Shankarpasha Mosque: The Sultanate Period Mosque that is Carrying Bengal Heritage
Islamic rule was started in Bengal when Muhammad bin Bakhtiyar Khilji conquered parts of eastern India. That is why, he is known as the founder of Muslim rule in Bengal. However, during the Bengal Sultanate, which lasted 200 years, Islam was spread a lot. Mosques built at this era carry the proof of its extension all over Bangladesh. Shankarpasha Shahi Mosque aka Shankarpasha Mosque is one of the most beautiful architectural monuments of the Sultanate period. It was built on a six-acre large hillock during the 15th century.
This historical mosque is located at Shankarpasha village in Rajiura union of sadar upazila, which is under Habiganj district of Sylhet division. It is very near to Uchail bazaar. For this reason, it is known as Uchail mosque to local people. So, if you ask them about Shankarpasha mosque, they cannot show you the direction. But if you inquire about Gayebi mosque, they will tell you how to go there. There is no signboard addressing the direction of the mosque or symbols by following which one can find out the location.
There are two different ways to go there.
- The first route is from Habiganj. From Habiganj town to Uchail bazaar, it takes around 40 minutes. You can go there either using your private car or bike or by public transport like bus or tempo. The road is not well constructed. It is narrow and muddy. So, it is better to choose two-wheel vehicle. However, public transport is very cheap. It will charge around Tk. 20-25 per person. After getting down in bazaar, you have to take rickshaw, or you can go to the destination by walk.
- The second route is from Shayestaganj. At first, you have to go to Olipur by CNG or similar type of vehicle. It will cost around Tk. 25-30 each person. From there, you have to take another CNG to go to Uchail bazaar. The auto rickshaw fare will be around Tk. 20. The mosque is just few steps away from the bazaar. So, you can tell the auto driver to drop you on the road.
From the inscription engraved over the entrance, it came to be known that the construction work of the mosque was completed in 1513. It was built by Mojlishe Amin, the local administrative officer of sultan Alauddin Husayn Shah. His tomb is next to the mosque. He was one of the 360 Awliyas (disciples) of Hazrat Shah Jalal (R.A). He was engaged in preaching Islam at Uchail village.
With the change of time, the area adjacent to the mosque was turned into deserted land and surrounded by jungle. Later, people started to live in this area. While cultivating the surrounding lands, they found the mosque. That is why, it is also known as hidden mosque (?????? ?????). The most surprising thing is that when the mosque was found after long time of disappearance, the brick-built structure was undamaged.
In order to protect the mosque from the seasonal floods, it was built on a large raised ground. As marshes are very close to the mosque, there is always a threat of being flooded or go under water. It is a one unit building (?? ???? ???). It is a square shaped building which has same sized length and width, measuring 21 feet 6 inches. There is a 3 feet width veranda on the eastern side of the mosque.
It has four domes- one big circular dome on the roof of the main building while other three small circular domes are arranged in a line over the verandah. It has a total of fifteen doors and windows, which are almost equal to each other in shape. The thickness of the walls on three sides- east, north and south, is about five feet and the wall facing west side is about ten feet in width.
It has six beautifully decorated octagonal pillars- four located on four corners of the main room while two on the two corners of the balcony. This more than six hundred years old mosque is significant from other old mosques for its complicated terracotta designs with floral images on the outside walls and pillars. The mihrab of the mosque is ornamented with wonderful design. The rectangular frame flanking the mihrab represents the design of four or eight petalled flowers drawn inside the small rectangles, which are connected by wavy lines. The roof top and the cornice are built little bit curve. There is a big lake on the southern side of the Shankarpasha Mosque.
This mosque is a fine example of the blend of Bengali-Islamic architecture developed during the period of Bengal Sultanate. Here, we can see the native traditions being influenced by Persian heritage. The use of terracotta on the walls and pillars shows the innovative masterhood of the local designers as well as their uniqueness in the arrangement and decoration of the façade and the mihrab. This architecture has made it separate from the contemporary Gaur style. On the other hand, it is also deprived of the use of lavish ornamentation of the Husayn Shahi period. Because of the maintenance done by local people, Shankarpasha Mosque still remains the same.
To accommodate place for the worshippers, the authority erected canopies in front of the mosque. As a result, the beauty of the front part of the mosque has been reduced to a great extent. The archaeological department does not have any supervision here. Local dwellers look after Shankarpasha Mosque.
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