Gour – The “Ruined” Past of Bengal

Gour, The mediaeval capital of Bengal was once a major town and seat of power in its era. Located at Maldah district of West Bengal today, it is now in ruins and the remnants are conserved by ASI. Shashanka established Gour or Gauda as independent sovereign state in Bengal in 590 CE. His capital was in Karnasubarna near present day Baharampore, Murshidabad. Later as the Pala emperors took over the power(750 CE-1165 CE) and the empire grew to encompass a major area in eastern India and suzerainty up to North-Central India, Gour started to come into prominence and became a major settlement, trade centre and flourished with temples, stupas and other administrative buildings. With decline of Palas, Sena dynasty took over and shifted their capital to Gour renaming as Lakshmanabati or Lakhnauti. 1200 CE brought the curse in guise of Bakhtiyar Khilji, the ruthless Muslim general attacked and ransacked Bengal as well as Gour. The martial incapacity  of late Sena rulers made way for Islamic aggressions and genocides resulting in Muslim rule in Bengal. The Bengal Sultanate period saw resurrection of Gour with the cost of temples and stupas vandalised, razed to give way new walled city of Gaur  with forts, mosques and minarets.

Baroduari mosque is a gigantic rectangular structure of brick and stone.Though the name means Twelve Doors, this monument actually has eleven. The construction of this huge mosque was started by Allauddin Hussein Shah and was completed in 1526 by his son Nasiruddin Nusrat Shah.

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Dakhil Darwaza, a gateway to the walled city built in 1425, is an important monument. Made of small red bricks and terracotta work, this dominating structure is more than 21 m. high and 34.5 m. wide. Its four corners are topped with five-storey high towers. Once the main gateway to a fort, it opens through the embankments surrounding it. It is also known as Salami Darwaja as cannons used to be fired from here.

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A kilometre away from the Dakhil Darwaza, is the Feroze Minar. It was built by Sultan Saifuddin Feroze Shah during 1485-89. This five-storey tower, resembling the Qutb Minar, is 26 m. high and 19 m. in circumference. The first three storeys of the tower have twelve adjacent faces each, and the uppermost two storeys are circular in shape. A spiralling flight of 84 steps takes one to the top of the tower. Built in the Tughlaqi style of architecture, the walls of Feroze Minar are covered with intricate terracotta carvings.

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Ballal Bati is newly excavated(as late as 2012) where the royal palace was used to be during reign of Ballal Sen during 1160 -1179. Only the base of the pillars and plinth remain and the palace was ransacked during the Muslim invasion.

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Sultan Yusuf Shah built the Chika Mosque in 1475. The name originated from the fact that it used to shelter a large number of chikas, or bats. It is a single-domed edifice, almost in ruins now. The beautifully ornate carvings on the walls and the images of Hindu idols on the stonework of doors and lintels are still partly visible. The mosque also bears traces of Hindu temple architecture.

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Gumti Darwaja, built by Sultan Hussain Shah in 1512 is a single domed structure embellished with enamelled bricks was used as eastern gate of citadel of Gour.

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Half a kilometre away from the Feroze Minar is the Kadam Rasool Mosque. Aptly named Kadam Rasool, which means Footprints of the Prophet, the mosque contains the footprints of Hazrat Muhammad on stone. On the four corners there are four towers made of black marble, with the spires on top covered with intricate artwork. Sultan Nasiruddin Nusrat Shah built the mosque in 1530.

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Opposite the Kadam Rasool Mosque stands the 17th century tomb of Fateh Khan, a commander of Aurangzeb’s army. This interesting structure was built in the Hindu chala style.

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The Lakhchhipi Darwaza or Lukochuri Gate is located to the south-east of the Kadam Rasool Mosque. Shah Shuja is said to have built it in 1655 in the Mughal architectural style. The name originated from the royal game of hide-and-seek that the Sultan used to play with his begums. According to another school of historians, it was built by Allauddin Hussein Shah in 1522. Situated on the eastern side of the royal palace, this double-storeyed Darwaza functionally acted as the main gateway to the palace. The innovative architectural style makes it an interesting place to visit.

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Lottan Mosque, legend attributes the building of this mosque to a royal courtesan of the royal court. However, historians believe it was built by Sultan Shamsuddin Yusuf Shah in 1475. Traces of intricate meena work in blue, green, yellow, violet and white on the enamelled bricks lining the outer and inner walls are still visible. The splendour of colours has also led to the Mosque being called the Painted Mosque. Another interesting feature of this mosque is its arched roof, supported by octagonal pillars.

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Adina Masjid, built in 1369 by Sultan Sikander Shah. One of the largest mosques in India, it also typifies the most developed mosque architecture of the period, the orthodox design being based on the great 8th century mosque of Damascus. Carved basalt masonry from earlier Hindu temples is used to support the 88 brick arches and 378 identical small domes.

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It consists of a large rectangular open courtyard surrounded by rows of arched and domed bays, an impressive nave along with beautifully decorated mihrab and pulpit.

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The Eklakhi Mausoleum is the most elegant monument in Pandua. One of the first square brick tombs in Bengal, with a carved Ganesh on the doorway, it was built between 1412 to 1415 by a Hindu monarch Ganesh for his convert son Jadu turned Jalaluddin Muhammad Shah with cost of Rupees one lakh.

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Qutb Shahi Mosque, locally known as the Chhoto Sona Masjid, is built to honour saint Nur Qutb-ul-Alam in 1582 CE. The mosque is also known as Sona Masjid due to its  gold gilded turrets and crowns.

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Once a grand capital, Gour now lies in ruins and oblivion. Temples were ransacked for building Mosques and Mosques ransacked by  vagaries of time finally shifting the focus to Murshidabad, Dhaka and Kolkata.Might be it is standing as silent witness of dynasties, creations as well as genocides, ransacks and plunder. Gour stands as the warning to present day Bengal what Islamic barbarism and fanaticism has done to its glory and fortunes and its continuing till date before and after partition. As an ordinary citizen we can only lament about what was lost all around India due to savagery and plunder and more I see the Hindu glory of our ancestor more I feel its time to be awakened for preserving the future as the same threat is still real and alarming.

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