Mahisantosh Mosque

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Mahisantosh Mosque situated near the India-Bangladesh border about 13 km northwest of Dhamair Hat Thana Sadar in Naogaon district. mahisantosh, known from Pre-Muslim times, came to prominence during the reign of Sultan ruknuddin barbak shah (1459-1474) who raised its status to a mint town and named it Barbakabad after him. A good number of archaeological mounds, located in different parts of the town, can still be traced. In 1916 the varendra research society conducted an archaeological excavation at Mahisantosh in the ruins of the Jami mosque mound. A little part of the mosque was exposed. Very recently local people, after removing weeds, vegetation and debris of the Jami mosque mound have built up a new chauchala tin shade kacha (raw) building on the old alignment of the mosque to perform Friday prayers. From the existing remains it is still possible to reconstruct the original design of the mosque.

The 2.25m thick walls of the oblong mosque (24m x 16.20m externally) with semi-octagonal corner towers at the four corners were made of stone and bricks; the core was made of bricks and the inner and outer faces were covered with stone slabs. The front facade was provided with five (arched?) entrances. Most probably the central one was larger than the flanking ones. There were three (arched?) openings each on the northern and southern sides.

The interior of the mosque (19.50m ' 11.70m) was divided by two rows of stone pillars, each having four pillars. Each pillar stood on a cubical stone base. The shaft of each pillar was divided into three sections: the lower section, about 0.40m, was square with triangular pattern on its face; the middle part, about 1.55m, was decagonal with chain and bell motifs and the upper part, about 0.96m, was polygonal (16 sided) with chain and bell motifs and suspended pearl-string of half circle pattern.

The central nave of the mosque, larger than the side ones, had three oblong compartments and was possibly roofed over by Bengali chauchala vaults. Hemispherical domes, twelve in all, might have roofed the side wings. Thus the roofing system was almost similar to that of the shatgumbad mosque at Bagerhat (1459 AD).

There are five mihrabs in the qiblah wall opposite the front doorways. The central mihrab, slightly larger than the side ones, was removed from here and is now preserved in the varendra research museum. Originally it was made from a single piece of stone with excellent decorative schemes; chain and bell, lotus and palmette are its chief motifs. The extant mihrab at the northern end also contains beautiful carved decoration. It seems to have been made of three pieces of stone. The central part of the mihrab niche is decorated with stylised chain and bell ornamentation. On the side of the chain is suspended a beaded string. A full bloomed lotus hangs from the end of the chain. The sidepieces of the stone slabs have geometric designs in circular and square shapes. The rosettes in the top and bottom enhance the beauty of the mihrab. It may be noted here that the chain and bell motif, a very familiar decorative device, is also seen in mosques like darasbari, chhota sona and kusumba.

Stone-blocks lying scattered in and around the mosque contained decorative motifs on their faces. These decorated stone-blocks indicate that the outer surface of the wall of the mosque may have been ornamented with stone carvings. The ornamental devices are mostly geometric in pattern with floral designs, palmette, nailheads, triangular designs, scroll motifs, chain and bell motifs and suspended half round necklaces. Some ornamented terracotta bricks were also exposed at the time of removing debris. These terracotta bricks might have been used on the interior face of the drums of the domes. Similar decorative device is observed in other mosques eg, Darasabari, Chhota Sona and Kusumba.

When the Varendra Research Society conducted excavation on the site they unearthed an epigraph tablet. It recorded the construction of a mosque during the reign of Alauddin husain shah in 912 AH/1506 AD. Very recently, another epigraph tablet was exposed at the time of removing debris from the mosque. At present it is lying in front of the newly erected kacha mosque building. The epigraph consists of two lines of writing and is carved on black basalt stone. It commemorates the erection of a mosque in the time of Sultan Ruknuddin Barbak Shah by Ulugh Khan Hasan in the 867 AH/1463 AD. Discovery of these two inscriptions from the same ruinous mosque raises some questions about the date of construction of the mosque. Was the mosque constructed in the time of Sultan Barbak Shah or during the time of Alauddin Husain Shah? Was it constructed in the time of Barbak Shah and subsequently renovated (or reconstructed) during the reign of Alauddin Husain Shah? Or, was one of these two inscriptions collected from outside and kept in the mosque when the mosque was in a good state of preservation? It is not possible to substantiate any of the above possibilities. It is, however, quite likely that the mosque was built during the reign of Sultan Barbak Shah in 867 AH (1463 AD) and underwent a renovation during the time of Sultan Alauddin Husain Shah in 912 AH (1506 AD). [Sultan Ahmad]