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Company people tried at the beginning, such as the tomb of Job Charnock in Calcutta and the tomb of an unknown person known as ‘Colomb Saheb’ in Dhaka followed the Mughal tradition. The later Company people did not continue the idea, and preferred to be buried in homeland, leaving for the dead in Bengal large cemeteries consisting of cruciform tomb-stones and occasional sarcophagi only. The only other structure- type of the period is Imambara which in reality contributed little to the development of architecture of the time bringing it down at a later stage to the status of a folk building created by common people.

3.2.1 Mosques

Bengal, with the acquisition of it’s diwani by the English East India Company through a farman from Emperor Shah Alam II in 1765, became in all intents and purpose a British Colony and remained so till they finally quitted the subcontinent in 1947. Calcutta, founded by Job Charnock as a trading post in 1690, was now raised to the status of an imperial city after Warren Hastings had shifted here in 1773 the diwani offices from Murshidabad, the last of the capitals of Mughal Bengal. Losing it’s old position as nerve centre of Bengal administration Murshidabad continued to be the residence of the Nawab whose status had now become that of a pensionary completely under control of the British in Calcutta. Under such an alien rule of about two hundred years (1765-1947) Bengal witnessed the construction of such different kinds of buildings as forts and kuthis, residential buildings or Bungalows, administrative buildings and educational institutions, palaces of the nawabs and zamindars, bridges, imambaras, mosques, temples, churches and tombs. The present study has been limited to mosques only, which demonstrate the continuity of the old Mughal building style of the land on the one hand and the incorporation of some European elements on the other. It is perhaps important to note that the mosques built after the first quarter of the 19th century appear to have been more simple and austere than those of the 18th century. The restrained appearance of these mosques is thought to have been due either to the influence of European architecture or the insolvency faced by the Bengal nobility, more particularly the patron-builders after the British take-over. The European influences of these mosques however are well expressed through the rounded cusped arches, round archway on Ionic or Tuscan columns with their tympanums filled with fan motifs, fan windows, the shuttered doors, classical entablatures, the floral arabesque designs on thickly applied plaster coating, the projected horizontal eaves sometime with brackets and the use of the Christian rather than Muslim system of dating. On the other hand, the other characteristic features of these mosques, which are traced to Mughal sources, are the bulbous outline of domes very often ribbed with floriated constricted necks below and full-blown lotuses with the kalasa finials above, the corner towers carried high above the parapet and topped over with solid kiosks and cupolas ending in lotus with kalasa motifs as crowning elements, the entrance ways within rectangular frames filled with shallow niched panels, central archway projections with ornamental turrets on either flanks, straight


continuous parapets faced with kanjuras or merlons sometimes floriated and a varieties of ground planning. The mosque architecture of the Colonial Bengal may therefore be said to have been a conglomeration of Anglo-Mughal styles, of which the latter was dominating. The following representative examples arranged in typological order under four heads, like those of the Mughal period, will furnish proofs of what has just been stated above.

Three-domed Type

(a) Mosque with a larger central dome

(b) Mosque with uniform domes

Mosque on Raised Platform Kiosk Type

Miscellaneous Types

Three-domed Type (with a larger central dome)

Shah Nisar Ali Mosque, Murshidabad. The mosque, now located a little to the west of the Jafarganj Family Cemetery of Nawab Mir Jafar, was built in 1778-79 by one Shah Nisar Ali. Although produced in the Colonial period the mosque largely follows the Mughal art traditions of Bengal. The three interior divisions covered with three domes on octagonal drums, corner towers carried beyond the horizontal parapet and topped over by solid kiosks with cupolas, iwan-type central archway with bordering turrets, the plaster coating on the surface of the walls, the beautiful kanjura motifs on the outer face of the horizontal parapet and octagonal drums below the domes of Shah Nisar Ali Mosque are the characteristics of Mughal architecture. It’s only European elements are the rounded-cusped arches and the fan-motifs above the doorways in the facade.

Qadam Sharif Mosque, Murshidabad. The Qadam Sharif Mosque, dated 1780-81, is a copy of Shah Nisar Ali Mosque but with a slight variation. It’s three domes over the roof, unlike those of Nisar Ali Mosque, are ribbed and bulbous having tightly constricted necks with floriated bases. Bulbous domes with tightly constricted necks and floriated bases, although seen much earlier in the architecture of Bijapur and Delhi, henceforth started appearing frequently in the architecture of Bengal.

