Gopalakrishnan, 85, is hardly a typical architect. Popularly known as the ‘Mosque
Man’ Gopalakrishnan has spent the last six decades of his life designing nearly
a hundred mosques
, four churches and a temple.

The architect’s
modest home in Kerala’s Thiruvananthapuram houses copies of The Quran, The
Bible and The Gita.

A firm believer in
religious harmony
, Govindan says that he observes roza (fast) during the holy
month of Ramzan as well as the 41-day fast during the Sabarimala pilgrimage. “My
wife is Christian, so I join her for the Easter fast as well,” Al Jazeera
quotes him as saying.

Gopalakrishnan has
no formal training in architecture. He could not afford education after school and
joined his father, a building contractor, as an apprentice.

It was his work
with his father that attracted the young Gopalakrishnan to the mesmerizing
world of architecture. He would sit with his father comparing details of
building blueprints and their original form.  

He also got an
opportunity to learn the basics of drawing and sketching from a reputed
Anglo-Indian draughtsman, LA Saldana.

He was working as
an unpaid apprentice at the Kerala Public Works Department when he got the
opportunity to join his father in reconstruction of Kerala’s iconic Palayam
mosque, he told Al Jazeera.

It was a matter of
great pride for the father-son duo when the reconstructed Palayam mosque was
inaugurated by the erstwhile President of India Dr Zakir Hussain.

first solo assignment was the construction of a three-storied building in
Kerala. But the turning point in his life came in 1976 when he led the
construction of the Beemapally Juma Masjid in Thiruvananthapuram.

His other
creations include: the Sheikh Masjid at Karunagappally, the Ziyarathumoodu
Mosque near Kollam and the Chalai mosque in Thiruvananthapuram. His decision to
use the lotus motif in the Beemapally mosque landed him in a controversy.

But Gopalakrishnan
stuck to his guns and said, “The lotus is a beautiful flower, India’s national
flower. So as an artist, I saw no harm in using it to express my reverence of

Having devoted his
life to building shrines, Gopalakrishnan says that he still has one unfulfilled
: laying the foundation of a school of religious thought where Quran, Gita
and Bible will be taught to students.