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Adina Masjid - raised prayer platform of Badshah-ka-takht in the north wing Prayer Hall

Adina Masjid - raised prayer platform of Badshah-ka-takht in the north wing Prayer Hall

Adina Masjid decorative Niche found on the western elevation [Qibla Wall]

Adina Masjid decorative Niche found on the western elevation 

Qutab Minar, Delhi, India

Qutab Minar, Delhi, India

Gaur Map. File copy

1. Bara Sona Masjid-1526
2.Dakhil Darwaza- first half of 16C
3.Chamkatti Masjid- last half  of 15C to the first half of 16C
4.Lattan Masjid-1475
6.Firuz Minar-1486
7.Lukocholi Darwaza (middle of 16C)
8.Chika building- last half of 15C to first half of 16C
9.Gumpti Darwaz-1512
10.Qadam Rasu-1513

Champkatti Masjid

Champkatti Masjid

Further Reading

° Imambaras of India-Fusion of Faith and Grandeur  ©


° Legacy of the Sharqi Kingdom of Jaunpur ©


° The Minars And Minarettes of India ©


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Bismillah ir Rahman ir Raheem
Published on April 12, 2005

Gaur and Pandua

Architecture of Two Forgotten Indian Cities

By Shahid A. Makhfi 
Photography by Shaheen Perveen and others.

North wing prayer hall of the Adina Masjid

Sher Shah, the Afghan monarch, called it ‘A great city built on great ideas.’ His Mughal adversary, Humayun, was so enamoured by the climate and beauty of the surroundings, that he named it Junnatabad - the heavenly city. Today, this terrestrial paradise lies hidden in the wilderness of Bengal along the Bangladesh border, a remote and defiant frontier.

As a settlement, Gaur predated both the Mughals and the Afghans and its history is  marked by both creation and destruction. The 14th century saw the advent of the Afghans who shifted their capital to Pandua (20 miles to the north-east). The city regained its importance as a capital in 1500 for a short time before being sacked by Sher Shah. Later that century, the entire population was wiped out by plague.

The Mughals

The Mughals occupied the area thereafter, and tailored the city to their tastes. Indeed, through history, each ruler left behind his own set of architectural splendours, made possible by Gaur’s proximity to the fine black basalt of the Rajmahal hills.

In the words of E.V.Havel, an authority on Indian architecture, “It is difficult to realise from the ruined buildings which now remain of the once great city of Gaur that its influence on the building craft of north and east India, both before and after the Muhammadan conquest, must have been far greater than that of any city of Persia, Arabia or Mesopotamia.”

Despite past depredations, Gaur is still a spectacular citadel studded with an array of architectural achievements. Consider the curvilinear roof. The typical sloping bamboo roof cornice is a practical design aimed at the quick dispersal of water during heavy downpours. This feature, as a matter of decoration, can be seen as far as Delhi’s Red Fort and palaces of Rajasthan.

The earliest example of such a roof constructed of stucco over bricks can be seen at the tomb of Fateh Khan, the Mughal general sent to crush the rebels. The rectangular tomb lies in the compound of Qadam Rasul Mosque, constructed in 1530 by Sultan Nusrat Shah to preserve the footprints of the Prophet of Islam ('s).

Most of the monuments in Gaur are bereft of epigraphs, some of which were removed for safekeeping while others were lost to time. Dating the monuments with precision, therefore, is difficult. The Chamkati mosque is one of the earliest structures, dating back to 1478, as revealed by its inscription preserved in the British Museum. It was built by Sultan Yusuf Shah, one of the Bengal kings from a long list of 35. The name is said to come from name of a peculiar Muslim group living in Malda area.

Bara Sona Masjid

Bara Sona Masjid- GaurThe largest and equally the most impressive monument at Gaur is the Bara Sona Masjid (Big Golden Mosque). The massive edifice, built in 1526 by Sultan Nusrat Shah, is rectangular in plan with 11 arched openings. The roof was strewn with 44 hemispherical domes, of which 11 on the corridor still remain. These domes were originally gilded, and, hence, gave the mosque its name. From the interior, these domes are arcaded, half in brick and half in stone. An impressive gateway to the east stands as a silent guard to the grand mosque.

