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Gaur: Baish Gazi Wall

(from the east)

The names of the mint towns, very much protected areas, prove the existence of those fortified places. Khalifatabad and Bara Bazar, however, appear to be exceptions. The vast areas through which a large number of monuments still survive prove beyond doubt that these two important urbanized centres could also be fortified or protected cities of much importance. The traditional name of Jahajghatas associated with these sites strengthens this view and emphasizes the importance of the cities on the bank of the river Bhairab as of much commercial potency. Since Khalifatabad is known to have been founded by Ulugh Khan Jahan, a ghazi or warrior saint, it is likely that the city started with a ribat type of structure to guard the southern frontier, and later on developed as a full administrative nucleus under the restored Iliyas Shahis and Husayn Shahi rule. Khalifatabad and Bara Bazar as a chain of equidistant administrative centres from Lakhnauti prove that the rulers were careful enough to divide the country evenly for administrative purpose and it’s equal development.

3.1.2 Miscellaneous Buildings

Gaur with it’s citadel contains a good number of monuments both of secular and religious character still extant and seen scattered throughout the open spaces within the city enclosure. The secular monuments not much survive except some remnants of the royal palace, the Chika Building, a bridge, and the Firuz Minar. The religious buildings have been dealt with separately in the next section.

The Palace. It lies in a ruinous condition within the citadel to it’s south-western part.

In fact only the foundation and some traces of wall remains are now discernable. It is surrounded by a lofty brick wall called baisgazi (22 yards, apparently to indicate it’s


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MEDIAEVAL PERIOD 97

great height) which is 4.57m broad at the base tapering to nearly 2.75m at the top. The

entire enclosure measures 640m in length from north to south and 229m to 274m in

breadth. The palace was divided into three parts the first part to the north being

probably reserved for official quarters, the second for living apartments of the Sultan

and the third for the harem. Each of the divisions had a small tank within used

probably as fountain. The division of the palace into two or three courts was a tradition

that developed form early times, say the period of the Umayyads in early eighth

century, and continued throughout the next centuries unabated including India. The

provision of water within the palace compound in the form of hauz and fountain was

particularly an important contribution by the Muslims in their dwelling houses. A

water course running underneath the palace to the Nim Darwaza is mentioned in an

inscription of Sultan Barbak Shah who according to it constructed the gateway. A part

of the inscription ‘Behold a water-course flowing under the palace, resembling

salsabil (paradise)’ shows how much importance was given to ‘running water’ a

promised reward in the scripture for the virtuous in the next world.

The Chika Building. This much discussed building lies in front of the Gumti Gate of

the citadel and aligned with it to it’s west. In has been built in the same style as is seen

in many monuments of Gaur, and particularly the Eklakhi Mausoleum which is the

initiator of this type. Because of it’s much similarity in plan and construction with this

monument Cunningham thought it to have been the tomb of Sultan Nasiruddin Mahmud

Shah, the founder of the restored Iliyas Shahi dynasty that came immediately after the

House of Ganesh to which the Eklakhi Mausoleum belonged to Jalaluddin Muhammad

Gaur: Chika Building

Shah. A corridoor which ran at the front of the building however negates this view and

(c. 15th century)


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corroborates the traditional belief that it was built as a daftar khana (an office building). The austerity of the building in ornamentation in contrast to the Eklakhi Mausoleum, together with ruins of other structures on it’s sides also strengthens the view. The existence of the long rows of pillar bases to the west of the building is suggestive of a building known to have been a stable. The building measures 12.80m square inside with an outside dimension of 21.65m a side, the thickness of the wall being 4.52m. The dome rests on squinches and is hemispherical in design. Outside, the walls of the building are patterned with vertical inset and offset panels, divided by a string moulding, which runs round the entire building including the round towers at the corners. The cornice is carved and was once decorated with tile works trace of which could be discovered at the time of Abid Ali Khan. Inside the building within the spandrels of arches are still visible the remains of tile works in the form of medallions.

