Shat Gambuj Mosque
Shait gumbad mosque, or 60-domed mosque, is located about three miles west of the present Bagerhat town. The mosque was built by Khan Jahan Ali, a muslim sufi saint around 1450 A.D. The mosque, built mainly of bricks, measures 192 feet from north to south and 130 feet from east to west. The mosque has an architectural style that strongly resembles other pre-mughal mosques of Bengal.
There are four massive circular towers located at the four corners of the mosque. The towers are slightly tapered towards the top, with a chamber above the roof level. The upper chamber of the two west towers has four windows, while the east towers has two windows. The height of the chamber of the east towers is also smaller than the west towers. Both the west towers have circular stairways reaching the top; which have recently been closed by brick filings.
The interior of the mosque has sixty pillars – ten rows of six pillars in each row. All the pillars have been covered during the renovation of the mosque. Only one pillar that has been left uncovered shows a black stone construction. Earlier British records tell us that the pillars were constructed using two or three carved black stones tightly joined together by a system of plug-holes and iron-craps, or with slabs of black stones.
The western wall has ten arched-mihrabs. The central mihrab, is entirely made of black stones. Most of the decorative motifs have disappeared, but much is still preserved in a decaying condition. The decorations show intriguing stone carvings.
The remaining nine mihrabs are entirely made of bricks, showing cusping in their faces. Although much of their ornamentations have disappeared, enough still survives to show that these, not unlike the central mihrab, were originally exquisitely decorated, but with terracotta. The motifs and designs used are primarily the same, but they differ in their arrangement from mihrab to mihrab.
The north and south walls are internally marked with decorative cusped niches, twelve in each wall. Each of these niches is topped by two moldings. While these moldings show rosettes alternating with diaper motifs, the space in between is ornamented with floral
scrolls in terracotta.
The mosque has a total of 81 domes. The roof of the mosque has 77 domes, and the four corner towers have one dome each at the top. The 77 domes on the roof are of two patterns. 70 domes are hemispherical, those are aligned in east-west directions in 10 rows with seven domes in each row; and 7 domes running through the middle of the mosque from east to west those are four-faceted. These four-faceted domes divide the entire mosque into two halves. All the domes are decorated, and vaulted from inside.
The Shatgumbad Mosque appears to have been the earliest as well as the greatest architectural work of Khan Jahan Ali. Architecturally the mosque is a combination of concepts and designs inherited from outside Bengal with ideas from within Bengal. Its bastion-like tapering corner towers with their rounded domes and two-storied conception, which rise high above the roof, appears to have been dictated by similar examples of the Khirki and the Kalan Mosques in Delhi. The interior pillars and arches of the mosque remind one of the designs of the Umayyad mosque in Damascus, or the great mosque of Cordova in Spain. The idea of four-faceted domes appears to be similar to the chau-chala huts of Bengal.
There are few theories as to the name Shatgumbad, which, literally in Bangla means 60 domes. The mosque does not have 60 domes. There are at least three theories. The first theory suggests the actual name to be ‘Chatgumbad’ meaning ‘domed-roof’, which has later corrupted into Shatgumbad. A second theory suggests that the name Shatgumbad is a corruption of Satgumbad, meaning seven-domed, indicating the seven four-faceted domes running through the center of the mosque. Perhaps the most probable theory is that the name Shatgumbad is a corruption of Persian ‘Shast Khumbaz’ meaning 60 pillars. Persian was the language of business of Khan Jahan Ali; and the mosque does have a total of 60 pillars.
At present the mosque is listed as a UNESCO world heritage site.
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