Nayabad Mosque, Dinajpur. Almost a kilometre south of the famous Kantaji Temple the Nayabad Mosque, dated 1785 by inscription, forms an oblong structure of brick with plaster. The four exterior angles are emphasized with octagonal towers, prayer chamber covered with three domes on octagonal drums, the cornice and the parapet are straight in the Mughal way. Although the three mihrabs are decorated with entwined flowers and creeper devices in stucco, the eastern facade is astonishingly marked with Sultanate terracotta ornamentation depicting motifs like rosettes, creepers, small trees and the unusual twin-peacocks.

The Imambara Mosque (1791) and the Chhepra Jhar Masjid (1795), both of the Atwari

Thana under the district of Panchagarh, are of the same plan and almost same design of the Nayabad Mosque in Dinajpur.


Mian Halal Mosque, Murshidabad. Mian Halal Mosque, dated 1801, consists of a rectangular prayer chamber covered with three fluted bulbous domes with floriated bases like those over the Qadam Sharif Mosque (1780-81) at Murshidabad. But the variety and richness of it’s stucco ornamentation consisting of flowers, scroll-works, peacocks and other motifs has made it the most splendid of all early 19th century mosques. The early 19th century, when the present Mian Halal Mosque was built, is said to have marked the high point as well as terminal date for the popularity of ornate mosques. Structures built henceforward were more simple and austere perhaps because of the influence of the British architecture.

A few other Murshidabad mosques like the Zarad Mosque, the Pil Khana Mosque and Chauk Serai Mosque are in plan and design very similar to the aforesaid Mian Halal Mosque (1801) and as such an early 19th century date may be assigned to them.

Matubi Mosque, Noakhali. The Matubi Mosque, erected in 1814-15 and located a little away from the Bajra Mosque, consists of a usual three-bayed prayer chamber covered with three bulbous domes on octagonal drums. The corner towers rising high above the horizontal parapet are topped over by cupolas with kalasa finials, while the central archway, the central mihrab and the two side wall windows are marked by projected frontons with bordering turrets. The surface of the walls are depicted with rectangular panellings, while the horizontal parapet and the octagonal drums are enlivened with kanjuras in the Mughal fashion.

The Sitara Begum Mosque (1815) and Darogah Amir Uddin Mosque (c. 1815), both of Dhaka town, are now thoroughly renovated, and whatever original features of them now survive are very similar to those of the Matubi Mosque (1814-15), Noakhali.

Star Mosque, Dhaka. This thoroughly restored and largely altered mosque, now roofed over with five domes, was originally a three-domed rectangular building erected by one Mirza Ghulam Pir in the early years of the 19th century. One Ali Jan Bepari is known to have added a verandah on the east and beautified the entire structure with costly Japanese and English decorated China clay tiles in the early years of the 20th century. In the decorative scheme of the mosque star motif has been repeatedly used, justifying it’s appellation.

Badr Nisa Begum Mosque, Murshidabad. An inscription over the central doorway reveals that this three-domed structure was erected in 1840 by Badr Nisa Begum, who is thought to be a high ranking lady of the Murshidabad Nawab Family. Both the interior and exterior of the mosque feature cusped rounded arches and limited stucco ornamentation.

Koshaituli Mosque, Dhaka. The Koshaituli Mosque is thought to be one of the most ornate mosques of modern Dhaka. It was first erected in 1919 by Abdul Bari Bepari and others. Later on in 1945 it was extended, and renovated and ornamented in 1971. It is a three-domed oblong mosque having fluted domes, slender pinnacles, slightly tapering corner towers and exquisitely beautiful decorative patterns depicting arabesques and floral designs intermixed with inscriptions in tile and chini-tikri or China cut-pieces.


Three-domed Type (with uniform domes)

Abd Allah Mosque, Murshidabad. This small oblong mosque, roofed over with three domes of equal size and located in the heart of modern Murshidabad town, was erected in 1780 by one Abd Allah whose identity is unknown. The mihrab projections on the rear wall of the mosque are marked with dochala and chauchala motifs in stucco, a feature appeared earlier in the mosque of Shuja Uddin (1743) at Murshidabad. Naturalistic floral patterns in stucco are also seen in the eastern facade.

