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Arifil Mosque


Arifil Mosque is located about half a kilometre to the southwest of the Sarail Thana headquarters of Brahmanbaria district. The locality where the mosque stands is called Arifil in memory of a saint, Shah Arif. The mosque, a protected monument of the Department of Archaeology, Bangladesh, is now in a fairly good state of preservation.

Arifil Mosque, Brahmanbaria

Built at the western edge of a raised piece of land on the southern bank of a large tank called Sagardighi, the mosque forms a large oblong structure (24.38m by 9.30m); its walls are about 1.60m thick. In front of the mosque is a paved court enclosed by a low wall with a modern gateway in the east. The four massive octagonal towers, which have strengthened the four exterior angles of the building, are carried high above the horizontal parapets and topped over with ribbed cupolas with kalasa finials.  

The mosque has five doorways - three in the east and one each on the north and south sides. The central doorway on the east, bigger than the flanking ones, is contained within a projected fronton under a half-domed vault. The remaining doorways consist of two successive arches and the spaces in between are vaulted. The western wall is internally recessed with three semi-octagonal mihrabs facing cardinally the three eastern entrances. All these mihrabs are equal in width and depth, but only the central one shows a rectangular projection towards the back. These projections of the central mihrab and the central doorway are marked with bordering ornamental circular turrets. Having kalasa bases these turrets rise high above the horizontal parapets, and are topped over with small cupolas with kalasa finials.

The interior of the mosque forms a large rectangular hall and is divided into three equal square bays by two wide transverse arches of a plain four-centred type. The roof is covered with three big domes, one over each bay. The domes are directly placed on octagonal drums and crowned with beautiful expanded lotus and kalasa finials.

These drums are in turn supported below by the transverse arches, the blocked arches over the mihrabs and the doorways, and the triangular pendentives on the upper angles of each bay. The gigantic brick building is now plastered smooth and white washed. Nevertheless many of the original decorative devices still survive. The corner towers are divided into sections by moulded bands. The horizontal parapets and the exterior faces of the octagonal drums are decorated with friezes of blind merlons. The outer surface of the walls is variegated with sunken rectangular panels, arranged horizontally and vertically. The vertical panels on the eastern facade contain blind arched motifs having cuspings on their faces.

All the mihrabs, which have multi-cusped arches, are contained within a slightly projected rectangular frame. These frames are ornamented with spiral interlocking scrolls and topped by friezes of blind merlons. The central doorway and those of the north and south walls are flanked internally to right and left by a deep arched alcove. The inner bases of the drums of the domes are decorated with a frieze of arched niches, while the apex of each dome is depicted with a large tiered rosette. The half-domed vaults of the central mihrab niche and the central archway are beautifully ornamented with muqarnas works in stucco.

Local legends relate that the mosque was constructed by one saint Shah Arif, but it is not exactly known when the saint flourished here or died. Whoever the saint or the builder, the mosque in plan and other constructional details greatly resembles khwaja shahbaz's mosque (1679) at Dhaka. And from its style it appears to have been built sometime in the late 17th century. [MA Bari]