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Surti Sunni Jamah Mosque



The oldest original mosque in the city, the Surti Sunni Jamah Mosque was built in the 1860s by the Sunni community from Western India. It’s apparently on the site of the first ever mosque in the city, built around 1826 but destroyed in the second Anglo-Burmese war. Surti Sunni Jamah sits on what was then Mogul Street, now Shwebonthar, at the heart of the traditionally Indian section of downtown.

Indian immigrants to Burma tended to form groups based on their place of original. The Soorti were Muslims from around the city of Rander, in Gujarat state, and it was their association that funded the construction of the mosque. The Soorti were a wealthy group made up of merchants and industrialists, and built mosques, a market, residential and office buildings, and also funded a school on Mogul Street. Their name (in various spellings) can be seen on several surviving buildings around the city.

Rander House, Soorty Mansion, Surtee Mansion

The Muslim community was very active in the various political intrigues prior to the British conquest of Burma, pushing back against British attempts to ingratiate themselves with the Burmese court. They (accurately) asserted that the example of India showed that trading with the British would inevitably be followed by military conquest. Pre-colonial British visitors regularly wrote of being undermined and politically sabotaged by influential Muslims (and as always, they frequently complained about the French).

The majority of photos I’ve found of the mosque date to the 1920s, when it would have been the dominant piece of architecture on the street. According to nearby residents, the replacement of part of the original mosque with the office-style section in the foreground was done in 2003 as part of renovations. There are some shops in the lower floors, and the larger space above is rented out as a source of income for the mosque. It’s currently being used by a school.

The rightmost minaret now sits quite awkwardly against the flat side of the new section

Some photos from around 1900 show shops operating out of the now removed section of the mosque, so there is continuity there. But the new upper section of the building is perhaps a bit of a shame, as it has both replaced the original, quite beautiful design, and also obscures more of what remains.

Published inBefore/after sliderDowntown

One Comment

  1. k03l k03l

    A beautiful mosque. Didn’t notice it until I see this post.

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