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HomeUncategorizedOccupied Mandirs Exhibit 32: Baais Darwaza Masjid and Pandua Minar, Hooghly

Occupied Mandirs Exhibit 32: Baais Darwaza Masjid and Pandua Minar, Hooghly

 

According to Binoy Ghosh, the tall Pandua minar can be seen by those travelling in trains or along the Grand Trunk Road. It is locally said that Shah Sufiuddin defeated the Hindu king of the Pandua and Mahanad area and built this victory pillar. Mahiuddin Ostagar of Santipur composed a poem, Panduar Kechha, in which he describes how Muslim domination of the area was achieved. There was a king named Pandu in Pandua. Inside his palace there was a well blessed by the gods. When the body of a dead person was immersed in its waters, the person regained life. During the reign of king Pandu, mostly Hindus lived in Pandua, and there were a few Muslims. One day a Muslim peasant killed a cow on his son’s birthday. This enraged the Hindus and they killed the son. The Muslim peasant complained to king Pandu but he did not take any action. The peasant carried the dead body of his son to the Badshah at Delhi, Feroze Shah. After listening to the complaint, he sent his nephew, Shah Sufi, at the head of an army, to Pandua. He waged war but initially he was unsuccessful, because of the life-giving properties of the divine well. Frustrated Shah Sufi was almost on the verge of returning to Delhi, when a cowherd boy revealed the secret of the divine well to Shah Sufi. The boy, dressed as a yogi, entered the palace and threw some beef into the well, thereby destroying its divine properties. The Muslim forces captured Pandua, and Shah Sufi remained back in Pandua. He built a large mosque there.

Historically, there is no evidence of the existence of king Pandu, but there were many minor Hindu kings in the Saptagram-Pandua area. Within a century of Bakhtiyar Khilji’s conquest, the Muslim thrust into the southern parts of the Rarh region, that included present-day Hooghy district, started from the end of the 13th century to the 14th century. It was during the rule of the Balban sultans in Delhi (1286-1328) that the efforts were made to establish Islam, not only by capturing the thrones and political power, but also establish Islam socially. Their modus operandi was “to enter the territory of the Hindu rajas as squatters on some prtext or other. Then they would bring down the regular army of the Muslim State upon these infidel kings to punish them for infringing the rights of Mussalmans.”

According to the available records, Zafar Khan had come to the Tribeni area towards the end of the 13th century and Shah Sufiuddin had come to the Pandua area towards the beginning of the 14th century. During the period that followed Muslim Ghazis built many mosques and tombs on the ruins of Hindu temples. There is tell-tale evidence of the historical role of Muslim Ghazi-Pirs in the Pandua-Mahanad-Tribeni area.

The mythology of Daksha yaga and Sati’s self immolation had immense significance in shaping the ancient Sanskrit literature and even had impact on the culture of India. It led to the development of the concept of Shakti Peethas and there by strengthening Shaktism. Enormous mythological stories in puranas took the Daksha yaga as the reason for its origin. It is an important incident in Shaivism resulting in the emergence of Shree Parvati in the place of Sati Devi and making Shiva a grihastashrami (house holder) leading to the origin of Ganapathy and Subrahmanya.[9]

Shakti Peethas are shrines or divine places of the Mother Goddess. These are places that are believes to have enshrined with the presence of Shakti due to the falling of body parts of the corpse of Sati Devi, when Lord Shiva carried it and wandered throughout Aryavartha in sorrow. There are 51 Shakti Peeth linking to the 51 alphabets in Sanskrit.

Note: The lists of shrines provided in the linked articles does not mention any shaktipeeth in the Pandua area and no references are there to show the existence of a shakti peeth at/around Pandua.

It is a huge field like complex with the ruins of the Bari Masjid on one side and the towering Minar on the other side.

The huge tower is around 125 ft in height. The height was reduced by few feets during an earthquake in the 19th century. The Minar is protected by the archaeological survey of India. The collapsed part of the Minar during earthquake has been renovated by ASI. There is a spiral staircase inside but the keys of the door remains locked.  The Minar is five storied made of bricks. But the door is stone carved with Hindu gods and goddess adorning on either side.

