The date of this rectangular three-domed
mosque inside the Lalbagh Fort is problematic. Traditionally it is considered
contemporary with the Lalbagh Fort, constructed by Muhammad Azam in 1678-79.
However, recent exploration identified it as 1649, with a further restoration
of 1780 (Hasan, 2007). The Fort Complex stands before the Buriganga River in the
southwestern part of Dhaka, Bangladesh named Lalbagh. The Mosque was thoroughly
restored and repaired by the Department of Archaeology, Bangladesh and it is
now a protected monument.
This Mosque, part of the Lalbagh Fort
Complex and built under the rule of Governor Shaista Khan, is situated in the
western part of the complex, aligned with the tomb of Bibi Pari. The Lalbagh
Fort Mosque is a typical Bengali Mughal type (Asher, 1984); that is, a rectangular structure crowned with three-domes. It is one
of the finest examples of this kind, where the central dome is larger (Islama & Noblea, 1998).
Internally with an oblong plan (65 feet x 32 feet) the
structure is divided into three equal interior bays, roofed over by three
fluted, bulbous domes, resting on drums. The proportionately smaller lateral
domes are placed on the equal size bays by splitting each dome into a half-dome
and placing it on a pendentive. Stylistically this kind is known as Shaista
Khani architecture, commonly found in and around Dhaka. The Mosque's four corners are emphasized by octagonal towers that rise slightly above the parapet walls. Each tower is capped with plastered kiosks. The eastern or main facade is visually divided into three sections. The middle section is emphasized by a frame of slender, engaged columns, a raised cornice, and a larger dome. The surface is decorated with recessed rectangular panels. It has three doorways adorned with cusped arches that correspond to the three domes above. The three domes are fluted and sit on octagonal drums. Some have claimed that the domical construction technique used in this mosque initiated the design emphasis on central domes. Each of the three bays are equal in size, however, the diameter of the lateral domes are proportionally smaller. This was achieved by spliting each lateral dome into a half-dome and placing it on a pendentive.
The rectangular structure is buttressed by
four corner octagonal turrets, capped by plastered cupolas. These turrets are
rise slightly above the parapet walls and ribbed in typical Bengali fashion. Parapets
are straight instead of the curvilinear cornice of pre-Mogul types. The eastern
or main facade is visually divided into three sections. Each section contains
an entrance doorway that correspond to the three domes above and adorned by
cusped arches. The middle section is
emphasized by a frame of slender, engaged columns, a raised cornice, and a
larger dome. The Lalbagh Fort Mosque's north and south interior walls are
divided into a series of horizontal panels, reflecting the motifs on the
exterior. The three mihrabs contain faceted stucco work similar to that on the
Asher, C. B. 1984. Inventory of Key Monuments. In G. Michell (Ed.), The Islamic heritage of Bengal. Paris: United Nations Educational,
Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).
Hasan, P. 2007. Sultans and
Mosques: The Early Muslim Architecture of Bangladesh: I. B. Tauris.
Islama, I., & Noblea, A. 1998. Mosque Architecture in
Bangladesh: The Archetype and Its Changing Morphology. Journal of Cultural Geography, 17(2), 5-25.