Built by Sikandar Shah, the second sultan of the Ilyas dynasty, the Adina mosque is one of the largest mosques to be built in the subcontinent and the only hypostyle mosque in Bengal. Located twelve miles from the town of Malda and along a major road leading to north Bengal, the sultan probably built it as a visual proclamation of his victory over the Delhi ruler, Firuz Shah Tughluq. The mosque is mostly in ruins today following the damages sustained during the earthquakes in the 19th and early 20th centuries.
Similar in plan to the Great Mosque of Damascus, it is a rectangular, hypostyle structure, with an open central courtyard. Externally it measures 524' x 322' (154.3 x 87m) with the longer side running north-south, while the courtyard measures 426'-6"x147'-7"(130 x 45m). The prayer hall is located to the west, and is divided into two symmetrical wings by a central nave (78'x 34' and 64' high) that was originally covered by a pointed barrel vault. The high central vaulted nave may be traced to Persian antecedents, Taq-i-Kisra, a pre-Muslim monument at Ctesiphon. The prayer hall is five aisles deep, while the north, south and east cloisters around the courtyard consist of triple aisles. In total, these aisles had 260 pillars and 387 domed bays. The interior of the courtyard is a continuous façade of 92 arches surmounted by a parapet, beyond which the domes of the bays can be seen.
The main entrance of the mosque consists of three arches that open on the southeastern corner. Today it can only be entered from the east through a modest arched opening. Another three small entrances are in the northwestern wall, two of which lead to the Badshah-ka-takht, a private worship area for the kings and the ladies. The exterior of the west wall is the best-preserved section of the mosque and is faced with smooth blue-grey basalt up to a height of 11'. Much of the finely worked basalt was taken from the earlier Hindu building at Lakhnauti or other areas nearby. Proof of this is in the stones embedded in places like the minbar and walls of the Badshah-ka-takht (King's throne) that display carved figures. Most of the upper part of the building - the arches and the domes - is of brick. At the corners of its exterior walls are circular stone-faced, blind engaged turrets. The lower eleven feet of the columns are faced with stone while the upper portions are articulated with beautifully molded brick molds up to the midpoint, beyond which the surface due to erosion becomes smooth.
The prayer hall is a series of arches mounted on short, powerful pillars with square plinths and weighty block capitals. The columns supporting the hall of the Badshah-ka-takht are of more normal proportions, with graceful tapered shafts and capitals in the shape of open lotus flowers, which are derived from Hindu structures. The central mihrab is located at the end of the central nave with a smaller additional mihrab and a stone minbar flanking it. A series of secondary mihrabs runs along the whole western wall. In total, the 39 mihrabs, the minbar and other ornamentations are rigorously Islamic in their general conception but Hindu in almost all the details: small scalloped columns and plinths in the shape of lotus flowers, corbels, trilobate arches each with its sharp end cuspidated with a vase of flowers, volutes representing leaves, rhomboid lozenges and friezes of lotus petals. Along with the Hindu motifs, the interior of the mihrab niche is divided into panels containing the Islamic motif of the 'hanging lamp' commonly used in Bengal and is thought to be the visual representation of Surah Al-Nur (Chapter of Light in the Quran).
The Badshah-ka-takht is a square structure with an L-shaped ramp on its north; on its east are two doors that lead to the raised takht (throne) inside. One of the doors was originally carved for a Hindu temple. The square structure was divided into nine bays with nine domes supported in stone columns. This chamber is now believed to house the tomb of Sikander Shah. Since this chamber was the sole entrance to the takht, it is highly unlikely that it was meant as a burial chamber. The L-shaped ramp also negates the notion of this as a burial chamber since it resembles a royal entrance to a fortress. Hence, the structure must have become a makeshift grave due to the emperor's untimely death.
Alfieri, Bianca Maria. Islamic Architecture of the Indian Subcontinent. London: Laurence King Publishing, 2000. 83-4.
Banerji, Naseem Ahmed. The Architecture of the Adina Mosque in Pandua, India: Medieval Tradition and Innovation. New York: The Edwin Mellen Press, 2002. 11, 71.
Asher, Catherine B. "Inventory of Key Monuments". Art and Archaeology Research Papers: The Islamic Heritage of Bengal. Paris: UNESCO, 1984. 109.
Hasan, S.M. The Adina Masjid at Hazrat Pandua. Dhaka: Islamic Foundation Bangladesh, 1980. 17.