened for the public in 1978.
Following the Indonesian National Revolution that led to Indonesia’s independence from The Netherlands in 1949, it was proposed that a national mosque should be built for the new republic, the largest Muslim population of the world. There were several suggestions given for the location of the national mosque. It was President Sukarno, who insisted that the mosque be built near Merdeka Square, where the Jakarta Cathedral and Immanuel Church are also located, to symbolize religious harmony in independent Indonesia.
The construction of Istiqlal Mosque began in 1961 and took 17 years to complete the mammoth structure. There are seven entrances to this mosque. They have been named after the Islamic Gods who represent the Seven Heavens of the Islamic cosmology. The ablution fountains are on the ground floor while the main prayer hall and courtyard are on the first floor. The mosque has two interconnected rectangular structures; smaller one serves as the entrance and the bigger one houses the prayer hall.
To symbolize the independence proclaimed in 1945, a dome with 45 meters diameter was constructed over the mosque. The mosque is beautifully adorned with symbols of Islam, verses from Quran and the name of Allah. Unlike other mosques of the world that have multiple minarets, Istiqlal Mosque has only one minaret to represent that there is only one God. The premise of Istiqlal Mosque also has lush gardens, cascading fountains and a large pool.
The grandeur of Istiqlal Mosque has attracted many prominent personalities of the world. These include US Presidents Bill Clinton, Barack Obama and his wife, President of Iran Mahmoud Ahmadinejad; former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi; Prince Charles of United Kingdom; Li Yuanchao, Vice President of the Communist Party of China; President of Chile Sebastián Piñera; Heinz Fischer, the President of Austria; Jens Stoltenberg, the Prime Minister of Norway and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
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