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Tahkhana Complex


Tahkhana Complex Literally Tahkhana (Persian) means a cold building or palace. A structure built on the west bank of a large tank situated in the Firuzpur quarters of the city of Gaur-Lakhnauti is traditionally known as the Tahkhana. Along with this to its northwest are two other structures - the nearest one a three-domed mosque and the other, slightly further to the north, a domical tomb surrounded by a vaulted verandah. Since all these monuments, along with others now vanished, were built at the same time for a specific purpose they are all described as a singular unit or a complex.

Who built this complex is not definitely known. But because of their stylistic character - all Mughal in contradistinction to the surrounding Sultanate monument, and the contemporary and later historical narration that Mughal Subahdar shah shuja (1639-1660 AD) occasionally used to visit and stay in Gaur-Lakhnauti to honour his patron saint Shah Niamatullah Wali point to this great Mughal governor as the builder. Shah Shuja held his court at Rajmahal, not very far from Gaur. But his occasional visit to Gaur, strengthened by the existence of a Mughal ceremonial gate - the lukochuri as it is called, brings one to this logical conclusion. It is very likely that Shah Shuja built this small palace as a khanqah (resting, meditating and preaching place) of the saint, and the mosque and the tombs as its adjuncts. The tomb was probably built in advance as an eternal resting place of the saint (d 1664 or 1669 AD).

The double-storied palace was built mainly of brick, but black stone slabs for the doorsills and wooden beams for the flat roof were also used. From the west front the building gives the appearance of a single storied structure with a north-south rectangular hall room in the middle flanked by other rooms on its back and sides. While from the east, however, it is a two-storied structure with the lower rooms extended to the east and arched openings rising directly from the water tank. On the south side of the building there is a bathing complex with water drawn from the tank through an octagonal reservoir. On the north there is a small family mosque with open rooms at its back leading to an octagonal tower-room meant probably for meditation. The octagonal towers maintain symmetry of the whole plan.

The palace is plastered over, and is decorated by the engrailing of the four-centered arches and the flanking panels with niches carved within. The mihrab-niche of the mosque has plaster muqarnas ornamentation. They are all typical of Mughal decorative devices.

The Tahkhana complex as a whole is important not only from the point of view of its being Mughal in a Sultanate city, but the component buildings by themselves have much significance because of their architectural character, first introduced in Bengal. Once introduced they became the prototype of subsequent erections - be that a palace, a mosque or a tomb in the subsequent Mughal capitals in Dhaka or Murshidabad. [ABM Husain]

Bibliography Abid Ali Khan and HE Stapleton, Memoirs of Gaur and Pandua, Calcutta 1931; ABM Husain (ed), Gawr-Lakhnawti, Dhaka, 1997.