Tracing the Journey of KHAN JAHAN ALI -Part 2
Writer: Fatiha Polin and Dhrubo Alam
Photo: Moon Taha Noor Jui, Read Hossain
In the eleventh century, the Turkish Ghaznavid ruler Sultan Mahmud (971-1030) proceeded to the mainland India. Two centuries later, Ikhtiyar al-Din Muhammad Bakhtiyar Khalji (died in 1206) made his way to Bengal in the beginning of thirteenth century. Establishment of a muslim stronghold in Bengal certainly stirred several muslim saints and sufis to come to preach here. Baba Adam Shahid of Dhaka, Shah Sultan Rumi of Mymensingh, Makhdum Shah Dawlah Shahid of Pabna, Jalal-Din Tabrizi of Deotala and Shah Jalal of Sylhet and last but not the least, Khan Jahan Ali of Bagerhat were few of them.
Khan Jahan Ali of ‘Khalifatabad’ (present day Bagerhat) possessed the requisite qualities to become both, a ruler and a successful administrator. Although little has been known about his origin and there happen to be many ambiguous myths; there is no doubt about his abilities. The settlements he consisted enormous ponds, beautiful mosques and the long road that connected the places he had stayed.
Khan Jahan Ali undertook a long journey from Barobazar (present day Jhenaidah) to Bagerhat along the Bhairab River and Kopotakkho River; and set up two large urban settlements there. He also established two other townships called Murali Qashba and Poyogram Qasba (both at present day Jessore) on his trail. In the previous part of this write-up series, few archaeological sites of Borobazar have been depicted. In this article, rest of the mosques from Barobazar area and the settlements at Murali Qasba and Poyogram Qasba will be briefly described.
The newly restored Jorbangla mosque situated at a distance of 1.25 miles from the Adina mosque close to the Barobazar-Taherpur road in the village of Barobazar. The external dimension of the mosque is 25’-7” X 25’-9’’ externally and it is built on a 177’-4”x 169’-8’’ platform. This single domed structure poses traditional triple-doorways on the east, a blind arch arrangement to the north and south and three semicircular prayer niches to the west. There was also a well decorated mihrab at the center of the west wall.
On the southern bank of the water reservoir named Galakata Dighi, there is a six domed mosque known as the same name of the reservoir. The mosque was built on a 37’-7” X 26’-8” rectangular base and possess two stone pillars with chain and bell motif as a pre Muslim trait. There were three arched openings at the east, three mihrabs at the west and an opening studded with grating on North and South walls. The turrets at each corner are hexagonal in shape.
A smaller mosque measuring 18’-8”x18’-6” in size is called Pathagar mosque is situated in village Mithapukur. There is still evidence of a doorway in each side of its east, north and south walls and a mihrab on the west. It has a north to south elongated reservoir on it’s east. Some of the other notable mounds believed to contain relics of older mosques in the same area are: Saudagar Dighi mound, Sanaidar Dighi mound, Damdama and Dudhpukur mound.
Though the Department of Archaeology has declared these mosques as protected monuments, all of the Khanjali structures, those have survived from the test of time needs more attention and actions in order to be protected and preserved; for the future generation before they are completely lost forever.
Satgachia mosque is known as the second largest multi-domed mosque in the south with a cluster of 35 domes. The large prayer hall is divided into seven bays and five aisles by a series of heavy pillars, assumed 24 in number. Corresponding to its bays and aisles there were originally seven doorways on the east , six mihrabs to the west and an uncertain numbers of openings to the north and south. The oblong structure is measured about 78’ X 60’ with almost 5 feet thick wall.
Next to Borobazar, Khan Jahan Ali settled to a place called Murali-Qasba. To continue his missionary work, he left two of his dedicated followers there named Garib Shah and Beram Shah. The Mosque of Garib Shah near Jessore Collectorate and the grave of Beram Shah near Christian cemetery still bears the reminiscence of that time. Actually he divided his followers into two groups from this point; one group followed him to Bagerhat and others went straight to the Sundarbans.
It is known that the northern side of the present day Jessore town was known as Murali Qasba in ancient times. There was also a place called Bogchar, by the old river Bhairab near this town. Virtually, vicinity of Jessore was known as Murali Qasba in the Sultanate period. It encompasses an area of about four to five mile. The Murali township spreads about four km to the north-east of the city with Palpara, Bamun para and old Qasba. Sir Cunningham assumed this to be the capital of the Somotat region. Although there is no proof of that statement, there is no doubt about it’s antiquity. Some historians also suggested few Vihara in that area. Renowned historian Satish Chandra stated that, the large mound on the western side of Karbala pond is possibly an old Buddhist Stupa. The highway he built to connect these settlements is still known by the name of Khanjalir Jangal.
The township of Poyogram Qasba was the colony of Khan Jahan after Murali Qasba. It is only about 32.2 km away from Bagerhat and around 35 km southeast of Jessore. There are still remainings of some old structures (two of them are as large as Shait Gumbad mosque at Bagerhat among them and are said to have survived as recently as about a century ago and few ancient water tanks. This township was roughly divided into two more or less equal halves by a 50 feet wide Khanjali road. The divisions are now known as Uttar (North) Dihi and Dakshin (South) Dihi. A grid of other roads and streets sub-divided the town into a rectangular chessboard pattern.
Unfortunately, none of the mosques survived except there is the remaining of the large mosque is in the Dakkhin Dihi village. Apart from that, the road (Khanjali Road) still exists. Furthermore, there is a mosque named Shubharara mosque, few kilometers southeast from Abhaynagar thana in Jessore district and about 8 km north of Dhulgram. According to historian AKM Zakaria, this was probably built by Khan Jahan or one of his disciples.
Traces of urban centers or large cities dating back more than 2,000 years have been found in Bengal. Though the economy was predominantly agricultural; the trades (especially cotton and ‘Muslin’, a very fine piece of clothing), both internal and international also flourished in the past. Cities mainly started to take shape as growth, production and trade centers and ports. But there have also been administrative, military or even cities for educational and knowledge gathering centers. In the southeastern regions of Bengal, the rule and trails of Khan Jahan Ali and his disciples worked as a strong catalyst for the overall urbanization process during the sultanate period.