Masjid near Pil Khana Mosque, Murshidabad. This small three-domed mosque, approximately a kilometre to the south of the Pil Khana Mosque, is in it’s rounded domes, rounded cusped arches and stucco ornamentation very akin to Abd Allah Mosque (1780) and as such a contemporary date may be ascribed to it.

Baghdhani Mosque, Rajshahi. A Persian inscription still fixed over the central archway records that the mosque was built in 1791 by Dewan Munshi Enayetullah. Situated in the village of Baghdhani under Paba Thana of Rajshahi District the building forms an oblong rectangle covered with three slightly bulbous domes on cylindrical drums. It’s rounded arches in the facade, dochala motifs over the north and south-walled windows and stucco decorative patterns must have been dictated by those of the Murshidabad monuments erected ahead of the Baghdhani Mosque.

Mithapukur Mosque, Rangpur. Less than a kilometre to the north of the Mithapukur Thana headquarters and a few metres to the west of the Bogra-Rangpur High Road the mosque, dated 1810 by inscription, stands within a walled enclosure with a dochala gateway in the east. It is a typical three-domed mosque built entirely of bricks and covered all over with plaster. All the corner towers rise above the roof and topped over with cupolas, domes on drums are crowned with lotus finials, the straight parapet and the drums below the domes are faced with merlons in the traditional Mughal fashion. The eastern facade is richly panelled, and the panels are marked with multi-cusped arches showing stucco rosettes and other designs in the centre.

The Kazitari Masjid and the Tanka Masjid of Rangpur, the Masta Mosque of Gaibandha, the Beldaha Mosque of Kurigram, the Kismat Maria Mosque and the Taraf Parila Mosque of Rajshahi, the Nabir Para Mosque and the Baura Mosque of Natore bear stylistic similarity with Mithapukur Mosque and they all therefore be dated sometime in the early 19th century.

Mosque on Raised Platform

Chauk Masjid, Murshidabad. The Chauk Masjid, also called Muni Begum Mosque after it’s patron-builder Muni Begum, the highly influential wife of Nawab Mir Jafar, is dated 1767 by an inscription still embedded in the mosque. Built in Anglo-Mughal styles this is perhaps the earliest existing largest mosque of Colonial Bengal, giving even today a majestic appearance. It appears, for all intents and purposes, to be a copy of Nawab Murshid Quli Khan’s Katra Masjid. Like the Katra Masjid it is built on a raised platform, the four exterior angles of which are


emphasized with double-storeyed massive domed pavilions. The raised platform is approached from the east by a flight of steps ending in an elaborately stucco decorated portal. Beyond the entrance portal the large courtyard infront of the mosque is surrounded by domed chambers, identified as madrasa like those of the nearby Katra Masjid and of others in Dhaka. The mosque proper, forming an oblong rectangle, is usually emphasized on it’s four exterior angles with towers rising high above the straight parapet and roofed over with five domes and a chauchala vault at either ends. The interior of the mosque is entered from the east by seven multi­ cusped rounded archways, the underside being embellished with European fan motif in stucco. The eastern facade as well as the interior of the mosque are beautifully ornamented with plaster decorative designs like floral motifs, arabesques, cartouche patterns and arched-niches with cuspings in their faces.

The Chauk Masjid or Muni Begum Mosque at Murshidabad, erected in combination of Mughal and European elements, provides the only example of a madrasa-mosque in Colonial Bengal.

Kiosk Type

Gharibullah Mosque, Narayanganj. This plastered brick-built mosque, with newly added verandah on the north, east and south sides, was built in 1768 by Shaikh Gharibullah in the village of Sadipur near Mograpara Bus stand, Narayanganj. It is square in plan having four octagonal towers on the exterior angles. The eastern facade is pierced with three rounded cusped-archways, while there is only one archway on each of the north and south walls. The qibla wall is internally recessed with three semi-octagonal mihrab apertures. The single dome, forming roof of the mosque, is slightly bulbous in outline and crowned with lotus and kalasa finial. The dome directly rests on an octagonal drum, which in turn supported below by the half-domed squinches on the four upper corners of the building. The outer surface of the walls is variegated with slightly sunken rectangular panels in plaster, while the horizontal parapet and the octagonal drum are faced with a row of serpent-hooded merlons.