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The Firuz Minar. The minar, built according to an inscription by Saifuddin Firuz Shah (1488-90 CE), the second ruler of the Abyssinian Slave dynasty, is one of the best known of the surviving monuments of Bengal. Built in brick it 26m high with a base diameter of 6m stands outside the citadel on it’s eastern side on the north-eastern edge of a large mound, some time considered as the site of a mosque to which it was attached. The minar in the event would resemble the Qutb Minar at Delhi being both a madhana calling the faithful to prayer and a profane tower proclaiming the victory and glory of the Sultan who erected it. The position of the minar being in the centre of the city also suggests it to have been a place of assemblage, a central esplanade for spending a while and enjoying a city view from it’s top. It should perhaps be mentioned here that a minar of such a height was unnecessary for muadhdan’s call since in Bengal particularly minar

was not regarded as an inevitable adjunct to a mosque1. In fact after early Islam the

existence of a minar either attached to a mosque as madhana or built singly as a

free standing tower assumed a new Gaur: Firuz Minar (1488-90)


meaning symbolizing the glory of the land and it’s builder’s might. The Firuz Minar at Gaur could not have been otherwise than it’s predecessors either in India or outside particularly in Iranian lands.

The lower part of the minar below the doorsill was once covered with a platform of course marble, but now filled up with earthen work. A flight of steps now leads the visitor to the entrance of the minar which originally had a door of sal wood. The minar is five storeys in height, the three lower storeys being twelve sided and the two upper rounded being separated by a drip-stone, becoming less and less in diameter. The last storey which no longer exists was originally an open pavilion covered by a dome. While the rounded portion of the minar is marked off from the lower part by a dripstone, all the twelve-sided storeys below are separated from each other by horizontal stone string­ mouldings. There is a spiral staircase of seventy-three steps inside the minar, and this leads one to the top of the tower, now finished off with a flat roof. All the storeyes of the minar are pierced with window openings corresponding to the entrance doorway.

The decoration of the minar is confined mostly to the lower storeys. The facets are panelled, and these are ornamented with engrailed arch-motifs from where hang the chain-and-bell ornaments. The stone string-mouldings are bordered with lattice patterns, leaf and rosette designs, and dentil works. The entrance doorway which is faced at the top with stone is decorated with three big rosettes in spandrels. Above, the doorway frame has two horizontal string-mouldings which are surmounted by lotus-petalled kanjura designs. The slab of the blue stone forming the door-sill must have been taken from a Hindu temple as it is covered with figures apparently ‘representing a boar hunt’.

The minar resembles the tower at Chhota Pandua, near the Bari Masjid, also described as a victory tower. The latter tower pre-dates the Firuz Minar by about 10 year and is supposed to have been built during the rule of Sultan Yusuf Shah in 1477. Both the minars are in conformity with the Ghaznavid and Seljuq tradition in Afghanistan and Iran where a number of minars of exclusive secular character are known to have been erected by powerful Sultans. In India, however it appears that the erectors combined both the functions in one. The minars betray strong local influence as against the Qutb Minar of Delhi built almost in imitation of the Ghorid Minar at Jam in Afghanistan.

Non-Extant References. Amongst miscellaneous buildings some non-extant structures have been mentioned in inscriptions such as bab (gateway), siqayas (water­ shed) and imarat (unspecified, but probably meaning minar as is evidenced from the inscription of Qutb Minar). Their character, except that of siqaya, can be conjectured from the extant examples. Siqaya must have been a sort of deep round well with rimmed top, noticed in some paintings of early Islam and of the Mughal period. Probably they were shaded with pavilion-like constructions.

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1. The unpopularity of mosque-minar in India in general and Bengal in particular may be sought at the description left to us by Ibn Hawqal, a 10th century Arab geographer, who ascribes the non-construction of a minar to the ‘stern orthodoxy of some rulers’. Because this feature of the mosque was not to be found in the Mosque of the Prophet at Madina, and was introduced only after the end of the pious Khilafat, the Indian rulers rejected it as superflous.



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