Panduraja lived in adjacent Mahanad and Syed Shah Saifuddin, the Nephew of Feroze Shah Khilji( Sultan of Delhi) visited the place during 13th Century.  Cow slaughter was banned in the area during the rule of Panduraja. But Syed Shah Saifuddin performed Khatnah ceremony of his son and slaughtered a cow. This made Panduraja angry and he sacrificed Syed Shah Saifuddin’s son to goddess Kali. Syed Shah Saifuddin went back to Delhi and  under the command of Jafar Khan Gazi he attacked Pandua with a huge army from Delhi. After a great battle, Panduraja was defeated and the Minar  was constructed by Syed Shah Saifuddin as a mark of victory during the end of 13th century. Syed Shah Saifuddin was also wounded and died subsequently. His Dargah and mosque was constructed nearby on the GT road. The Pandua Minar also served as an Ajan Minar of the adjacent Bari Masjid for a brief period of time.

Some also say that the Pandua Minar was a huge Vishnu temple built by Panduraja which was later demolished and Muslim structures were incorporated over it. The stone door at the bottom with figures of hindu gods and goddess testifies the fact.

It is also believed to be the site of Pradyuman Shrinkala Devi shrine, one of the 51 Shaktipeeths.

A huge fair takes place in the adjacent field by the name of Mela Talaa during Magha Masa of Bengali calendar around February. It is a month long event attended by millions of devotees.

The adjacent Bari Masjid  built during 13th century is a specimen of the typical brick style of Bengal. It is a long low building measuring 70.41 m by 12.80 m having three aisles, with 21 door openings in front and 3 on the sides. Its roof has 63 small domes over brick arches resting on stone pillars of hindu design. A canopied platform is an attractive feature of the mosque.

Pandua (alias Pundooah, Punduah)  is  best known for its Minar – also known as the ‘Pandua Minar’. Built both as a madhana (mosque tower) and a tower symbolising victory and glory, it was also part of the town’s principal mosque Bais Darwaza Masjid which today is also popularly called the Bari Masjid and displayed the power of ruling class and aimed at propagating the new religion of Islam in the early 14th century.

It is interesting to note that this Minar was not built in the typical Mughal style. The Pandua Minar soars to a height of 125 feet and is round in design and consists of five storeys, each decreasing in diameter from 18 m at the base to 4.50m at the top. Inside there is a spiral staircase leading to the top. The staircase opens out to a terrace, which runs all round the base of each successive storey. The walls of the minar are plastered and are decorated in the three lower storeys with round flutings.

Walk around the grass field and you can locate the entrance on the west side.  Panduah Minar  resembles the Qutub Minar in Delhi ( built in 1192 by Qutb-ud-din Aibak – the first Sultan of Delhi) which is twice the height of the Pandua Minar and had a similar ribbed outer walls. However, the base of the Pandua Minar is more than double the size of that of the Qutb Minar. Also, while Qutub Minar form a continuous tapering outline from its bottom to the top, the storeys of the Pandua Minar is a broken outline of the structure in receding shafts. The other earlier example of its class in Indo-Muslim architecture appears to be the Chaubara of Bidar (1422-36 AD) which consists of a base and a receding storey.

The minar, because of its size and shape, has often been compared with the Qutb Minar of Delhi. But there is a difference between the two: whereas the various storeys of the Qutb Minar form a continuous tapering outline from its bottom to the top, the storeys of the Panduah minar give a broken outline of the structure in receding shafts. The only other earlier example of its class in Indo-Muslim architecture appears to be the Chaubara of Bidar (1422-36 AD) which consists of a base and a receding storey.

