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Bangladesh: Dhaka Becomes Capital of Islamic Culture

The Bangladesh capital Dhaka has been declared as the capital of Islamic culture along with two other cities. The Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (ISESCO), a subsidiary of Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC), has recently declared this. Since 2004, ISESCO has been observing this annual programme to uphold Islamic policies, history, civilization and cultural heritage in its member countries. In 2012, Dhaka has become the capital for the Asian region.

After the arrival of Islam in the Indian sub-continent, the local architecture was influenced by Islamic building designs. The numerous mosques (Masjids) built in Dhaka represent that. Some of these places of worships were erected during the Sultan era, some during the Mughal era and some during the British era. There are also many modern architecture and most of them are influenced by Islamic arts and designs.

Since the Sultan era Masjids are being built in Dhaka. It started with the completion of the Binot Bibi's mosque in 1457 AD. It is called the first worship house for the Muslims in Dhaka. Blogger Juthochari [bn] informed that the establishment collapsed in 2006. The main thrust of erection of mosques happened during the Mughal era. Dhaka was named the capital of Subeh Bengal. Beautiful mosques bearing Islamic designs were built one by one. That time was also crucial for Dhaka to emerge as a capital city.

The influence of Mughal architecture remained also in the British era. It started to change slowly in the Pakistan era. During that time instead of architecture, practical needs were given more importance. The mosques that are being built today have modern elements of architecture. But they lack the culture and architectural excellence. The old mosques in Dhaka show sign of fusion of Islamic designs with designs invented by local craftsmanship. So some of these architectures have earned fame as local designs.

Some old mosques of Dhaka:

Binot Bibi's mosque built in 1457. Image courtesy Wikipedia.

Tara Mosque, which was built during early nineteenth century. Image courtesy Wikipedia.

Hazi Shahbaz's Mosque (1679). Image courtesy Wikipedia.

Khan Muhammad Mridha's mosque built in 1706.Image courtesy Wikipedia.

Musa Khan mosque, a pre-Mughal architectural masterpiece. Image courtesy Wikipedia.

Dhaka is also renowned as the city of Mosques [bn]. But many of these establishments bearing Islamic tradition and culture are being neglected and not properly maintained or restored. Some of them are in dilapidated states. In one featured post of Ahmed Firoz the current state of two such establishments – Boror Katara & Choto Katara – have been highlighted. Bara Katara mosque was built from 1643 to 1646 resembling Mughal architecture. Attachments to this mosque had been built removing parts of the structure, which has endangered the beautifully decorated original structure. You can see signboards of new shops, business houses etc inside the structure. Many big rooms had been partitioned to be used as small rooms. The choto Katara, which was built during Shaesta Khan's era (1664), is also on the verge of destruction.

Blogger Hompgro posted a photo blog on the occasion of 400 years of the Dhaka city which highlights many old mosques. One from them is the Musa Khan Mosque built in 1679. Another one is the Hazi Shahbaz Mosque. It was built in 1679. And the Hazi Beg mosque is from 1683. These mosques are on the verge of falling down.

Blogger Razib took photos of many mosques to be added in Wikipedia entries. He was very much disheartened by the dilapidated state of many old mosques in Dhaka:

সেখানে পৌছাতেই মনটা খারাপ হয়ে গেলো। সেই প্রাচীন ভবনটির রক্ষণাবেক্ষণ একেবারেই নেই। কাটরার দেয়াল ঢেকে গায়ে জোড়া লাগিয়ে তৈরী হয়েছে ঘরবাড়ি আর দোকানপাট। কাটরার উপরের দিকটা মাদ্রাসার দখলে। আর ঠিক সামনেই পিডিবির বিশাল একটা ট্রান্সফর্মার ও তারের জট থাকায় পুরো ভবনটাই ঢেকে গেছে।

I was very sad to see the mosque in this state. The old architecture is not maintained at all. Houses were erected adjacent to the walls of the Katara, covering the original structure. The upper stories are occupied by a Madrasah. And right in front there is a transformer placed by the power department (PDB) which is obstructing the view to the mosque.
  • yna sue

    I’m a children’s writer for the young Muslim children and one of the articles I need to write focuses on Bangladesh’s first masjid. However, I am clueless of which ones was the first. The sources on the internet only provides some of the oldest mosques in bangladesh but nothing really directs to the first one. Can I get help from here? I’d be glad to hear your response.

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