Monday, June 6, 2011

Goaldi Mosque as Witness to an Embarrassing Gaffe - Sonargaon Tales

The town of Goaldi has been described as a “sequestered hamlet” andprecariously surviving”. It’s a nondescript village hidden amidst thick bamboos groves, mango canopies and jackfruit trees, some 6 kilometers northwest of Painam Nagar in Sonargaon. But in its cloisters, we found a mosque – the oldest known structure in Sonargaon; an illustrious relic from the medieval past.

A pre-mughal structure known as Goalde Mosque rises in this sleepy village. This was a single-domed mosque built by Mulla Hizabar Akbar Khan in the early 16th century, during the reign of Alauddin Husain Shah, an independent late medieval Sultan of Bengal who rose to power after assassinating his sultan - Shams-ud-Din Muzaffar Shah of Abyssinia (a Habeshan tribe whose origins hail from Ethiopia and Eritrea in Africa). Alauddin was the deposed sultan's wazir (a high ranking political adviser of a muslim dynasty). Alauddin eventually founded a dynasty that ruled Bengal for years. This snippet of historical fact we're mentioning to place this story capsule in contextual perspective. Unfortunately, not much is written about Akbar Khan, the person responsible for the construction of the mosque.

On fast gaze, the mosque looks small; a single structure with rich thematic pertinence and an even richer past. Its colors have been dramatically washed up with the passing of time, seemingly departing its whispery grandeur in footnotes of tourist books. Except for the backside of the mosque, each side has 3 arched entrances, the central arch slightly higher than the others. The interior of the mosque is gated, thus a visit inside is not allowed.

For decades, Goaldi Mosque was in utter ruins until its restoration in 1975.

A more detailed description is in Banglapedia that says:” Provided with three arched entrances to the edifice on the east and one each on the north and the south (now bricked up) the base of the dome rests on squinch arches at the four corners which support the dome on pendentives."

"There are some ornamental black stone pillars inside the prayer hall for the support of the roof. Corresponding to the three arched doorways on the east there are three richly decorated mihrabs (a niche in a mosque positioned to face Mecca) on the west wall, of which the central one is bigger and beautifully embellished with curved floral and arabesque relief on dark black stone, but the flanking side mihrabs are ornamented with delicate terracotta floral and geometric patterns. The central stone mihrab is framed within an arched panel with an expanded sunflower motif in the centre. Below that the spandrels of the multi-cusped arch of the mihrab are decorated within a rectangular frame. The engrailed arched recess is carried on stunted octagonal pillars faceted at stages. Four round banded turrets at the outer corners rise up to the curvilinear cornice.

Goaldi interiors. This photo and the one directly above only are courtesy of Ershad Ahmed's blog -

Terracotta designs of hanging lamps and flowers.

On a rickshaw, we arrived in front of a small, seemingly ignored compound where, at its center piece is this pre-mughal mosque named after its town. Mafuz eventually sequestered my camera. My tour guide was enamored with the sight he was showing Karin and I. Even the details of moldings were photographed in their intricate design.

Each of the four sides measures 4.8 meters thus it was easy to go around it and appreciate its otherworldly appeal. While winding down with our visit, I realized that I have been erroneously calling my Swiss friend "Helen" when it should be "Karin". From the side of the mosque, in a soft whisper and an abashed discountenance, she corrected me. This tall blond girl with a timid smile - I had been calling her with someone else's name - the whole duration of the visit, and I was red with embarrassment! Being inattentive is a scourge and I am not too proud of my gaffe. The funny thing is, Mafuz actually captured this embarrassing predicament (see below) while I was profusely apologizing to her beside Goaldi Mosque.

But the shadows of the past weren't lost in our moments of frivolity. It cloaked us like the warm sun.

This is the Eye in the Embarrassed Sky!

Goaldi Mosque's washed out colors echo a colorful almost-neglected past.

Cylindrical turrets characterize the four corners that rise up from the ground to the cornice (ornamental molding around the wall of a room just below the ceiling) .

Mosque is my embarrassed witness.

Terracota moldings adorn this pre-mughal architecture.

Intricate designs found in the moldings around the turrets.

Writings on the wall.


Ola said...

The fist thing that comes to my mind that the architecture (despite all the decorations) looks very "solid" like it would be made also for some military purposes

eye in the sky said...

Now that you've mentioned that, that's right. It sure looks sturdy enough. I like its washed up colour.

seema gupta said...

thanks for sharing such wonderful architecture with mind blowing descritpion

eye in the sky said...

@ Seema:

It's my pleasure. Thanks for the very nice words. Appreciate it. :->