Friday, 2 June, 2023

Haji Shahbaz Khan Mosque

A 344-yr-old hidden treasure

A 344-yr-old hidden treasure
Haji Shahbaz Khan Mosque, a 344-year-old Mughal edifice located near the shrine of three leaders on the Dhaka University campus, is comparatively less known to the explorers. But its rich architectural style has made it an important establishment. The photo was taken on Friday. Kamrul Islam Ratan

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When you have a mosque that has been around for about 350 years, it is hard to say something that hasn’t already been said about it but the Haji Shahbaz Khan Mosque is an exception in this regard.

Despite being situated in a prime location and having all required features, the mosque has remained less explored by the people who are passionate about historic establishments.

According to ‘Glimpses of Old Dhaka’ by Syed Muhammed Taifoor, ‘Dhaka: Smriti Bismritir Nagari’ by Muntassir Mamoon, and ‘Bangladesher Protnoso-mpod’ by AKM Zakaria,

 the founder of the mosque Haji Shahbaz Khan was an affluent merchant. But to many he is known as a pious man who had spiritual power.

He came to Bengal Subah (a subdivision of the Mughal Empire) from Kashmir and settled down in the area of Tongi.

In 1679 or Hijri 1089, during the viceroyalty of Prince Muhammad Azam, son of Emperor Aurangzeb, he built this mosque and his own tomb, as mentioned in the inscription found in the mosque.

One can find it difficult to locate the mosque due to a number of establishments all around though it is built near the Doyel Chattar (Doyel Square).

The towering architecture of the shrines of the three leaders covers the Shahbaz Khan Mosque on the western side. Shishu Academy surrounds it on the south, High Court on the east, while Ramna Kalimandir in Suhrawardy Udyan makes it hard to see on the north side.

There is only one way to go to the mosque which curves along the northern boundary of the shrine of the three leaders to reach the main gate of it.

Describing about the beauty of the mosque, Ahmad Hasan Dani, in his ‘Dacca: A Record of Its Changing Fortunes’, writes, “All the architectural patterns and decorations are so beautifully and appropriately done that overall it is attractive.”

Unfortunately, the mosque has lost its grandeur. The exterior is blackened with algae and dirt. Plasters are falling from the walls inside. Yet its Shaista Khani style of architecture still fascinates all.

The three-dome mosque has four octagonal minarets at each corner and three entrances. The mimbar (a platform for a priest in a mosque) and the threshold are made of black stones, while the walls of the mosque are red coloured.

During the time of its establishment, the weather of that area was humid. Therefore, the walls have been covered with stones, to extend the permanence of the mosque.

The mosque has an oblong plan of 69'3" x 29'3" externally and 56'8" x 16'0" internally.

Of the three equal sized domes, the central one rests over a slightly elevated bay. The eastern facade has three arched openings while the northern and southern facades have a single arched opening to the prayer hall.

The rectangular structure is buttressed by four corner octagonal turrets, capped by plastered cupolas. These turrets rise slightly above the parapet walls and ribbed in typical Bengali fashion, while parapets are straight instead of the curvilinear cornice of pre-Mughal types.

Two wide multi-cusped transverse arches, issuing from twin engaged brick pillars, divide the interior of the mosque into three equal bays, each roofed over with a low shouldered dome on a cylindrical drum.

There are three mihrabs, each aligned with the three entrances at east and the central portion of the qibla wall is projected westward from the ground to the roof.