Bibi Maryam Masjid

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BIBI MARYAM MASJID

The view of Bibi Maryam Masjid

LocationBangladesh Road # 114 Mukarba Road, Killarpur, Narayanganj, Bangladesh
Establishedc. 1875
Architectural information
StyleMughal Architecture
Covered area9980 square feet
 
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BIBI MARYAM MASJID

The view of Bibi Maryam Masjid

LocationBangladesh Road # 114 Mukarba Road, Killarpur, Narayanganj, Bangladesh
Establishedc. 1875
Architectural information
StyleMughal Architecture
Covered area9980 square feet

Bibi Maryam Masjid (translated in English as Lady Mary Masjid and বিবি মরিয়ম মসজিদ in Bengali) is a masjid located in the Killarpur area of Narayanganj district in Bangladesh which was built under the period of Mughal intervention in around 1860. This masjid has been renamed in 21st century as Killar Shahi Jame Masjid. In principle there are two major assumptions by the Historians on the person who sanctioned the Masjid construction and history of its evolution. With respect to the first assumption one concerned source suggests that Nawab Shaista Khan, the Mughal Subahdar of Bengal who was active between 1664 to 1688 built it in a fortified complex in the early 1680s. Nawab Shaista Khan is presumed to be Bibi Maryam's father by this source who named it as token of affection for her daughter after her premature demise and enshrined her in the complex. Meanwhile the other piece of assumption advocates that Bibi Maryam was actually wife of IshaKha Masnad-E-Ala who built both the masjid and the Shrine in the aftermath of her death. The former opinion is much more concrete than the latter since the masjid architecture is absolutely that of Mughal style. It is also justified by the historians who have examined the used building materials and applied construction techniques to learn that both were exercised during the age of Nawab Shaista Khan's existence. However this masjid has been acknowledged as one of the prominent surviving Mughal buildings in Bangladesh despite its limited accommodation. According to the present masjid authority during its construction only members of both Nawab Shaista Khan's family and administration formed the Muslim population of the present day Killarpur area it is situated in. Even as late as the 1950s Hindus almost monopolized the area population where hardly ten people would appear for the congregational prayer in stark contrast to the daily hundreds of worshipers who appear for any prayer.

Architectural elements and style[edit]

Originally it was built as a usually and extremely tall single-storied masjid with great emphasis of the vertical qualities where the three mihrabs located in the western wall stood from the base of the ground floor to one-third the height of the first floor. These mihrabs have been compressed in width and shortened in height; otherwise, they would structurally relate to the three domes to portray one of the masjid's prime architectural essences. The remains of the authentic mihrabs are present in the first floor and rise as much as one-third of its height in the western wall. In 2001 the first floor was inserted directly in the Masjid, which all but jeopardized the structural beauty defined by the relationship between the domes and the mihrabs. After the construction of the first floor, the beauty of the domes and mihrabs remain undecipherable where the former's view is completely obstructed by the roof of the first floor and the latter's size has been greatly altered. The architecture of the Bibi Maryam Masjid is defined by a combination of embellishments and proportional adjustment among elements such as arches, domes, mihrabs etc., all which have been used in a series of three members. In such elements the middle one is much larger and more emphasized than those that flank it. For instance the interior space was roofed by the three domes where the central dome is much larger than the subsidiary ones located at its either side. In masjids the use of three domes in such manner is a very distinctive feature of Mughal style.

The three domes which were constructed in the 17th century
The three mihrabs at the western facade

There is a tower called Minaret in Arabic situated at the eastern corner of the main building which was built during the 1971 Liberation War and has lost its authentic features due to later repairs which completely modernized it. The interior hall has simple lateral arches, but the side domes have been reduced in size by adjusting the thickness of the side walls. The three domes are embellished with basal leaf imitations and the masjid walls are fortified. The embellishment of the outer surfaces or walls which in the contemporary typical Mughal masjids were plaques and floral and geometric motifs are also untraceable. A veranda has been later added alongside the first floor due the eastern facade of the masjid to accommodate more number of worshipers which has marred the beauty of the masjid. Originally there was an open plaza that adjoined the eastern facade adding to its beauty and measured 50 feet by 20 feet. The masjid even though is rectangular in shape but looked more of a square where the 50 feet width is marginally bigger than its 45 feet breadth.

Relationship with the complex[edit]

The historical records clarify that the fortified complex existed prior to both the simultaneously constructed masjid and shrine it houses. This complex is entirely fortified with 4-foot-wide and 12-foot-high boundary walls where the prime building is the Bibi Maryam Shrine. The masjid faces the shrine located exactly opposite to it and its central axis is aligned with that of the shrine.

This is the shrine of Bibi Maryam

The masjid was built simultaneously with the shrine to fulfill the need for congregational prayer and secondly to compliment the significance of the shrine by availing the scope for worshipers to pray for the deceased Bibi Maryam's salvation. This shrine leads to a subsidiary shrine and located at the western end of the Masjid is a secret passage by which Nawab Shaista Khan's soldiers could access the Hajiganj Fort. The rectangle-shaped Bibi Maryam shrine is accessible from all directions with five arches on all its facades and is topped by a dome. Unlike the Bibi Maryam Masjid the shrine has retained all its architectural qualities despite undergoing conservation numerous times.

This unit was used as dwelling of the guards

It reflects the age during which it was built. After 1971 Liberation war substantial area of the Bibi Maryam complex has been consumed by Bibi Maryam Girls Primary School, for which a large part of the eastern and southern fortifications had to be demolished. The shrines and the masjid are located on elevated surfaces. Another building is located adjoining the fortified walls at the southern direction, which was the dwelling of the Nawab's soldiers who guarded the complex. The main shrine is a monochromatic structure plastered with light-brown surfaces and adorned with recessed rectangular panels. The parapet of the shrine is decorated in the same style as the top of the fortified boundary walls. It is presented with a set of three arches in the middle flanked at the right and left sides by a single arch of identical size and features. The shrine has been built on an elevated platform which measures three feet high and is accessed by a recessed staircase whose appearance is absolutely ruined.

Mughal embellishments of the Masjid[edit]

Although the plaques and motifs which adorned the Bibi Maryam Masjid have extincted long ago, still the themes can be deduced by analyzing those still preserved in the shrine and other buildings of the complex. Some of the embellishments were produced as patterns of voids and minute angular shapes by piercing the walls directly. The other elements are basically projected or recessed rectangular plaques and floral and geometric motifs. The latter types also enhance the incident natural lighting in buildings both for comfort and aesthetic purposes. This strategy has been commonly employed in Islamic architecture and is strongly featured in the shrine and subsidiary shrine.

Arch details Parapet details Geometric Plaques

Conclusion[edit]

Western View of the Masjid

Despite profound investigation into the affairs of Bibi Maryam Masjid, much cannot be concluded realistically about its architectural authenticity and roots of history. Yet apparently it was designed as a great vertical emphasis of a single-storied structure that complimented the shrine. But, unlike the shrine, it has transformed radically under the different conservation and construction phases. The Masjid stands with completely deprivation of its true architectural significance. Several books have been written to unravel its wonders albeit with limited hypothetical conclusions and are oriented more towards sensitivity of its values. The scarcity of the information is attributed to its faint documentation in the context of history and irresponsibility of the government in treating it as a national heritage. However, it is not absolutely dilapidated, since a lot can be traced from the surviving elements such as domes, arches and load-bearing walls that defined the space in its inception.

References[edit]

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