Death of a heritage site
The 350-year old Churihatta Mosque, the only mosque in the city with chou-chala or bungalow type roof demolished about 50 years ago evokes a sad memory as Dhaka prepares to celebrate 400 years.
The mosque was at Churihatta of Chawkbazar in the old part of the city.
According to a book by Dr Ahmad Hasan Dani the mosque was built in 1649 by a Mughal officer Muhammad Beg when Prince Shah Suja was viceroy of Bengal.
The book said that the mosque was rectangular in shape with towers on four corners. The eastern side had three doorways, each of which opened through two successive arches.
The façade was marked with numerous square and rectangular panels and the cornice, which was straight, was faced with blind merlons, ornamental battlement in the shape of rosebuds.
The interior hall was covered with an intersecting vaulted roof, which was a modification of the north Indian pyramidal type. The line of intersection and the central ridge was curved. It did not have any long drawn eaves as found in the Bengali type.
According to historians the mosque was renovated in 1961, which means that its main features were intact until the structure was torn down later by the mosque committee.
"It was the only mosque that had chou-chala roof in the interior. In the exterior the roof was flat. It was quite a unique feature of the mosque," said Dr Abu Sayeed M Ahmed, conservation architect with expertise on mosque architecture.
But the mosque committee claimed that the original mosque was torn down by a non-Bengali Abdur Rashid Dilliwala, to build a new structure in 1962. Therefore the structure they destroyed was not anything historical.
Locals of the area have a mixed feeling about the mosque as many of them do not know that there was such an old mosque in their vicinity. Many said that the mosque was demolished some 50 years ago.
"I heard that there was an old mosque at this place in Churihatta, which was older than the Chawkbazar mosque. But I can't say exactly when, because I was a child at that time. It was rebuilt by a non-Bengali during the Pakistan period," said an elderly resident of the area.
Noted historian Prof Sirajul Islam said it is a 'crime' to tear down such an old structure.
"From a book by historian Ahmad Hasan Dani it is known that in 1961 he got it intact when the mosque underwent renovation or repair. That means the original structure was there until then."
"There is a four-storey new building beside it. Wasn't it enough for accommodating more people?," he said.
But according to the mosque committee the space in the new building was not enough as the population of the area was rising because of increasing commercial activities.
The committee said, the original mosque was a small structure of 30x16 sq ft. It had little space on its two sides owned by a childless non-Bengali affluent Abdur Rashid Dilliwala. Dilliwala donated the spaces and in 1962 rebuilt the mosque, which was already dilapidated at that time.
"We would have saved it had it been the original mosque. But what we have torn down was built in 1962. Therefore we did not demolish anything historical," said Syed Sirajuddin Ahmed, vice-president of the committee.
There is a shilalipi (stone plaque) inside the mosque stating verses from the Holy Quran and the name of Muhammad Beg during the reign of Shah Suja. The stone plaque is the only thing that is left intact of the original structure.
"We have placed the stone plaque inside our new building. Once the whole building is constructed we will join the two parts," said Ahmed.