Nestled on the top of Bukit Chandan in the royal town of Kuala Kangsar and located beside the Royal Mausoleum on Jalan Istana, the Ubudiah Mosque was commissioned by Sultan Idris Murshidul Azam Shah, the 28th Sultan of Perak. It is said that the Sultan visited England in 1911 to witness the coronation of King George V and following his return, he fell ill. During that time, while recuperating in Port Dickson, he made a vow to build a mosque in Bukit Chandan, as thanksgiving for his full recovery from the health hazard. After his return to Kuala Kangsar, following his complete recovery, the Sultan instructed Colonel Huxley of the Public Works Department, Kuala Lumpur, to commission an architect for the design of a mosque for the fulfillment of his religious vow.
Accordingly, Arthur Benison Hubback, a civil architect, was commissioned to make the design of the proposed mosque, who also designed the beautiful Ipoh and the Kuala Lumpur railway stations and the Masjid Jamek in Kuala Lumpur. The groundbreaking ceremony took place on Friday, 26 September 1913, just one day following His Highness the Sultan was conferred with the insignia of a Knight Grand Cross of Victorian Order by the High Commissioner, Sir Arthur Young at Sultan’s palace, Astana Negara.
Although the construction of the mosque commenced immediately after laying the foundation stone, the work was delayed mainly due to the onset of the First World War in Europe, which adversely affected and delayed the import of Italian marble, as the carrying vessel had to travel via the Cape of Good Hope, South Africa. It was further delayed, when during an elephant fight between Raja Chulan's elephant Kulop Gangga and Sultan Abdul Jalil's elephant Kulop Chandan, the fighting elephants destroyed all the imported Italian marble tiles, which inevitably had to be ordered again from Italy.
Finally, the beautiful mosque was completed in late 1917 at a total cost of $224,000.00 Straits Dollars, which was a huge amount for the construction of a mosque in those days. Unfortunately, Sultan Idris Murshidul Azam Shah did not live long enough to see the completion of his dream project in 1917, as he passed away on 14 January 1916. Eventually, the Ubudiah Mosque, regarded as one of the most beautiful mosques in Malaysia, was officially opened by the 29th Sultan of Perak, His Highness Sultan Abdul Jalil Karamatullah Shah, who succeeded his father, Sultan Idris Murshidul'adzam Shah.
Built in Indo-Saracenic architectural style, mostly used by the British architects in colonial India in the late 19th century, the Ubudiah Mosque is also referred to as Masjid Ubudiah, which literally stands for the mosque of self-surrender to Allah. The octagon-shaped building is linked to the ablution area at the rear of the building, which is also built in the form of a smaller octagon.
The white building with a series of horizontal dark bands is equipped with a huge bulbous central dome at a height of around 60 feet, clad in golden yellow plating with an attached pointed pinnacle. The main dome is surrounded by four 126 feet tall octagonal minarets and 16 turrets, each topped with a chhatri and a small onion shaped dome. The four minarets can be accessed up to the top by stairs, but the 16 turrets are just decorative elements. To add beauty to the building and match the minarets, a series of smaller cupolas are placed at the cornices of the flat roof of the mosque.
Although the Ubudiah Mosque has the capacity to hold around a thousand worshippers at a time, the main prayer hall of the mosque is rather small, measuring around 3420 sq feet, which can accommodate only 427 people. The unique octagonal hall, adorned with red Italian marble and an exquisite Persian carpet, has a grand centrepiece chandelier, which further accentuates its beauty. There is also a series of horse-shoe arch windows and key-hole arches surrounding the prayer hall, which a signature features of Mughal and Indo-Saracenic style. While a rounded arch of the qibla wall with a horseshoe arch denotes the mihrab niche, an elevated timber minbar pulpit is placed to its right. Subsequently, additional praying areas were built on the left and right of the rear part of the main building, although the additions were only outdoor praying areas, which were additions to the existing outdoor praying area.
Today, the Ubudiah Mosque has become a symbol of pride for the people of the state of Perak. Apart from being a place for prayer for the Muslims, it has also become one of the main tourist attractions of Malaysia and a community centre for the Muslims around Bukit Chandan.