The Gateways

The builders of Gaur guarded their citadel with numerous gates. Some of them have survived the ravages of time. Kotwali Darwaza to the south serves as a border between India and Bangladesh. Early sketches suggest that this 15th century gate once had a monumental pointed entrance arch with massive semi-circular bastions on either side. Today, it is reduced to a small niche of bricks. West of Qadam Rasul mosque is the stupendous defensive brick wall, popularly called Bisgazi (suggesting its height of 22 gaz, or roughly 20 m), which enclosed the Old Palace.

On the eastern periphery, there are two gateways, Gumpti Darwaza and Lukochuri Darwaza. Gumpti is a small square domed structure dating back to the late 15th century, while the Lukochuri (hide-and-seek) Darwaza was built in 1655 by the Mughal prince Shah Shuja, as his ceremonial entrance. The double storied tripartite gate has inner apartments to serve as guard rooms.

The most impressive gateway, however, is the Dakhil Darwaza, the early 15th century entrance, also known as Salami Darwaza. It is a perfect blend of decorative beauty and structural proportion. The 35 m high entrance is notable for its huge arched passage at the centre and double-barrel vaulted rooms, one on either side, intended for guards. Its four corners are topped with 12 sided towers.

Firoz Minar

South of Dakhil Darwaza, half way to Lukochuri, is an interesting brick minaret. This is the 26 m Firoz Minar- Gaur. Photo Credit: Shaheen Perveenhigh Firoz Minar built in the late 15th century. The crowning cupola is missing but the surface decoration in brick and terracotta embellished with blue and white tiles makes it quite appealing. Like Delhi’s Qutb Minar, it was originally attached to a mosque, which no longer survives.

The mosque and minaret is believed to be the work of Saifuddin Soz (1487-90), the Abyssinian slave who set an unfortunate precedent by ascending the throne by slaying the king’s murderer. The five storeyed tower, excluding the 12 sided plinth now covered with earth, can be climbed through a spiral staircase within.

Other monuments of interest in the vicinity are the Chika mosque, Gunmat mosque, Lattan mosque, Tantipara mosque and Chamkati mosque. The mosques still wear a profusion of multicoloured glazed tiles, but they are fast wearing out. Tantipara is noteworthy for its delicate, flowering brick relief work which ranks it as one of the most beautiful.  

The Sister Capital of Pandua

Adina Masjid detail of the West Elevation. Photographer unknownThere are fewer medieval monuments in the sister capital of Pandua, but there remains has some of the finest examples of Muslim architecture of the period. Adina Masjid is probably the finest.

Judged the largest mosque in the subcontinent, it was erected in 1374 by the newly established Ilyas Shahi dynasty. Though in ruins now, it isn’t hard to imagine its original grandeur. Delhi’s Jama Masjid, in comparison, appears insignificant by comparison. Covering an area of 174 m by 92 m, the mosque is known for the barrel vaulted cathedral bay of its prayer chamber. The most remarkable feature, however, is the total absence of any entrance gateway worthy of such a structure. Its monotonous appearance must have been accentuated with the 278 identical domes that shaded the mosque with 260 supporting pillars.

Badshah ka Takht 

A closer inspection of the western wall reveals a double storied structure known as Badshah ka Takht a formation quite unparalleled in India. It was the king’s entrance and later converted into a makeshift tomb for Sikandar Shah, the patron of this mosque.

Eklakhi Mausoleum of Sultan Jalaluddin, Gaur. By Perveen Shaheen.The 15th century architectural style of Bengal is perhaps best exemplified by the Eklakhi mausoleum of Sultan Jalaluddin. Jalal’s spiritual mentor was Nur Quth Alam whose dargah complex is replete with a mosque, tank, tomb, guesthouse and other structures. Another similar complex known as Bari Dargah dates back to 1337.It is the spiritual centre of Syed Shah Jalaluddin Tabrezi. Perpetual renovations have made it difficult to ascertain the original structure, but it continues to be cared for even today from the proceeds of 2,200 bighas of land gifted to the saint by the local king.

North of Bari Dargah is the Qutb Shahi mosque, built in honour of the saint by one of his followers in 1582.The ten small domes no longer survive, but the mosque is considered the last specimen in the series of double aisled prayer chambers.


Author: Shahid A. Makhfi 
Photographers: Shaheen Perveen and Unknown
Illustrator: Unknown
Chief Editor: Hj Nurzaynab El-Fatah
Production: Hj S. Abidin
Published Date: April 12, 2005
Modification Date: 14 Muharram, 1430/11 January, 2009

Publication ID: 05gaurPandua. Gaur and Pandua -Architecture of Two Forgotten Indian Cities
Copyright: © Victory News Magazine, 2010


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