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Baba Adam mosque

  • Published at 03:33 pm September 15th, 2019

The Baba Adam mosque is the only surviving example in the ancient Hindu settlement of Rampal upazilla in the district Munshiganj, far away from the old capital Gaur.

The mosque, though renovated, is in a seemingly good state of conservation. It is named after a locally famous saint Baba Adam, who died in a holy war against a local Hindu Raja. According to the local legend he was buried near the mosque in a simple unadorned graveyard. According to an inscription fixed above the central entrance, the mosque was built in 888/1483-84 by the Malik Kafur during the reign of Sultan Jalal al-din Fath Shah (Ahmad 1960:118).

This mosque represents the six domed variety of early Islamic period and has the usual oblong shape measuring 6.64 m by 10.23 m internally with a 1.85m thick surrounding brick wall. The interior space of the mosque is split into six square areas by two bays and three aisles. There are three entrances in the eastern facade and correspondingly, the kibla wall contains three arched mihrab niches, the central one being larger than the ones on each side. There are multi-foiled arches in front of the central mihrab. The arches rise from decorated octagonal pilasters. They are bordered within two rectangular frames with two parallel terracotta details on the top within recessed brick mouldings and the spandrel is decorated with one terracotta rosette on either side. 

The space between the two frames is decorated with terracotta details. A chain-and-bell terracotta motif decorates the deep apse of the mihrab and on the top of the frames there is a series of mouldings. The three entrance doors in the east are flanked with two pointed arches bordered within recessed rectangular frames with parallel terracotta details on the top within raised brick mouldings. The central door is slightly elevated and wider than the two adjacent ones. 

It is the only multi-domed mosquein Bengal without openings in the side wall. Instead of openings, two 1.38 m wide and 0.79 m deep arched niches are placed in each side wall. The outer side of the qibla wall is projected in three steps of which the central part contains an ornamental panel. The four outside corners of the mosque are buttressed by octagonal turrets. The turrets have a circular foundation at the plinth level, which is still visible. It proves that the turrets were once circular in shape, but the restorer had erroneously built the upper portion of the turrets as octagonal. These turrets have brick mouldings at the base, impressed with terracotta lozenge and the interspaces are embellished with terracotta frieze. These mouldings in the base continue up to a certain distance in the side walls to integrate the corner turret with the facade.

The roof is supported on the arches rising from the two original monolithic stone pillars and the brick pilasters in the wall. The form and shape of these stone pillars are a little different than the stone pillars of Gaur and Bagerhat, but the same type of pillar is still in situ in the Bari mosque at Choto Pandua-India. They are octagonal in shape at the base. The sixteen sided shaft have a bell and chain motif.  The brick pendentives at each corner transfer the square supporting area into a circular base. The prayer hall is covered by six hemispherical domes and the domes are crowned with a finial consisting of three stepped circular disc, which is not seen anywhere else in Bengal.

Traditionally, the mosques in Bengal have water spouts in the side wall, but this mosque has two extra water spouts in the kibla wall. Although it has been renovated, the inside and outside ornamentation of the mosque remains almost intact. Between the three entrances in the frontal façade, are two rectangular terracotta panels placed at the springer level of the arch having hanging chain and bell motif. The upper part or cornice on all four sides is gently curved. There are several mouldings in this cornice impressed with ornaments. The interspaces between the mouldings are also ornate with continuous floral relief.  

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