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Bangladesh: Bagerhat mosques

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Bagerhat mosques | Bangladesh | Asia

[Visited: April 2010]

Considering the sweltering heat of the day, I decided to leave as early as I could. Indeed, when I hopped on a rickshaw, the air was still cool, and there was just enough light in it to discern people walking the streets. On the other side of the Rupsa river, the bus to Bagarhat did not take long to leave, and I thought I was lucky. However, I somehow had the idea that we were taking a different route, and indeed, when the ticket vendor told me to get off, I found myself in the middle of a forest without any of the mosques for which this area is famous in sight. I followed directions of friendly people in a small shop, and ended up walking a few kilometres through a dense forest. After a while, an old building with a dome appeared in a clearing on the left. My first mosque. Ronvijoypur mosque, square in appearance, with circular towers on all corners, has the largest dome in Bangladesh, and seems like a robust building in the middle of the jungle. Its appearance is beautiful enough - unfortunately, it seemed permanently locked and I could only imagine what the inside would look like by peeking through the iron gates.

Picture of Bagerhat mosques (Bangladesh): Frontal view of Shait Gumbad mosque

My appetite for more was whetted, and I continued walking the pleasant road towards the west. When I reached a vast open space with an impressive building with a roof full of domes, I knew I had arrived. First, I visited Singar mosque on the other side of the main road to Mongla that my minibus should have taken. Singar was open - once inside, I switched on one of the fans in the ceiling so I could finally cool off. The interior, one square space without columns, had a simple appearance. After crossing the road again, I paid the entrance fee to the main star of Bagerhat: Shait Gumbad mosque and adjacent museum. The fee had risen 50-fold compared to the one quoted in my recent guide, and I hoped the extra money would be well used for maintenance. You only truly appreciate the beauty of Shait Gumbad when you walk through the entrance gate leading directly to the mosque. Rectangular in appearance, with circular towers on all sides, this mosque easily is the biggest of Bagerhat. Moreover, its roof is covered with a multitude of domes - according to the name, 60, but according to the caretaker inside, nearly 80. The red bricks on the outside contrast with the inside, where you will find some 60 whitewashed columns supporting the magnificent roof. Here, too, the inside is quite rustic. The mihrab, centrepiece of any mosque, is finely decorated, but nowhere was this mosque built to overwhelm. Which, to me, gave a lasting impression.

Picture of Bagerhat mosques (Bangladesh): Nine-domed mosque seen from a corner

After a brief visit of the museum, I walked around the complex to search for Bibi Begni mosque, another square, red-brick mosque I found closed, and, after a longer walk through a small village and the fields where the earth was cracking up under the sun, to Chunakhola mosque which, although similar in style, appeared differently if only because of its much more open setting. From here, I walked all the way to Mazhar Khan Jahan Ali, the mausoleum of the Turkish sufi who developed this area in the 15th century and inspired the construction of most of the mosques I had seen that day. The sacredness of the place was floating in the air here - and I took a pause at the big pond just down the wide stairs, where others were washing or going for a swim. Just around the corner of the pond, I found the nine-domed mosque, another fine example of religious muslim building, and the first one I saw where beggars tried their luck at the entrance. A family was having lunch inside this plain mosque, the domes of which can hardly be seen when standing right in front, and I walked around the building to ascertain its similarity to some of the other mosques I had seen earlier that day. After a brief visit to a large crocodile kept at the lake shore, I made my way back to the crossing at Shait Gumbad using one of the sandy trails.

Picture of Bagerhat mosques (Bangladesh): Distant view of Chunakhola mosque
Picture of Bagerhat mosques (Bangladesh): Shait Gumbad mosque mihrab
Picture of Bagerhat mosques (Bangladesh): Mossy mihrab of Singar mosque
Picture of Bagerhat mosques (Bangladesh): Ronvijoypur mosque basking in the early morning sun
Picture of Bagerhat mosques (Bangladesh): Looking at Singar mosque from a corner
Picture of Bagerhat mosques (Bangladesh): Looking up at nine-domed mosque
Picture of Bagerhat mosques (Bangladesh): Side view of Bibi Begni mosque
Picture of Bagerhat mosques (Bangladesh): Pillars supporting the roof of Shait Gumbad Mosque
Picture of Bagerhat mosques (Bangladesh): Shait Gumbad Mosque seen from a corner
Picture of Bagerhat mosques (Bangladesh): Inside view of the mausoleum of Khan Jahan Ali
Picture of Bagerhat mosques (Bangladesh): Shady entrance to Mazhar Khan Jahan Ali

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