Reliving the Past at the Sona Mosque

The mosque that tells the story of a lost heavenly city in Bengal.

We are surrounded by historic edifices that tell us the story of our rich civilisation and culture. Situated in the ancient confluence of Mahananda and Ganges, the district of Chapai-Nawabganj is full of historical artefacts, among which, one of the most prominent is Sona Mosque (golden mosque). An intricately decorated mosque, built with stone, with its fifteen gilded domes (gilding does not exist anymore) still amazes the visitors with its shining beauty.

The mosque is situated in the north-western district of Chapai-Nawabganj, which once constituted the ancient city of Gaur – whose ruins can still be seen in Chapai-Nawabganj and in West Bengal of India. The mosque is popularly known as Chhoto Sona mosque (small golden mosque) as there is yet another mosque with similar designs, but larger in size, located in the Indian part of Gaur, established during the same period.

Chhoto Sona mosque was built during the reign of sultan Alauddin Hussain Shah between 1493 and 1519 AD by a person called Mirza Wali Muhammad. Like many other mosques from the Sultanate period, it is situated at the corner of a huge artificial lake dug as a fresh water reservoir. The rectangular edifice is 82 feet in length, 52 feet in width and 20 feet in height. The walls of the mosque are built with chiselled black basalt stone bricks and the entire wall was decorated exquisitely with floral patterns. Five archways ensure superb ventilation inside the building. There is a space separated by a stone facade for female worshippers in the mosque.

Photo: Prabir Das

The large gateway built with stone at the eastern side marks the entrance to the mosque premises. Some unknown graves can be seen beside the mosque’s beautiful stone carvings; which indicate that those are resting places of some of the royal members from sultan’s palace. One of the most attractive parts of the mosque is its gracefully curved semi-circular and arch-type domes. The massive weight of fifteen domes has been brilliantly distributed with six stone columns. Once beautifully gilded, now, the domes are only some of the silent witnesses of lost pride of the golden age of Gaur, the lost mythical city of Jannatabad.

This exquisite heritage site was first damaged by the great Assam earthquake of 1897. Three of its fifteen domes and a part of its wall had collapsed. The then government rebuilt it; however, a large part of the wall decoration was damaged during the rebuilding process. The mosque is situated just by the highway that leads to Sona Masjid Land Port, one of the busiest cross border trading stations of Bangladesh. Regular movement of heavy trucks just beside the mosque can cause serious damage to its foundation.

Bangladesh’s archaeological department has done an amazing job in recovering the original boundary walls and courtyard of the mosque. A rest-house for tourists has also been established.  However, the site is quite unfamiliar to our people as a tourist spot.  Promotional steps can make this significant heritage site a learning centre of our rich history and culture.

Source: The Daily Star