Raipara Mosque, Rajshahi. Situated in the village of Raipara under Durgapur Thana of Rajshahi the mosque, now fronted by a tin-shaded verandah, consist of a single square prayer chamber roofed over with a single dome on round pendentives in the Mughal way. The four exterior angles are marked with usual octagonal towers. The mosque has only a rounded cusped archway in the east, while each of the north and south walls is pierced in the centre by an arched-window. In the centre of the qibla wall there is a mihrab, now remodelled. The walls are externally variegated with sunken panels decorated originally with varieties of motifs, some of which in the form of trees with flowers are still seen in the eastern facade in decaying condition. The horizontal parapet and the octagonal drum below the dome are enlivened with beautiful serpent-hooded merlons. The single doorway and the mihrab together with the windows are exteriorly topped over by beautiful dochala motifs in stucco, a device very akin to those of the Baghdhani Mosque (1791) at Rajshahi and the Farhat Allah


Khan Mosque (1821) at Murshidabad. It is on this ground that the Raipara Mosque may be dated either in late 18th or in the early 19th century.

The Chuniapara Mosque in Rajshahi, stylistically dated late 18th or early 19th century,

the Beripotal Mosque of Sirajganj, locally said to have been built by one Momin Mondal in 1805, and Bibi Meher Mosque at Dhaka, dated 1814 by inscription, all bear more or less the same constructional peculiarities like those of the Raipara Mosque, Rajshahi.

Miscellaneous Types

Anowar Siraj al-Salikin Mosque at Bagha, Rajshahi. An inscription over the central doorway in the facade records that this mosque, now very ruinous with small trees and plants over the roof and walls, was erected by Anowar Siraj al-Salikin in 1805. It is a rectangular structure with three bays in the interior covered with three chauchala vaults. Dochala or chauchala vaults in combination with domes are known to have formed the roofs of a number of Bengal mosques, but the present mosque, covered entirely with chauchala vaults, provides the only example of it’s kind so far known.

The Ghulab Bagh Mosque, datable to the late 18th or early 19th century and the Farhat Allah Mosque, dated 1821 by inscription, both from Murshidabad, consist of a three- bay prayer chamber like Anowar Siraj al-Salikin Mosque at Bagha. The former is covered with a central dome and a flanking chauchala vault, while the latter is entirely covered with a flat roof like that in the three-aisled and five-bay deep Farrukh Siyar Mosque (1703-06) at Dhaka.

Mosques of the descendants of Tipu Sultan, Calcutta. At least three mosques of Calcutta, datable in the first half of the 19th century, are ascribed to the members of the House of Tipu Sultan of Mysore. They are the Ghulam Muhammad Mosque, dated 1835; Shahbani Begum Mosque, dated 1840-41 and the Tipu Sultan Mosque (1842) erected by Muhammad, a son of Tipu Sultan. The double-aisled multi-domed rectangular plan of these mosques must have been dictated by a number of examples of the kind of the Sultanate as well as Mughal Bengal. But they all reveal a decided European influence. Resembling the Bungalows and official buildings of the British all these mosques have shuttered doors, fan-windows, classical entablatures and rounded arches filled with fan motifs supported by engaged Ionic columns. European influence is also noticeable in the inscriptions of these mosques, for example the Wakf Farman inscribed on Ghulam Muhammad Mosque uses the Christian rather than Muslim system of dating, and several English words such as ‘government’ and ‘collectorship’ are written in Persian script. The increasing European influences on these buildings may be said to have been due to patron-builders’ acquaintance with European building art of Calcutta and England as well.

Becharam Dewri Mosque, Dhaka. This is the only known five-domed type mosque in Colonial Bengal. By the disposition of two massive pillars the interior of the building is divided into five square bays a large one in the middle and two smaller ones on it’s either side arranged in the east-west axis. All the bays are interconnected by archways, while above the roof are five domes corresponding to the bays below. In


it’s ground planning and roofing pattern the Becharam Dewri Mosque, dated 1872 by an inscription, is a replica of the Walipur Alamgiri Masjid (1692) in Comilla.

Bhangni Mosque, Rangpur. Consisting of a three-domed prayer chamber and a

domed verandah in the east the mosque provides the only known example of it’s kind in Bengal, now located in the village of Bhangni under Mithapukur Thana in Rangpur. The mosque is uninscribed, but stylistically very similar to the Baghdhani Mosque (1791) in Rajshahi and the Mithapukur Mosque (1810) about 10 km off from it. A contemporary date may therefore be assigned to the Bhangni Mosque, Rangpur.


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