Saturday, 3 June, 2023

Musa Khan Mosque

Memories of Baro Bhuiyans on DU campus

Memories of Baro Bhuiyans on DU campus
With around 6,000 mosques, Dhaka, a metropolis known as ‘the city of mosque’, is an ideal model of architectural ensemble, housing some ancient religious structures which testify its glorious history and represent the rich technical skill of pre-Mughal and Mughal architects. This Ramadan the Daily Sun gives you a sneak peek into Dhaka’s past through highlighting its wonderful Islamic monuments.

The mosque built in the name of Musa Khan, the son of Baro Bhuiyans chief Isa Khan, still survives as the last edifice of an almost indomitable politico-military clan which resisted the mighty Mughal emperors from expanding their territory up to Bengal for a long period of time.    
Although the exterior has lost its lustre, the building, built in an aesthetic architectural style on Dhaka University campus, is still functional. Muslim devotees perform their regular five-time prayers, including Jumma prayers on Friday, in the mosque.
The historic Islamic monument can hardly be seen from outside as it is surrounded by a number of establishments, including a branch of Agrani Bank, Department of Soil, Water and Environment, Department of Geology, Dr Muhammad Shahidullah Hall and some other departments and administrative offices of Dhaka University.
According to ‘Asudegan-e-Dhaka’ by physician and author Hakim Habibur Rahman, the name of the whole area was Bagh-e-Musa (the Garden of Musa). Now no garden exists there but the tomb of Musa Khan on the east side has left to testify the historical connection with the place.
Though the mosque is named after Musa Khan, historians believe that it was not built by him. It is difficult to guess the name of founder of the structure as there is no inscription in anywhere of the mosque.
Hakim Habibur Rahman mentioned that the mosque was built by Musa Khan but historians Ahmad Hasan Dani, AKM Zakaria and Muntassir Mamoon believe that it was built during the reign of Shaista Khan.
But the architectural style of the building does not conform to the tradition. In its panelled facade, the doorways opening out under half-domes, shouldered domes on octagonal drums and corner towers with extra minarets by their sides the  Musa Khan Mosque bears the closest similarity with the nearby Khwaja Shahbaz's Mosque (1679). A contemporary date may therefore be suggested for the building.
Like all other mosques of that period, Musa Khan Mosque is built on a raised platform and has three domes. All the domes are crowned with lotus and kalasa finials.
The apex of each dome on the inside is decorated with a large painted medallion. The entire building, both inside and outside, is now covered with cement plaster and washed white with lime.  

The vaulted platform, 3.05m high, gives an outside measurement of 17.68m from north to south and 14.02m from east to west. Underneath the platform there are a series of rooms, now badly damaged.
In the eastern side, there are three independent rooms, each of which could be entered from the east by a single archway.In the western side below the plinth are three other independent rooms, each opening towards the west by a single archway.
The top of the platform can be reached by an elongated stairway on the southwestern corner. Four octagonal corner towers with extra minarets by their sides rise above the horizontal parapets and end in solid kiosks with cupolas on the top.
The central doorway, bigger than its flanking counterparts, is set in a projected fronton with bordering ornamental turrets.
The qibla wall is internally recessed with three semi-octagonal mihrab niches, which are all arched. The central mihrab, bigger than the side ones, is also projected outside having the usual ornamental turret on either side.
Of the three bays in the interior of the mosque, the central one is bigger and square, 4.88m a side. Each of the smaller side bays measures 4.88m by 3.05m. Above the roof there are three shouldered domes on octagonal drums, one over each bay.
The central dome is larger than the side ones and carried on two east-west wide arches together with four small half-domed squinches on the upper angles. The comparatively smaller side domes are supported by the traditional half-domed vaults on the east and west walls.
Although the mosque belongs to Dhaka University, it is listed by the Department of Archaeology. But there is no initiative visible to preserve it.