Chhota Pandua

Chhota Pandua a semi-urban locality in the Hughli district of West Bengal. Pandua, in common parlance, has a history pre-dating the period of Bengal sultans. Dhyoi (c 12th century) in his Pavanaduta refers to temples of Murari, Raghukulaguru and Ardhanarishvara in suhma (the tract along the Ganges in the Hughli district). It is generally believed that these temples stood in the land comprising Triveni-Saptagram-Pandua. Credence to this notion is given by the presence in this area of a large number of architectural members of demolished or ruined temples often reused in later Muslim edifices.

Legendary tradition relates how the local Pandava king, after whom the place was so named, was vanquished by Shah Safiuddin, a relative of Firuz Shah, and brought it under the Turko-Afghan rule. The legendary story of transformation of the Pandava kingdom into a Sultanate territory finds no authentic corroboration. Historical records of the period, implied by the legend, are silent about Shah Safi.

The doubtful historical value of the Shah Safi legend notwithstanding, the remains of a number of early Muslim monuments testify that Pandua was brought under the domination of the Turko-Afghans not long after the foundation of the Bengal Sultanate. Among such monuments most important are the bari mosque and the adjacent chhota pandua minar. The former is an extremely decayed multi-domed oblong structure. It was built in the Tughlaqian style of brick and stone, the material being queried from demolished temples that stood there. Near the mosque is a five storeyed Minar, about 39 meters high.

Close by the Bari Mosque is shah safiuddin’s astana complex, which contains, besides others, the single domed Mughal style mausoleum of Shah Safi and the Karia Masjid. Of these two much renovated monuments, the latter, a thin red brick structure, was once adorned with arabesque and geometrical designs. An inscription on the back of a rubbed off stone image in the astana refers to the building of a mosque during the reign of Sultan Yusuf Shah, son of Sultan Barbak Shah and grandson of Sultan Mahmud Shah, in 1477. The reference may be to the Karia Mosque. In 1763-64, one Lal Kunwar Nath repaired the ruined mosque.

During the 18th-19th centuries, Pandua was renowned as a manufacturing centre of cheap but quality paper. The industry declined with the beginning of import of machine-made paper from Europe during mid-19th century. Pandua is now an important mart for rice trade. [Dipak Ranjan Das]

Bibliography Henry Blochmann, Notes on Places of Historical Interest in the District of Hugli, Proceedings of the Asiatic Society of Bengal, 1870, MA Wali, The Antiquities and Traditions of Pandua in the District of Hugli, Bengal Past and Present, XIV, 1917.