During Muslim rule in Bengal, many new cities were built and adorned with palaces, forts, monumental gateways, free-standing victory towers, mosques, mausoleum, roads and bridges, the remain of which is scattered over all the country. These Muslim rulers specially built many beautiful mosques, and dug big water reservoirs for sweet water supply. Here is a list of 10 most beautiful historical mosques in Bangladesh built during the Muslim rule in Bengal on the medieval period.
© Chhoto Sona Masjid at Gaur. Photo Credit: Raw Hasan
Chhoto Sona Masjid
“Chhoto Sona Masjid” or the “Small Golden Mosque” is a remarkably fine specimen of it’s period, built by a certain Wali Muhammad between 1493 and 1519 on the wealthy Bengal capital Gaur during the reign of Sultan Hussain Shah. It was originally roofed over with fifteen gilded domes including three chau-chala domes in the middle row. It derives it’s name from the fact that the domes were once gilded.
The chief attraction of this monument is it’s superb decoration. Carved in shallow relief on both the inner and outer surface of all walls, the ornate stonework seems like a faithful reproduction of the highly developed traditional terracotta art of Bangladesh and it closely resembles the quality found in it’s wood-carving or filigree work. The floor of the sanctuary was originally covered with beautiful glazed tiles with floral patterns. On the eastern side of the mosque there is a stone gateway with pointed arches.
© Bagha Mosque at Rajshahi. Photo Credit: Raw Hasan
Built in 1523 by Sultan Nusrat Shah, Bagha Mosque is another beautiful monument of the Hussain Shahi period. It has ten small inverted cup-shaped domes. The mosque is beautifully ornamented with the finest speciments of terracotta art, depicting rich floreate patterns, grapes and rosettes on all wall surfaces, specially on the mihrabs.
The western inner wall face is relieved by three ornate mihrabs in the three southern bays, a paneled design in the fourth, and a small mihrab in the upper story of the fifth. The super terracotta decoration in the central mihrab represent a floreate framework around the niche, the spandrels of which are delicately sculptured with a profuse growth of vegetation, interlacing the bold central rosette.
© Kusumba Mosque at Naogaon. Photo Credit: Raw Hasan
Kusumba Mosque is the best example of the later Sultanate period mosques in Bengal. It was built in 1558 by a certain Sulaiman during the reign of Sultan Ghiyasuddin Bahadur Shah I. It is a rectangular mosque with six hemispherical domes above. Only six stone mosques built during the early Islamic or Sultanate period exist in greater Bengal. Kusumba Mosque is one of them. Stones used in this mosque are dark black-basalt that was transported from Rajmahal hill of Bihar through waterways.
There is a well-designed raised gallery of massive stone pillars on the north-west corner. It is reached by a staircase from the ground level of the prayer room. There are no traces or proofs of any hand railing along these steps. This is the only surviving example in Bengal of an unscreened internal connecting staircase through the place of male worshiper, which proves that it was a place for the Sultans or rulers or builders and their immediate entourage, not a ladies gallery which is the popular belief.
© The Sixty Dome Mosque at Bagerhat. Photo Credit: Raw Hasan
Sixty Dome Mosque
Among the many surviving monuments of the Khan Jahan style in Bagerhat and undoubtedly the most magnificent and largest brick mosque in Bangladesh, is the Sixty Dome Mosque. In reality, the mosque is roofed over with 77 small domes including seven chau-chala Bengali domes in the central row. The construction of the mosque was started in 1442 and was completed in 1459. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and has been described as “the most impressive Muslim monuments in the whole of the Indian subcontinent.”
The prayer hall is 160’X190′ in size, which can accommodate about 2,000 people for prayer. It has 11 arched doorways on the east, and seven each on the north and south, for ventilation and light.
The sanctuary is divided by a forest of slender stone columns, into seven longitudinal aisles and eleven deep bays from which rows of endless arches spring to support the domes. The slightly battered 6′ thick walls and the almost detached circular corner turrets, each capped by small rounded cupolas, resemble the bastions of a fortress.
© Sura Mosque at Dinajpur
The highly ornate brick-and-stone mosque is another fine speciment of the Sultanate period. Its square prayer hall, fronted by a corridor on the east, has six octagonal corner turrets and generally conforms to the prevailing style of its period. Its cornice is gracefully curved and the western wall, with its three mihrabs, is profusely relieved with terracotta ornaments.
The single, tall, bulbous dome, which is supported on squinch arches, covers the prayer chamber, whilst the corridor is spanned by a further three small domes. Similar to Chhota Sona Masjid at Gaur, the walls, are faced with beautifully carved stone work.
© Darasbari Mosque at Gaur. Photo Credit: Raw Hasan
Darasbari Mosque is a fine example of the mature architecture of the Ilyas Shahi period. It was probably built in 1470 by Sultan Yusuf Shah. The prayer hall, entered through the seven arched entrances of the verandah, must at one time have been roofed over with a series of domes, including a set of chau-chala or Bengali domes in the central row, but all of these have now collapsed.
In the north-west corner there was probably a raised gallery, which was accessible up a flight of steps from outside. The interior western wall of the prayer hall is relieved with nine mihrabs which depict some superb terracotta ornamentation of various floral and geometric patterns in bold relief.
© Khaniadighi Mosque at Gaur. Photo Credit: Raw Hasan
Khaniadighi or Rajbibi Mosque
This single-domed square mosque has an attached verandah roofed with three smaller squat domes. Its wall surface is richly embellished with terracotta floral designs and it is also sparsely relieved with stone carvings. The dome of the sanctuary is carried on a number of black basalt pillars. Three highly ornate black stone mihrabs decorate the western wall of the prayer chamber.
Architecturally it may be dated to the 15th century and an Arabic inscription with Quranic verses is still in site. The identity of Rajbibi is not clear, but it seems that she was an influential lady of the royal harem.
© Dhunichak Mosque at Gaur. Photo Credit: Raw Hasan
This mosque, with a rectangular sanctuary, stylistically dates to the later Ilyas Shahi period, and covered by a single dome. There are three richly ornamented mihrabs on the western wall the central one being the largest. The spandrels over the cusped arches are beautifully decorated with terracotta tree-motifs, intertwining prominent terracotta rosettes within its branches. The rectangular frames enclosing each mihrab are boldly relieved with creeper motifs and bands of mouldings.
© Goaldi Mosque at Sonargaon. Photo Credit: Raw Hasan
Another single-domed mosque of the Sultanate period is the mosque at Goaldi, which is situated half-a-mile north-east of the Panam Nagar. It was built by Hizabar Akbar Khan during the reign of Sultan Hussain Shah, in 1519. It is a graceful little mosque measuring 16′-0″ square with three richly carved mihrabs.
Of the three mihrabs, the central one is beautifully embellished with carved floral and arabesque relief on black stone, while the side ones are decorated similarly but in brick and fine terracotta work. Inside, stone columns support the dome.
© The Chunakhola Mosque at Bagerhat. Photo Credit: Raw Hasan
Chunakhola Mosque is picturesquely located on an isolated low mound amidst an expanse of flat cultivated fields. In plan and elevation, this single domed small monument closely resembles the Singair Mosque and has similarly suffered heavily at the hands of the inclement weather of this area.
- Discover the Monuments of Bangladesh, by Dr. Nazimuddin Ahmed
Have you visited these historic mosques in Bangladesh? How fascinating have you found them? Which one is your favorite mosque on this list and why? Have I missed something here? Share your thoughts and experience with us in comments.
Raw Hasan ( র. হাসান )
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