The story of Pandua is interesting as well, As per historical records, It is said that a Pardu Raja lived in Mahanad in Hooghly where cow slaughter was totally banned.  During his times, Shah Safiud-din Shahid, a warrior saint (darvishes) and the nephew of Feroz Shah Khilji – the Sultan of Delhi, had  slaughtered a cow for a feast to offer to his guests who had come for Khatna (circumcision) of his son. This had enraged the King and he sacrificed the saint’s son to Goddess Kali. Shah Safiuddin went to Delhi and narrated this to his maternal uncle, Khilji, who sent a large army along with sixteen other sufis under the command of Jaffar Khan Ghazi during 1290-1295 AD. Taking the spiritual guidance from his guide Shah Bu Ali Qalandar at Panipat, Pandua was attacked. The imperial army was victorious after a long battle. However Shah Safiuddin was fatally wounded. He was buried at the spot where he fell fighting during the battle, with lot of respect and joy. A Dargah was setup at the same spot later.  Both Hindus and Muslim visit his grave to seek his spiritual blessings.

The Minar structure also served as Ajan Minar (or the prayer tower) of Bais Darwaza Masjid (22 Door Mosque) or Bari Masjid (Big Mosque). Built in 1340, the 70.4 metre long mosque actually has 24 doors ( 21 front and 3 on the side). The mosque had 21 arched openings. Three more were provided on either side of the building to give access to the aisles from the flanks. All these side openings except one have been sealed. As a result, the mosque has now only 22 entrances from which its local name, Bais Darwaza, originates.

Bari Masjid is a courtyard type congregational mosque  – a vast rectangular  plan with an open courtyard (sahn) surrounded by cloisters (riwaqs) on three sides and the prayer chamber (zullah) towards the Qibla (the direction of the Kaaba in Mecca that should be faced when a Muslim prays during prayers). Most mosques contain a wall niche, known as Mihrab, that indicates the Qibla. The wall in which a mihrab appears is thus the “qibla wall”. At Bari Masjid, the Qibla wall has 21 mihrabs, of which the central one is the largest and most ornate, with an outer frame textured with a grill pattern. A decorative cusped arch, designed and constructed in the indigenous style of the pre-Sultanate period, connects the jambs of the frame. Rosette medallions are fixed into the spandrels of the arch. Inset is a similar but smaller frame. The concave interior is recessed in the framed space. Ornamental motifs decorate the wall of the mihrab.

Two parallel rows of basalt pillars (1.83m high) divide the mosque into three aisles, resulting in sixty-three bays.

The roof of 63 domes over the bays, now lost, rested on the arcades and brick-pendentives. The domes were arranged in three rows of 21 each in conformity with the alignment of the aisles. The earliest buildings in Pandua and nearby Tribeni were mostly adaptation of pillaged Hindu temple material, using pillars built of large stones without mortar and shallow corbelled domes. The Bari Masjid is also one of the few brick built mosque of Bengal which has terracotta work on its wall. Intrinsic Jali work in terracotta can also be seen here.

The basalt pillars were reused from pre-Islamic structures and are not of uniform design; some bear traces of Hindu or Buddhist imagery. The earliest buildings in Pandua and nearby Tribeni were mostly adaptation of pillaged Hindu temple material, using pillars built of large stones without mortar and shallow corbelled domes. The Bari Masjid is also one of the few brick built mosque of Bengal which has terracotta work on its wall. Intrinsic Jali work in terracotta

 

Nine steps lead up the the domes upper chamber with arched opening on three sides and what appears to be the Mihrab. The basaltic stone pillars, are relieved by several horizontal bands of ornamental patterns.

The minbars (also mimbar, mimber a pulpit in the mosque where the Imam or the prayer leader stands to deliver sermons ‘khutbah’)  is on the right side of the central Mihrab and is a throne-like structure built of black basalt with a trefoil-arched canopy, which has a full-blown lotus on the underside. Besides, bell-on-chain, makara (a mythical figure combining a fish with a crocodile), kirtimukha (stylised lion head) and garland are some of the decorative motifs found on the lithic elements quarried from temple ruins.

At present both the Mosque and the Minar are under Archeological Survey of India. The entrance to the Minar is under lock and key and has a board which tells more of the basalt stone (post and lintels) door framed entrance and its flanking  curved stone pillars – said to be from some Hindu temple. 

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