Tuesday, 11 September 2018

Amazing Katra Mosque (1724), Murshidabad, West Bengal, India

Katra Mosque - Murshidabaden. West Bengal wikipedia.org 
Aboge image: Credit: Ansuman Bhattachraya. The Katra Masjid, Murshidabad, West Bengal. It was completed in 1724 AD. 
Katra mosque, Murshidbad, WB wbtourism.gov.in

Nawab Murshid Quli Khan. en.wikipedia.org
Above image: Born a Hindu Brahmin in the Deccan Plateau in c. 1670, Quli Khan was bought by Mughal noble Haji Shafi. After Shafi's death, he worked under the Divan of Vidarbha, during which time he got the attention of the then-emperor Aurangzeb, who sent him to Bengal as the divan c. 1700.  In  the later years Quli Khan was appointed as the Nawab Nazim of Murshidabad by Farrukhsiyar. During his reign, he changed the jagirdari system (land management) to the mal jasmani, which would later transform into the zamindari system. Quli Khan, however. kept sending revenues from the state to the Mughal Empire and developed a good relationship with the Moguls.  He built the Katra Masjid mosque at Murshidabad where he was buried under the steps of the staircase after his death on 30 June 1727. He was succeeded by his grandson Sarfaraz Khan.  ................. 

Murshidabad, in the state of West Bengal, India  is a paradise for tourist and old monuments freaks. Among the many attractions the one that draws our attention is the the grave and the  mortal remains of Nawab Murshid Quli Khan. 

The Katra Masjid, also referred to as Katra Mosque, is the place where the tomb of  the Nawab lies. Built between 1723 and 1724, it is being managed by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI)  and the Government of West Bengal. It is considered as a major center of Islamic learning. Being close to the bazaar, it is called Katra Masjid;  Katra meaning bazaar while Masjid meaning mosque. Simply, Mosque in the market. 
Early 19th-century view of the Katra Mosque.en.wikipedia.org 
katra mosque of murshidabad,1723 AD.en.wikipedia.org
The great ruler, Murshid Quli Khan upon reaching old age  expressed his desire to have his tomb built close to the Mosque and the construction work was given to one  Murad Farash Khan, a great architect who had close rapport with the Nawab. The Nawab's tomb is under the  the entrance staircase. 
Katra mosque inside, Murshdabad, WB flickriver.com
The mosque is made of bricks and is  surrounded by double storied domed cells. The spacious rooms were put to proper use.  The unique feature is it was built for those who were desirous of reading Quran on a regular basis in those days.  Hence it was a Madrasa in the past. . All rooms can accommodate 700 Quran  readers as the rooms form a cloister to the huge courtyard  in front of these rooms. The simple-looking mosque is standing on a square plinth.
The four big minars  that stand at the four corners of the structure enhance the beauty of this simple structure which does not have any characteristic embellishment. The  minars are octagonal in plan and taper upwards. Those two  minarets in front of the mosque are 70 feet high and 25 feet in diameter.  The arcaded mosque stands on a raised platform. Being devoid of pillars in the entire mosque, the weight of the structure is borne by the well- built arches.
  
This mosque being  rectangular in plan has a dimension of  45.5m X 7.32m and has five bays, each having  an arched entrance and the central one is the most prominent one with a slender turret. The mosque had five domes. Some of them were destroyed  and others survived the devastating  earthquake of 1897, which almost destroyed most of the building. The total area of the mosque including the surrounding places is 19.5 acres. It can accommodate 2000 Namaz readers, that is the reason one can find 2000 square-shaped  mats depicted on the floor, each of them used by a single Namaz reader.
As mentioned earlier, the cells in the mosque are two storied and are 20 feet square. each with 6 arched doorways. 15 steps edged with stones lead up to the gate with 5 arches on either sides and a stone paved pathway which leads to the central door of the mosque. The open spaces between these cells and the mosque are 13 feet wide on either sides and 42 feet wide at the back of the mosque. the terrace in front of the mosque is 166 feet by 110 feet.
The 1897 earthquake left the mosque severely damaged. One of towers and some domes fell.  One can reach the top of the minars in the front through  a winding staircase, and from  here is visible a major part of the city of Murshidabad. Because of the effects of earthquake, part of the mosque and the tall minarets are in a dilapidated conditionn.  It was a foreign traveller one William Hodges in 1780 AD, mentioned that  as many as  700 Quran readers lived there in the mosque. Hodges in his book entitled ''Select Views of India '' described  it as a grand seminary of Musalman learning, adorned by a mosque which rises high above all the surrounding buildings".

The mosque can be accessed through a flight of stairs (14 in number) and the mortal remains of Nawab Murshid Quli Khan are right below the stairs.  Normally one would find the tomb in the center of the building preferably below the ground level. Perhaps, it may be perplexing as to why the Nawab had his tomb constructed right below the steps. There is a reason for it and the explanation given is quite amazing. It simply brings out the humility of the Nawab who repented his past  misdeeds.  Being repentant for his  past sins, he wanted to be buried in a place  where he could feel the  touch and foot print of the noble men who climbed  those stairs and entered  the mosque. He died in 1725 and since then his tomb has been very much there under the stairs.  In the mosque there is an epitaph on the slab embedded at the top. 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".
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Katra_Masjid





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