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Ghoraghat Fort. This fort built on the west side of the Korotoya lies on the south­ east side of modern Dinajpur District, and carried specimens of Mughal structures till the middle of the last century. From the original name of Bazigatta, a Sanskrit word meaning horse-stable, the present name has been derived. It is likely therefore that the Mughal fort must have been built on the older site, occupied probably during the ancient and Sultanate times. From the observations of Buchanan Hamilton followed by others it appears that the Mughal fort stretched over a large oblong almost rectangular with the long arms spreading north to south measuring approximately two and a half kilometer and in width about a kilometer. In comparison with other Mughal forts the area of this fort was much larger and consequently of much strategic importance. One of it’s gateways was on it’s northwest corner, remnants of which survived till the middle of the last century. A dated inscription of a Mughal mosque, built in 1157 AH (1740-41 CE), was found within the enclosure. AKM Zakira a famed antiquarian of Bangladesh, visited the site in 1958 and noticed parts of the ‘palace of the faujdar’ and the northwestern gateway, but now all gone.

3.1.2 Palaces

Of the Mughal palaces in the cities not a single one has survived. The two small buildings generally regarded as palaces at Firuzper in Gaur and Lalbagh in Dhaka are not really residential palaces of the Subahdars. The former was built by Prince Shuja for his patron saint Shah Niamatullah Wali as his residence, and the latter as a diwan of Nawab Shayesta Khan. Prince Shuja lived within the Sultani fort at Gaur as is evidenced by the erection of the Lukochuri Gate, a ceremonial gate commensurate with the status of a Mughal governor, and Shayesta Khan probably within the old fort at his early years. Although ruins of a number of smaller buildings with hammams and running water have been unearthed within the Lalbagh fort enclosure, none appears to be of the remnant of a grandiose Mughal palace. The same is the situation about the ruins in Zinjira and Murshidabad. The present Nawab Bahadur Palace on the Bhagirathi in Murshidabad is an early 19th century building erected under the supervision of a British engineer General Duncan Mcleod completed in 1837. It is a Colonial building in the ‘Italian style of architecture’ and may be ranked equally with the Ahsan Manzil at Dhaka built in 1872. The Murshidabad palace built within the old Nizamat Qila is known as the Hazarduari or Bara Kuthi, a name now-a-days frequently used for large kuthies of the Colonial merchants. The only palace of the Mughal period of which a description can be deciphered is Shah Shuja’s palace in Rajmahal, a favourite residence-city of the Subahdar. Some general character of a Mughal palace can be obtained from the description of this monument, one of the most significant known after the erection of the Mughal great residences in Northern India.

Shah Shuja’s Palace at Rajmahal. The palace is completely in ruins except a part known as the Sangi Dalan (stone palace) at one of it’s ends. Buchanam Hamilton visiting Rajmahal in 1810-11 attempted to draw a plan of the palace complex which


included residential quarters, hammams, diwan, water, reservoirs etc. In general the plan consisted of a great square area divided into several rectangular or square courts marked for different quarters. This division into courts is in conformity with the style of Muslim palace buildings since the time of the Umayyads imitated from Roman castra, but later on elaborated during the time of the Abbasids. An elaboration of this kind in Mughal India is to be noticed in Fathpur-Sikri, Agra and all other surviving examples. The Sultanate fort at Gaur as has been mentioned was also similarly planed. The court in front of the Sangi Dalan ‘was surrounded on three sides by brick buildings, for two stories high. The central building had before it a terrace in the middle of which was a square reservoir which was connected with other water­ works of the palace area. The great central building described as ‘the most ornamental part of the whole’ was ‘in the upper story divided into three apartments, a large one in the centre and a smaller at each end’ all connected by wide and cusped arches supported on highly polished black basalt pillars. The central chamber is surmounted by a bow-curved dochala type vault seen in quite a number of Mughal monuments in upper India. This part overlooking the Ganges is evidently the most conspicuous part of the building, emulated later in the Diwan at Lalbagh Fort of Dhaka. A proper evaluation of the palace is impossible because of the absence of other structures associated with it. From the plan it appears that there were other courts with buildings around them. From the description of Mushi Shyam Prasad it appears that the residence of Shah Shuja was known as the Daulat Khana. In the event the Sangi Dalan could be a part of it probably the Diwan-i-Khas as we shall see in the Lalbagh Fort. Shyam Prasad’s description includes other buildings within the complex such as Machhi Bhavan, Anand Sorowar Lake, Haveli, Hammam, Hauz, Diwan-i Am and Jalu Khana. When completed this palace must have been one of the grandest built by a provincial governor.

