The port city of Chattogram is famous from ancient times as the gateway of Bengal from the sea and as a business hub. The sultan of Sonargaon, Fakhr al-Din Mubarak (ruled between 1334-1349) conquered the city in 1340. Almost at the end of the Sultani rule, after the death of ‘Habshi’ sultan Shamsuddin Muzaffar Shah in 1493, Alauddin Hussain Shah ascended the throne and inherited Chattogram. But during this volatile period politically, the Arakanese and king of Tripura often tried to take control of the port. Moreover, raids by the Portuguese and Dutch pirates also increased. The first depiction of Chattogram by the Europeans was seen in 1550 in the map of Bengal made by Jao de Barros. From 1575 to 1666, the city was in the hands of Arakanese rulers. Finally in 1665 Mughal Subedar of Bengal, Shaista Khan conquered Chattogram from them after winning a famous battle. Here is an attempt to describe the locations and present state of some structures still existing in the city from those periods.
Kadam Mubarak Mosque
Kadam Mubarak Masjid is located at Jamal Khan area in Chattogram and it is one the most famous mosques there. It was established by the then Mughal ruler of Chattogram, Yasin Khan in 1719. The mosque has basically 3 rooms, including a relatively large central prayer hall, with two smaller room on both sides. The small room in the north, has a footprint (Kadam Mubarak) of prophet Muhammad (SM). In the southern room, a footprint of ‘Barapir’ Gausul Azam has also been preserved.
It was a three-domed mosque with four octagonal turrets in the corners. It also included a graveyard, where ruins of a tomb could be seen. But the mosque is almost completely reconstructed and the ruins are obliterated. The old gate (entrance) of the mosque still remains.
Mosque of Wali Khan
The mosque is situated in the Chawkbazar area, at the intersection, on the eastern side of the Chattogram Medical College. The mosque is also known as Oli Khan’s Mosque. It was built by Wali Beg Khan, who was a Mughal ‘fauzdar‘ in 1790 (though some researchers think it was constructed between 1713 to 1716). The mosque is an impressive structure with six domes. Wali Khan not only built the mosque but also founded Chawkbazar, resided nearby with a ‘cutchery’ and commissioned excavation of a big tank named ‘Kamaldaha’. Unfortunately, the mosque has been renovated in such a way that it is very difficult to recall that it is almost 200 years old.
This building is situated inside the Mohsin College compound, on top of the Madrasa hill. It is definitely one of the structures with many rumors and myths. It is commonly known as the Portuguese building or fort to the locals. This might be more of a myth than an actual fact. According to historians, this building is probably the first European style building in Chattogram, built by the English in the mid-nineteenth century. They made this as their court building, which was called ‘Darul Adalat’ (a Farsi name). Some researchers argued that the Darul Adalat was built even earlier, after the British took control of the city back in 1761.
The building stands on 0.775 acres of land and incorporates both Mughal and Colonial architectural traits. The structure is two-storied and has two octagonal turrets on its northeast and northwest corners. These two turrets also include stairs and are crowned by small low-domed garrets. According to college documents, the Mohsin College authorities bought the building along with the hill from government in 1879 at the price of Tk 30,000. But they have abandoned the building in 2002, and had a plan to knock it down and replace with a new library. But the government intervened and saved it from demolition. Though it survived, the present condition of the building is precarious.
It is also known as Hamidia Taj Masjid and Chandapura Mosque as it is situated in the Chandanpura Mouza (on Siraj-ud-Daula Road, on south of the Parade Ground). This mosque is very famous internationally and one of the popular attractions of Chattogram for the tourists. It has in all fifteen domes, and is quite famous for its beautiful filigree works. It is said that, ten tonnes of brass were required while construction of this mosque. The original date of establishment of the mosque is not known, but there was a foundation during the Mughal period. In the British period, a person named Hazi Abdul initiated the renovation of the mosque and it got its present look in 1952. But, due to air pollution and time, the bright colors and delicate works are deteriorating.
This article depicts the heritage, history and dilapidated condition of few buildings of Chattogram. It is a sheer misfortune for us that so many old buildings have already been and still being demolished. Also, the remaining ones are in precarious condition. Without proper maintenance, renovation and retrofitting they might collapse on any day. It is our hope and wistful thinking that, by making them popular as tourist spots and places of attractions may bring back their previous glory.