We are what our heritage and history reveal. The richness tells about our mind-set and our perspective. Bangladesh’s history has gone through many stages and phases and has come to this point to where it stands today, and the landmarks we come across reveal and unfold our history and development narrative.
Today, I want to bring to focus a century-old monument — a mosque built of lime mortar, in the late 19th century, belonging to Prithimpassa Nawab Bari at Prithimpassa, Moulvibazar. The architecture speaks volumes and lays before the beholder the trend and designs which prevailed in the early 20th century. The mosque was built after the original that stood in the same place before it, built in the Bengal Sultanate era, was damaged. The older mosque was damaged during the 1897 earthquake.
The one constructed before the present one had the architectural designs pertaining to the Sultanate period which differed from the Mughal times. The present mosque is based on Mughal designs, with the domes and arches and arabesque patterns and motifs on the walls, along with the pillars and the minarets.
The small courtyard has two minarets on all four sides, of different sizes and designs. The ones in front are for the muezzin to call the adhan.
To enter the mosque, you have to climb up a flight of stairs, and through the arch, enter the courtyard and then the ante chamber, or the front space before the main hall, where the musallis (those who stand in line to pray) say their prayers.
The walls are adorned with different motifs and arabesque patterns, which bring a sense of awe and of serenity. The ceiling is high, with three domes; the one in the middle is the large one, with two smaller ones on both sides. The minarets have motifs and volute patterns of leaves and flowers.
Inside the hall is the mehrab, which is a semi-circular niche indicating the Qibla (where the Imam stands and leads the prayer). There are two other niches, where books and Qurans are kept for those who want to read. On the right-hand side niche, there is a big black basal tablet, on which, there is an Arabic inscription dating back to the Sultanate era.
During Sultan and Mughal periods, whoever built a mosque, this stone used to be inscribed, as building mosques which, according to Islam, is considered a virtuous deed; those who build mosques are rewarded in the hereafter. Quoting Allah’s words and praising Him and the Holy Prophet, the inscriptions are carved on the tablet.
This mosque stands in front of the main homestead of the Zamindar, overlooking the dighi (large pond). The ambience is quiet and serene, with a clear view of the paddy fields and the hills in the distance. It is a tranquil and peaceful place inside the mosque. The floor is decorated with red marble, with embedded white and black marble chips. The floor stays cool during day time, and the two tall windows on both sides keep the breeze circulating, cooling the place on a hot day. It is an ideal place to be lost in prayers and meditation, and reciting the tasbih (rosary).
Prithimpassa Nawab Bari’s Mosque has stood for more than a hundred years, and if we consider the old one which was in its place prior to the devastating earthquake, it is as old as the family history, dating back to the time of the Sultanate era.
Photo courtesy: Ali Hamid Khan