Satgambuj Mosque

A few kilometers to the north of Peelkhana, for long the end of Mughal Dhaka, was the Jafarbad or Katasur area, originally part of mouza Sarai Begumpur. Many of the mouzas (or revenue circles) were delineated during the reign of Shershah and later by Kartalab Khan. A small urban settlement on a route along the river, this was an alternative to reach Brahmaputra or Garh Jaripa without having to go through the hostile areas along the main stream of Sitalakhya and Brahmaputra on the east. This is evident from its geographic and strategic location, origin of the names of the locality, and the remnants around it.

The place where the seven-domed mosque is was known as Sarai Jafarbad or Katasur, under Sarai Begumpur. There was a small agricultural community in between Pilkhana and Jafarbad where the Sat Gambuj Mosque was built. The area became like a jungle due to disuse, dereliction, and desertion mainly during the British period. However, in last 55 years, it has become one of the most planned and most expensive residential enclaves of Dhaka. The Sat Masjid Road is the major peripheral road of the district to its west and is believed to have been built roughly along where the old Bank river Turag was.[3]

Structure

Picturesquely situated on the edge of a river, the Sat Gambuj Mosque’s exterior is the most innovative of all the Dhaka Mughal-period monuments. The north and south ends of this three-domed rectangular mosque are each marked by two enormous double-storied corner pavilions; when viewed from the east these give the impression that the mosque has five exterior bays. On the east are three cusped entrances arches flanked by shallow niches. Slender engaged columns with bulbous bases demarcate the central bay (as seen as the Lalbagh Fort Mosque, although this mosque’s colonettes are more prominent).

Its interior compares favourably with that of others dating to the second half of the 17th century. The central mihrab has two rows of cusping, and its surface is embellished with moulded plaster relief, recalling the ornateness of the mihrab in the mosque of Haji Khwaja Shahbaz.

It used forms shapes—octagon, square, rectangle and circle—all beautifully juxtaposed. Besides the typical three domes on the main prayer hall, there are four hollow double-storey domed corner towers that gave rise to its name (Seven-Domed Mosque). The corner turret provided structural stability and visual balance to the 38’×27′ building on a river bank and was probably used as viewing galleries for enjoying the river. The upper level of the octagonal turrets starts from around half the height of the main prayer hall. Both levels have arched panels and windows, surmounted by cornice and capped by domes with kalasha (pitcher) finials planted on lotus base.

Otherwise with a bigger dome in the middle flanked by two smaller ones, the mosque bears all the characteristic features of Shaista Khani style. However, though the qibla facades of most such buildings remain unadorned, that of the Sat Gambuj Mosque is decorated with recessions within moulded panels, the middle portion delineated by two slender pilasters slightly protruding. These are much bigger than those usually seen at the front. The three central panels have an arch-shape on the lower part.

The mosque has three cusped entrance arches, the middle one being taller and edged with multi-foil arch, a late-Mughal refinement, flanked by shallow niches and rectangular panels and echoed by mihrabs on the qibla wall, slender engaged pilasters with bulbous base demarcating the central bay, mihrab surface embellished with moulded plaster relief, corner turret stretched above merlen parapet with pinnacles, single, openings on side walls, etc.

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