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This town in south western Bangladesh is designated a UNESCO World Heritage site for the several brick-built Islamic monuments built here in the 15th century. Most of these are attributed to Ulugh Khan, a Tughlak nobleman who came to Bengal just after Timur's sack of Delhi in 1398, and acquired this forested region as a jagir from the sultans of Delhi and Bengal. In this remote kingdom he established a fortified capital, took the title of Khan Jahan Ali and ruled as an independent sultan. He also launched an energetic building program in a unique architectural style that combined Tughlak and Bengali elements.

Shaith Gombuz Masjid
The Shaith Gombuz masjid built in 1440 is the earliest and most ambitious of Khan Jahan's mosques. It stands in a large low-walled enclosure entered through a monumental terracotta-decorated gateway on the east. The masjid itself is heavy, fort-like in construction with thick sloping walls and bastion-like tapering corner towers with rounded cupolas, all distinctly Tughlak features. Walls are severe, unadorned except for Bengali terracotta roundels and geometrical patterns in rectangular frames above the east entrance arches. The main entrance is marked by additional roundels placed outside the rectangular frame. The cornice is slightly curved in Bengali style and the roof is surmounted by hemispherical domes except along the central aisle where there are Bengali char-chala turrets.

Singar Masjid
This late 15th century mosque lies a short distance south of the Shaith Gombuj Masjid. Its large, single dome is impressive for its size and symmetry in relation to the curved cornice and entrance arches. The east wall has three entrance arches, the central arch both wider and higher than the others. Each arch is framed in a narrow rectangle that contains mouldings and rows of simple terracotta decoration above. The parapet has a row of small recessed arches at the top and a jali frieze below, separated by a projection. This frieze wraps around the corner minarets whose surfaces are relieved by five bands of decorated mouldings.

Noi Gombuz Masjid
This nine-domed mosque situated on the banks of the thakur dighi is more influenced by Bengali architecture, indicating a later date for its construction. Its cornice is more noticeably curved and the terracotta friezes below it is more elaborate. The friezes wrap around the corner minarets which are less heavy and more ornate now with five moldings, and a high triple moulding at the base with double rows of decoration in between. The three entrance arches on the east wall have wide rectangular frames. In the central arch, which is slightly higher and wider, this frame forms a pierced screen. The area above each arch is divided by mouldings into two panels, probably intended for calligraphy blocks. Similarly elaborate entrances mark the north and south walls.

Photos and Text © Amit Guha