The magnificent city, which extended for 50 km2, contains some of the most significant buildings of the initial period of the development of the Muslim architecture of Bengal. They include 360 mosques, public buildings, mausoleums, bridges, roads, water tanks and other public buildings constructed from baked brick.
This old city, created within a few years and covered up by the jungle after the death of its founder in 1459, is striking because of certain uncommon features. The density of Islamic religious monuments is explained by the piety of Khan Jahan, which is evidenced by the engraved inscription on his tomb.
The lack of fortifications is attributable to the possibilities of retreat into the impenetrable mangrove swamps of the Sunderbans. The quality of the infrastructures - the supply and evacuation of water, the cisterns and reservoirs, the roads and bridges - all reveal a perfect mastery of the techniques of planning and a will towards the spatial organization.
In the reign of Bengal Sultan Nasiruddin Muhammad Shah, Ulugh Khan Jahan (Khan Jahan Ali) was set free by the emperor and was given this jungle territory. While wandering who knows that a man like him will discover an entire city where he ruled as an independent ruler.
Significant structures of Bagerhat
While traveling to Bagerhat you will be amazed by observing the decoration of the city. The mind-blowing advancement which might not have been possible if the ruler himself showed the way.
In a very short of a period of time, he made the establishment of several mosques (360 more or less), bridges & road for better transportation & communication, palaces, mausoleum and public buildings of which you will be a part of when you step on this city.
Mainly the purpose was to spread the knowledge of Islam which he succeeded and every time he finishes exploring a major area, he leaves a few of his companions from 60000 followers to keep the process ongoing. This area is full of religious belief and pious people all around who is currently leading their life on the path of Islam.
The mausoleum of Khan Jahan
The major visiting site is the northern side of Thakur Dighi, there relies on the single-domed dargah. The shrine of Khan Jahan is located here. This place was explored and established tombstone by him a few years back after he passed away and his followers showed their gratitude towards him by recording his death upon that.
While making the entrance you will get to discover an unknown type of roof “chauchala vaulted roof” which is one of the instances of Bengali culture. This is actually made of bamboo rafters situated between two broads, and the passages to walk by are pointed-arch.
For the knowledge, Black stones that cover the base of five rows are known to be derived from Pala traditions directly for this tomb. If you head to the west, you will be acquainted with another identical mosque between two buildings. This place holds the tomb of Pir Ali, Alias Muhammad Tahir, who was also a saint close to Khan Jahan.
Nine domed mosque
Following the west side of Thakur Dighi, stands the nine-doomed mosque.It takes four slender stone columns to support those nine low hemispherical domes. While three arched mihrabs covering the western wall, you can make the entrance from the other three directions. This magnificent squire mosque had gone through reconstruction recently and been repaired extensively.
The elegant mihrabs are the most satisfying part to observe, and you will find it surrounded by terracotta floral scrolls and foliage motifs within rectangular bands of panels. On the west, north, and south walls curved lights break the plain 7’-8’’ thick walls. Each of those Mihrabs’ center is embellished with the chain-and-bell terracotta motifs.
The tall vertical sunken panels behold the outer walls with pinpointed arches below the cornice and the eight bands of moldings came out from the round corner turrets. For every monument, the extensive curved cornice is the common décor that you also find in outer decorations.
Bibi Begni mosque
The name of the mosque suggests that it belonged to a Bibi Begni, whose identity is obscure. One local tradition ascribes her as one of Khan Jahan's wives, while another makes her a concubine of KHAN JAHAN, who erected this building over her grave. But the problem with identifying her clearly is that the building now does not have any trace of a sarcophagus or a grave within.
Nevertheless, it is not certain that the building had originally any grave, for no excavation has yet been done in the interior of the building. On the other hand, the building still has three mihrab niches, one of the distinguishing features of MOSQUE ARCHITECTURE.
This mosque is believed to be of Bibi Begni which is still uncertain to some extent. There is a discussion on her as she had been addressed as the wife of Khan Jahan, others opine her to be a concubine. While roaming here, you will understand the common features like the “Mihrabs” for every Mosque architecture.
Particularly this mosque is similar to the Singair mosque, the only difference to be observed is the height and width which is comparatively larger than that. Rectangular moldings, ornamented multi-cusped arches, terracotta floral panels making those mihrabs look more attractive with the chain-and-bell motif.
One of the sultanate mosques crowned with a single dome. This square structured mosque is located in the north-west and it takes only a kilometer from the prominent Shaitgambuj mosque to reach here. The exterior facades are built of plain brick, and the entrance with terracotta jail designs make it more inquisitive.
While making the entrance the central point holds the wider space, but the side ones are narrower and dwarfish. This single domed mosque had gone through a lot owing to the injustice of weather, but it has been taken under protection after reconstruction by the Department of Archaeology, Bangladesh.
Sixty dome mosque
Sixty Dome Mosque is widely renowned as the largest brick mosque in Bangladesh. The structure of this mosque includes 77 small domes placed on the roof with 7 chau-chala Bengali domes in the central row. This monument is one of the survived one among most other Khan Jahan style monuments.
The inside is 160’X190’, spacious enough for a prayer room which can hold up to 2000 people. While exploring this beautiful creation you are going to find arched doorways on the east side which are 11 in number and seven on both north & south end which are used for the light and ventilation.
Seven longitudinal aisles and eleven deep bays were formed for supporting the domes after the isolation of the sanctuary by a slender stone columned forest. The combined 6 inch thick walls and circular corner turrets holding small round-shaped domes on the top makes it look like the bastions of a fortress.
The significance of the flanking mihrabs decorated with terracotta floral scrolls looks stunning, but, the center of western sanctuary remains classic with the wall of stone. The spandrels had the traditional style of our Bengali culture overlapped with terracotta rosettes.
There were exceptions in few mosques which never had the allowance of establishing ‘Badshah-ka-Takht’ or ‘the king’s throne’, and it was one of them. One of the mindblowing catch of this mosque is a usual feature that will be discovered, the connection of the route between the central mihrab and the western wall’s small arched doorway. Owing to this creation, while counting the mihrabs you will find one short instead of eleven in the western wall.
Other extravaganzas are those unplastered brick facades that explicate the battles of Bengal History, the broken cornice in the east caused by the small triangular pediment canted towards the corner towers unveil spectacular scenario.
In the essence of this historical architectural monument shares a similar quality of strength and austerity with the famous Tughlaq architecture of Delhi.
Check out our Trip to Backwater and Bagerhat tour to visit the mosque city Bagerhat a UNESCO world heritage site.