Monday, 23 November 2015

Katra Masjid and noble Nawob of Murshidabad, India

Murshidabad, West Bengal, India.www.flickr.com
Murshidabad, West Bengal, India is endowed with a lot of historical  buildings beautifully designed by Muslim architects, who not only proved their ingenuity in the field of design but also in brining out the essence of Islamic architecture with exceedingly difficult artistic and ornate work. They were experts in the art of constructing, huge spacious and airy buildings, using mainly huge pillars and a series of  wide arches without any major beams to bear the weight. Further, their buildings, based on simple and down to earth designs, withstood the ravages of time and climate. 
Grave of Murshid Quli Khan lying beneath the stairs of the Masjid.www.indiamike.com
Katra Masjid, meaning a mosque in a market ( Katra means bazaar; Masjid means mosque) designed by architect Murad Farash Khan, was  built by Nawob Murshid Quli Khan, the first Nawab of Bengal, serving in the post from 1717 to 1727. Construction
Murshid Quli Khan, Nawab of Bengal. builder of Katra Masjid.commons.wikimedia.org
took place between1723 and 1724. As he became  older, he  turned his mind towards Allah, the all mighty God. Murshid Quli Khan, a lover of  public buildings, built most of them  within a few kilometers of each other in the Lalbagh area.
Katra Masjid,Murshidabad, West Bengal, India.en.wikipedia.org

The important feature about this mosque  cum  madarsa is the entire  mosque has no pillar support  and the entire weight of the building  is supported  by a raised platform below the mosque and a series of several arches. The mosque, made of bricks, is built on the lines of the Kaabah and is  surrounded by double storied domed cells  which are meant  for 700-odd Quranic scholars to read the Quran.  There is a large hall for prayer.
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Katra Masjid,Murshidabad, West Bengal, India.www.flickr.co
Four big, octagonal  minarets  taper upward  stand at the four corners, and two  of them  in front of the mosque are 70 feet high and 25 feet in diameter. Presently, they are not in good condition.  Each minaret has a winding staircase leading to the top,  and one can see a major part of the city of Murshidabad from there.  The 1897 earthquake destroyed the  domes and other structures; however, some domes survived. 

In 1780 AD,  William Hodges (October 1744 – March 1797),  an English painter, a traveler  and a member of James Cook's second voyage to the Pacific Ocean, wrote that 700 Quran readers lived there in the mosque. Hodges in his book Select Views of India describes it as "a grand seminary of Musalman learning, adorned by a mosque  which rises high above all the surrounding buildings. 

The total area is  19.5 acres  and can accommodate 2000 faithfuls for Namaz. The 2000 squared mats marked on the floor are meant for each devotee to say his prayer comfortably. The rectangular mosque has a dimension 45.5m X 7.32m  and is  divided into five bays, each with an arched entrance. There are six arched doorways.  A stone paved pathway  leads to the central door of the mosque. The central  arch is the is the most prominent one as it has a slender turret.
Katra Masjid,Murshidabad, West Bengal, India.en.wikipedia.org
The terrace in front of the mosque is 166 feet by 110 feet. This compound of the mosque retains a Hindu Shiva temple.

Nawob Murshid Quli Khan was interned here  after his death in 
1725 under these stairs that form the entrance from the east. The reason, why his body was buried right below the entrance step instead of inside this spacious mosque is, the Nawob wanted his body buried that way so that he could bear the foot prints and feel the touch and grace of so many noble souls, climbing the flight of steps of this place of veneration. This way he would wash off sins committed in his past life.  This shows the Nawob's  noble  heart, humility and his readiness to make amends for his past misdeeds. Not many rulers of pelf and and power would come down to such a level of humbleness  and and repent. On the slab atop his tomb, it is written in Arabic  "Muhammad, the Arabian, the glory of both worlds. Dust be on the head of him who is not the dust of his portal". 
This masjid is located in the north eastern side of the city of Murshidabad, in the Indian state of West Bengal.

Ref:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Katra_Masjid:


https://www.ixigo.com/katra-masjid-murshidabad-india-ne-1031019