Historic Mosque City of Bagerhat

Province: Khulna Division
Nearest City: Khulna
Access: Moderate
Services: Basic
Highlights:
  • The city was built in the 15th century by the warrior Turkish general Khan Jahan Ali.
  • The layout of the city is a good example of Islamic architectural style.
  • The buildings are decorated in a combination of Turkish and Mughal style.
  • Shait Gumbad also known as the Sixty Pillar Mosque actually has 77 pillars and 77 domes.
  • Khan Jahan’s tomb is the only building in the city that retains its original domed ceilings.

The Mosque City of Bagerhat was named by Forbes as one of the 15 lost cities of the world. It has over 50 Islamic monuments which were rediscovered after the vegetation that covered them for centuries was removed.

Bagerhat was founded in the 15th century by Bangladeshi war hero Khan Jahan Ali (also known as Ulugh Khan Jahan) and is regarded as an incubator of Islam in Bangladesh.

The most unique building in the complex Shait Gumbad or the Sixty Pillar Mosque, however, UNESCO also includes several other buildings among its unique monuments, including the tomb of Khan Jahan Ali.

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About

When it was originally constructed Bagerhat contained 360 mosques and numerous other constructions like public buildings, bridges and water reservoirs. The buildings were built out of baked bricks, which have deteriorated due to atmospheric conditions. The town is set amongst tropical trees and ponds in the Bangladeshi countryside. It is probably best to visit Bagerhat in the morning as the museum closes for lunch and there are few places to purchase lunch at the site. Women may be prohibited from entering some of the sites, for example the tomb of Khan Jahan Ali.

The key buildings and monuments to visit in Bagerhat are:

Shait Gumbad/Shat Gombuj/Shat Gumbaz or the Sixty Pillar Mosque
Admission Tk100, Opening Times 9am – 5pm Tue – Sat & 2.30pm – 5pm Mon October – March, 9am – 6pm Tue – Sat & 2.30pm – 6pm Mon March – September

Established in 1440, this building is one of the oldest mosques in Bangladesh. An impressive site the mosque is unique for its very thick walls built in a tapering fashion, a construction method that is known as Taghlaq. It is decorated with terracotta and bricks. As well as serving as a place of prayer the mosque was also an assembly hall and school. It was also Khan Jahan’s court.

Kahan Jahan’s Tomb
Kahan Jahan’s Tomb is located on the northern bank of a pond containing crocodiles. It is the only building in the complex that retains the original ceilings of its domes. As Kahan Jahan is a significant figure in Bangladeshi history the tomb is also a place of pilgrimage.

Nine Domed Mosque
Set close to Kahan Jahan’s Tomb is the Nine Domed Mosque, one of the buildings at the site that has been substantially restored. One particular feature to see in this building is the terracotta flower and foliage scrolls and motifs that are set into the mihrabs (niches).

Bagerhat Museum
The Bagerhat Museum is located next to the Sixty Pillar Mosque and is a good place to start your tour of the town. The museum was established with the assistance of UNESCO and contains pottery, inscriptions and ornamental bricks from Bagerhat.

Khodla Math Temple
Not actually part of the UNESCO heritage site, the Khodla Math Temple, located 11kms from Bagerhat is one of the tallest Hindu structures ever build in Bangladesh. The temple is just outside the village of Ayodhya and can be reached by rickshaw or baby taxi from Bagerhat.

History & Culture

Bagerhat was established in the 15th Century during the Bengal Sultanate by Khan Jahan Ali, who was the administrator of the area. Khan was not only responsible for the construction of mosques, tombs and palaces, but also for town planning including roads and water works.

Khan Jahan Ali, was also known as a saintly person and philanthropist who shunned royal titles and did not issue his own personal mint. This aspect of his persona has made him a revered figure in Bangladesh and his tomb a place of pilgrimage.

The rediscovery of Bagerhat started in 1895, with work starting on the Sixty Pillar Mosque in 1903. In 1982 UNESCO drew up an extensive plan to start the process of Bagerhat becoming a World Heritage site.

Getting Around

Most visitors to Bagerhat stay in Khulna as there is no decent accommodation or restaurants in Bagerhat.

Travelling from Khulna takes about 45 minutes by bus. The bus may or may not stop at Shait Gumbad, if it does you can simply get off and start sightseeing. If it does not, then you can get a rickshaw from the bus stop to the main sights.

You can also hire a car from Khulna to take you, however, the bus trip is easy and scenic.