Gour PE Wrap-up – The Baishgazi wall and the Gour landscape

IMG_8216-Edit

IMG_8202

The Baishgazi wall was a massive brick wall built by Sultan Nasiruddin Mahmud Shah to protect and encircle the main palace area of Gaur. Much of the palace now lies in ruin where just the foundations remain. 

 

IMG_8198-Edit

The archaeological site is still being excavated by the ASI but the caretakers here appeared to be pessimistic about the possibilities of uncovering anything worthwhile in the future. On a quiet day, you find more goats than people wandering about the brick foundations.

 

IMG_8165-Edit-EditIMG_8204-Edit

The site is reached by walking through a verdant green landscape of mango orchards and photogenic pools of water. It’s worth coming all the way to Gour just to experience what a true rural hinterland in Bengal could be like.

 

IMG_8171IMG_8183

Languid fishing poles loll in stagnant pools of water while fishing boats float by to inspect the catch. It feels as if these scenes couldn’t have played out very differently in the 15th century to which many of the monuments that dot the landscape belong.

IMG_8229

IMG_8201-Edit-2

 

Continue Reading

Gour PE #3 – The mango groves, Chika mosque and Gumti Darwaza

Kids ought to be playing with toys and not selling them. This is not a perfect picture by any means (it’s somewhat out of focus and not exposed perfectly) but it’s a moment that moved me. It’s heartbreaking to see kids working around these tourist sites when they should be playing and going to school.
IMG_8164
The ancient landscape of Gaur is peppered with mango groves. They probably look more beautiful in summer when they are in full bloom.
IMG_8159
It was a school picnic on one of the days I went to Gour and the little brats were all over the place running around, screaming, livening up the sombre landscape of the ancient capital
IMG_8152-Edit
This imposing Mughal era brick and stone gateway called Lukochuri Darwaza is said to have been built in 1655 AD by Shah Shuja, the brother of Mughal emperor, Aurangzeb.
IMG_8145-Edit
The Chika Mosque (aka Bat mosque), built possibly in the 15th century could have served to house the tomb of Sultan Jalaluddin Muhammad. It fell into ruin centuries ago and was taken over by colonies of bats.
IMG_8142
The Gumti gateway, built by Alauddin Hussian Shah in 1512 AD, still retains some of the colourful cornice decorations around its walls. It’s a small, unimposing, yet beautiful building to stare at for a few minutes.
IMG_8133-Edit-Edit
Here I distract the kids with my big camera while they parade around the walls of the Chika Masjid
Continue Reading

Gour PE #2 – Firoz Minar, Qadam Rasul Masjid and Fateh Khan’s tomb

Just down the road from the Dakhil Darwaza and the Baroduari mosque, you find a tall tower said to be built by Saifuddin Firoz Shah to commemorate a military victory. 

IMG_8072

And a 2 minute walk from the minar will get you to the Qadam Rasul Mosque, which is said to contain the Prophet’s footprints. Built by Nusrat Shah in 1530 AD, the compound also hosts the tomb of Fateh Khan, who was a commander of Aurangzeb’s army. A caretaker ferries you around if you’re interested and admonishes you if you take pictures inside. It’s a rather sombre site if you manage to ignore people taking group pictures and selfies outside the tomb and while the site is ruinous, it does retain a little architectural glory in its marble columns and the brick engravings on its walls.

IMG_8111-Edit
Fateh Khan’s tomb, remarkable for its architecture which is completely different from the shells of other buildings around
IMG_8106-Edit
One of the guardians of the Prophet’s footprint
IMG_8095
Because group pictures are a totally done thing when you’re near ancient walls
IMG_8087
The old walls of the Qadam Rasul compound
IMG_8084-Edit
A caretaker at Fateh Khan’s tomb
IMG_8077
Around these ancient structures, the bucolic life in the old capital continues like it always has
Continue Reading

Gour #1 – The Boro Shona Mosque

A few kilometers south of Malda and Ramkeli, close to the Bangladesh border, one finds the ruins of the ancient seat of power at Gour. It’s not a particularly difficult place to get to – autorickshaws from the WBTDC Hotel in Malda charge a quite reasonable 400 Rs. for a full day trip to the monuments here.

Although its early history is unclear (it is said have been an important cultural center during the Pala dynasty and the Senas before them but there isn’t a lot of archaeological evidence that points to either), Gour came into historical prominence with the Sultans of Bengal who made it their capital for over 3 centuries from the 12th century AD.

The Boro Shona Masjid (The Big Golden Mosque) is also known as the Baroduari Masjid aka the 12 door mosque (though the structure only has 11) was commissioned by the then Sultan of Bengal Alauddin Shah and built by his son Nusrat Shah in 1521 after his death. Alauddin Shah became Sultan after he ended the brief rule of the Abyssinian Habshi synasty by overthrowing then ruler Muzaffar Shah. This mosque, the largest of all monuments in the Gour area, is supposed to have been his masterpiece. While much of it lies in ruin, its scale and architectural excellence is still imposing. It’s walls were once gilded in gold (giving the mosque its original title) and was built to commemorate the 15th century Sufi saint Nur Qutb e-Alam. Some of the doorways still serve as gateways to get in and out of what is now a peaceful, bucolic village.

The first three pictures are of the Dakhil Darwaza, the magnificent gateway which serves to provide access to what was once a fortified citadel.

IMG_8066-Edit

IMG_8056-Edit-3

IMG_8054-Edit-2

IMG_8043-2

IMG_8041-Edit

IMG_8035-Edit

IMG_8025-Edit-3

Continue Reading