The Tahkhana at Gaur. Tahkhana, literally a ‘cold palace’, was a traditional underground structure built in eastern lands to cope with the summer heat. In the present case the palace was built by Prince Shuja during his governorship of Bengal for his patron saint Shah Niamatullah Wali. It stands about half a kilometre to the north-west of the Chhota Sona Masjid and is just on the west bank of a dighi, the underground chambers being risen from the water. The palace forms the nucleus of a complex formed by other buildings of which two other important buildings still exist– one the Jami Masjid nearby to it’s north-west and the other the mausoleum of the saint a little to the north.

Tradition relates that Shah Shuja while staying in Rajmahal, his capital, occasionally

visited Gaur to pay his respects to the saint for whom it is likely that he built this palace probably as a khanqa of the saint. There is no inscriptional reference in the building, nor is there any mention of it in contemporary Mughal history. But the style of the palace together with that of the masjid and the mausoleum nearby is clearly


MEDIAEVAL PERIOD 255

Mughal, and brings the tradition to truth with the further evidence that there still exists

a Mughal darwaza– the so-called Lukochuri built as a gateway of the Gaur Palace

within which the prince probably stayed in times of his visit to the Sultanate capital.

The palace and the complex as a whole is important not only from the point of view

of their being Mughal in a Sultanate city, but the buildings by themselves have much

significance because of their architectural character, first introduced in Bengal. Once

thus introduced they became the prototype of subsequent structures– be that a palace,

a mosque, or a tomb in the subsequent Mughal capitals in Dhaka or Murshidabad.

The palace measuring externally 31.7m by 10.3m is a double-storeyed structure of

brick with black stone slabs for the doorsills and wooden beams for the flat roof. From

the front, i.e., from the west the building gives the appearance of a single-storeyed

building with a hall room in the middle flanked by other rooms on it’s back and sides.

From the east, however, it is a two-storeyed building with the lower rooms extended

to the east and arched open being directly risen from the tank water. On the south side

of the building there is a bathing complex with water drawn from the tank through an

octagonal reservoir. On the north there is a family mosque with open room at it’s back

leading to an octagonal tower-room meant probably for meditation. The octagonal

towers maintain symmetry of the whole plan.

The palace although is plastered over, and is decorated by the engrailings of the

Tahkhana (late 17 century), view from the

four-centred arches and the niched-panels flanking them are carved within

east


image


distributed according to the need of the wall space, typical of Mughal decorative style. The mihrab-niche of the mosque has plaster muqarnas ornamentation, again a Mughal device.

The Tahkhana, together with other extant structures forming the complex, stands out as a mark contrast to the Sultanate buildings of surrounding area– two distinct architectural styles in a single place one pronouncing the independence of a country and the other subservience as a provincial version.

The Diwan of Lalbagh. This building sometime known as the Diwan Khana or simply a diwan is the only surviving structure of the eastern end of the Lalbagh Fort

Mosaic of the Diwan with two other buildings almost at equal distance to it’s west–the tomb of Bibi Pari

image

and the Jami Masjid in succession. The building is so similar in plan and construction with the surviving Sangi Dalan at Rajmahal that the purpose of the building in both cases would be the same. If the Diwan Khana at Lalbagh is identified as being the Diwan-i-Khas of Lalbagh palace as is traditionally known then the Sangi Dalan of Rajmahal was also possibly the Diwan­ i-Khas of Shuja’s palace. Both the buildings are two storeyed in height and planned similarly in upper storey with a wide hall room in the center flanked by other rooms on the sides. The Lalbagh palace had an elaborate hammam in the ground floor, while that of the Rajmahal Dalan, although uncertain, could have similar bath rooms as is known by the elaborate water arrangements in front and side ways. The Lalbagh Dalan faces, a large water tank to it’s east and the Sangi Dalan faces the Ganges to it’s front with a platform takht in the lower storey. Water and breeze are thus the two more attractions for the occupants of the palaces. The most striking similarity of the two palaces are however the curvilinear roof of the central hall of the upper storey, which



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