Locally known as Allahr Masjid, the 15th century mosque at Qasba in Barisal is going through renovation by archeological department. PHOTO: Zia Nazmul Islam
For centuries, shrouded by mystery, an almost ruined mosque in Qasba village under Gouranadi police station in Barisal has finally come under the notice of Bangladesh Archeology department.
Built in the 15th century, the mosque is known as 'Allahr Masjid' by the locals. It was built with red bricks without any steel frame with intricate designs. It has nine domes, very similar to 'Sixty Dome' mosque of Bagerhat and Masjidker mosque in Khulna. The square shaped mosque measures 68m on both sides. The walls are 2.18m thick. It has four round shaped corner turrets with three arch-shaped entrances on three sides. Inside the mosque, there are three pillars (Mihrabs) – the middle pillar was well decorated and larger than the others. Although the mosque is not mentioned in any history book and no inscriptions are found, the architectural style suggests that it was built in the middle of 15th century. The constructional style also is similar to other Mughal-Turkish structures.
The history of the mosque went into oblivion and nobody could tell when and by whom it was built. Many other similar structures found all over Bangladesh. Most are shrouded with superstitious stories. The prevalent story of 'Allahr Masjid' is that it was miraculously built in one night . Villagers went to sleep one night and in the morning, a fresh new mosque was standing right in front of their eyes. Thought to be possible only by Allah, soon it became known as 'Allahr Masjid'.
Recently, archeology department has taken initiative to renovate thousands of mosques like 'Allahr Masjid'. In such an attempt, the department has built boundary around the mosque, built a garden and setup a signboard which reads information about the structure and probable history for the tourists. Renovation of the main structure will begin this year.
The interior pillars have become sacred for tourists, who think, holding, touching and kissing the pillars would make their wishes come true. Years of this practice have rendered the pillars into pitch black. Tourists also donate generous amount to the mosque which is used to maintain the structure.
The Khadem (second in charge) of the mosque, Mohammad Babul Fakir has been taking care of the mosque for 30 years – his father was Khadem of the mosque too. He told that like the mystery behind the mosque, there are also miraculous stories of the pond in front. Elders of the area claim that during any weddings cookware used to float on the pond before. Tradition was, after usage all cookware had to be returned to the pond. No cookware emerges anymore after one lady kept one for her. He regretfully said, “There is no government appointed Imam or Khadem for the mosque”. He urged that Government should look into the matter soon. He also mentioned that a mosque committee is formed to take care of financial necessities if the mosque.
Dr. Khoundkar Alamgir, Assitant Professor, Department of Islamic History & Culture at National University is conducting an extensive research on middle-age Islamic structures in Bangladesh has recently visited the site. His research suggests that 'Allahr Masjid' was built by Khan Jahan Ali, a Muslim Saint and local ruler in Bagerhat during middle ages. He founded townships, built mosques, roads, highways and bridges and madrasahs during his reign. Khan Jahan introduced a new architectural style in his buildings, which is named after him. The Khan Jahan style is seen in a group of buildings in the greater districts of Khulna, Jessore and Barisal.
A local, Shahnur Fakir, 89, a retired employee archaeological department said that archeological department will soon renovate the 600 hundred year old mosque keeping its originality intact. At one point, the mosque was just a ruin – surrounded by jungle. No one used to come to pray here. A wider road will be built soon. He added that every year, many come and stay in the mosque from Tablig-E-Jamat. A better road system will also bring many tourists to the area. He said that it is not first time the mosque is going through renovation. “In 1965, a small renovation was conducted – then again, after Liberation war. He appreciates the initiative to renovate the mosque once more.