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Shah Niamatullah Mosque at Chapainawabganj-Gaur

  • Published at 06:36 pm July 28th, 2019

This Mughal mosque is a part of the Tahkhana complex, which consists of a large residential enclave, the tomb of a holy saint Shah Niamatullah Wali and some ruined service quarter.

This complex, stands on the western bank of a large tank, is located about half a kilometer to the north-west of the Choto Sona mosque and approached through a metal road which branches off from the Choto Sona-Kotwali Darwaza road. The building is not inscribed, but it is traditionally affirmed that the whole tahkhana complex was built by Subahdar Shah Shuja (1639-1660 AD) (Husain1997:117), who had his court at Rajmahal, in honour of the saint Shah Niamatullah Wali, who lies buried in a nearby earliest known Mughal tomb structure in Bangladesh. Recently the whole area of the tahkhana complex along with the mosque proper has been extensively renovated by the Directorate of Archaeology of Bangladesh.   

The mosque building is placed on the western end of a paved shan or courtyard, which is encompassed by a low arcaded boundary wall with a small simple gateway in the middle of the east side. These arcades, 12 nos in the eastern side and 11 nos in the northern and southern side, are filled up with perforated brick screen and the two outside frontal corners of the boundary wall are buttressed by turrets projected vertically with pinnacle. The prayer hall has the usual oblong shaped plan measuring 7.62m by 19.81m externally with a 1.37m thick surrounding brick wall. The prayer hall is entered from the eastern side by three four-centered archway and the other two side walls have also one pointed-arch openings each. All the opening archways are framed by recessed panels in the wall. The central archway is larger than the flanking ones and is projected slightly towards the front to emphasize the central axis.  Corresponding to the three frontal openings, the kibla wall is niched with three mihrabs, The octagonal shaped central mihrab niche is much larger than those rectangular shallow niches flanking it. To articulate the main mihrab niche from outside, the kibla wall is projected in the centre towards the west. The four corners are buttressed by four corner turrets. The turrets are octagonal shaped up to the top of the parapets and then are circular in shape. They are extended high above the roof level and ended in small ribbed cupola having a finial. 

The rectangular shaped prayer room is divided into three equal square bays by two wide transverse arches. With the help of triangular brick pendentives at each corner, each square area is transformed into a circular supporting area, upon which the three closely bulbous dome rest. All the three domes, placed directly on the circular supporting area without a shoulder, are crowned with lotus and kalasa finial. The central one is slightly higher than the flanking ones; but the diameter are same. The frontal façade is decorated by recessed rectangular panel containing arched niches and ended in a straight parapet with rows of ornamental panels. Persian origin muqarnas design in stucco is observed in the lower surface of the mihrab’s dome and the triangular pendentives, which seems to be the earliest example in Bangladesh. 

Prof Abu Sayeed M Ahmed is the Dean at the Department of Architecture at the University of Asia Pacific.