New mosque to replace 300 year old Mughal structure | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, January 19, 2017 / LAST MODIFIED: 02:36 AM, January 19, 2017

New mosque to replace 300 year old Mughal structure

Red sandstones are scattered everywhere, while dismantled thick pillars and cave-like doors remain as the only witness to the Mughal period as the around 300 years old mosque -- Azimpur Gorostan Shahi Masjid -- has been demolished under the nose of the authorities for erecting a six-storied new one.

Now the debris that surrounds the area is the only remnants of a place where once the devotees used to pray.

Instead of preserving the two-storied mosque, which was built in 1711, the Department of Archaeology gave the mosque committee a go ahead for the demolition, since the mosque was not listed as a heritage site.

According to the Antiquities Act, 1968 (amended in 1976) all buildings or establishments more than 100 years of age can be protected by the state for their historical importance.

“We wanted to know from the Department of Archaeology pointing out the mosque's age whether it's listed as a heritage site. But they informed it was not,” said advocate Abul Kasem Mridha, general secretary of the mosque committee.

That is why the committee decided to construct a new mosque and started the demolition work from November 2016 as the structure was in a dilapidated condition, he said, adding that the mosque is a waqf (charitable) property.

He said the committee sent the letter to the Department of Archaeology on June 9, 2013 and the authorities responded to their query on June 30, 2013.

Visiting the spot yesterday, The Daily Star found the demolition work of the already dismantled mosque had been suspended after the incident drew media attention.

There is an inscription written in Persian language, attached to a building adjacent to the mosque. “It mentions the year the mosque was built by one Fayzul Alam,” said Mridha quoting a Persian language expert of Dhaka University.

According to the Banglapedia, the mosque is mentioned as one of the heritage establishments of Lalbagh.

Md Altaf Hossain, director general of the Department of Archaeology, said they are aware of the old mosque's demolition and made a probe body including members of the Institute of Architects Bangladesh to determine how the old relics could be preserved.

“They have demolished only a part of the mosque and we're trying to protect it,” he said. “We cannot enforce its protection, as it is not declared as an archaeological site, we can at best request the mosque authorities to preserve it.”

“We protect the archaeological sites that we consider worth saving,” he said, adding that it requires land acquisition if a heritage site is a private property.

“It is surprising how and why this mosque has not been listed by the department. It is their duty to protect and conserve such heritage properties,” said Abu Sayeed M Ahmed, immediate past president of Institute of Architects Bangladesh.

Sayeed is one of the members of the inspection team to ascertain how this old relic could be saved. After visiting the spot he observed that a new mosque can be built by keeping the relics untouched.

Architect Taimur Islam, chief executive of a conservationist movement Urban Study Group, said it is a special kind of single-dome mosque of the Mughal era that resembles the features of mosques built during the reign of Mughal Subahdar Shaista Khan.

The two-storey structure is built on a raised platform with a prayer hall on the upper floor and there are only four to five of these types of mosques in Dhaka, he said. Also its main dome is set on a rectangular base.

“The mosque must be conserved considering its architectural uniqueness that includes spatial quality, construction technique and layout with manifestation of the Turkish architectural influence,” said Taimur.

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