Saat Gombuj Masjid, a historic seven-domed mosque in the capital, bears the scars of “ill-conceived renovations” by the archaeological officials and mosque authorities, who brought changes to its original design over the years.
The mosque’s original colour pale red was changed to white about a decade ago, and several other changes were made on various occasions.
Sources said, the colour was changed when the department of archaeology, which is responsible for conservation of archaeological sites, took up a project to renovate the mosque in 2003.
Later, in the last fiscal year, the government took up another project to make a few more repairs, including changing the mosque’s damaged plasters, and restore it to its former look.
Dr Ataur Rahman, current regional director of the department of archaeology, said the plan to change colour was “ill-conceived” and “wrongheaded.”
“The then director of the department is responsible for making the change. We are now working to restore the originality of the architectural monument through a Tk1m renovation project that would finish by this fiscal year.”
About Tk330,000 worth of work had already been completed, he mentioned.
Apart from the colour, the management committee of the mosque incorporated several changes in its design, including constructing a washroom with tiled floor and sidewalls and modern toilet facilities.
Such changes, Ataur said, may add up to a gradual process of distortion of archaeological sites, which require proper awareness of common people and proper renovation by the authorities.
Sufi Mostafizur Rahman, a professor of archaeology at Jahangirnagar University, said the government should be strict about implementing guidelines with regard to renovation of a monument.
“Under no circumstances can you allow the originality of an archaeological site to be damaged or altered,” he said.
Saat Gombuj Masjid, not to be confused with the famous Shaat Gombuj Masjid (sixty-domed) located in Bagerhat, is located at the Jafrabad area of Mohammadpur. It is popularly known as Saat Masjid, after which an adjoining road was named.
Prof Muntassir Mamoon, a professor of history at the University of Dhaka, said the mosque, judging from its stylistic patterns, was supposedly built during the reign of Subahdar Shaista Khan, in 1680.
Sources said, the Buriganga River used to flow past the mosque when it was built, on a beautifully landscaped land covered with forests. With time, the river changed its course and now flows off one kilometre west of the mosque.
Saat Masjid is about 38 feet long and 27 feet wide and the thickness of its walls measures four feet. In recent times, the authorities lengthened the prayer hall by making canopied rooms at the front side, to meet the increased pressure of prayer-offering people.
There are three large onion-shaped domes placed over the main prayer hall and four small ones on all four corners of the rooftop hence the name Saat Gombuj Masjid (seven-domed mosque).