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Pre-Mughal structure in ruin: Binat Bibi mosque partly demolished
By Sheikh Arif Bulbon
Sun, 18 Mar 2007, 12:03:00

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The Binat Bibi Jam-e-Mosque, a 600-year old Pre-Mughal structure of Dhaka at Narinda, which is one of the oldest buildings of the city according to historians, architects, planners and experts, is being demolished as part of the renovation work of the mosque.
The mosque committee undertook the extension project of this historic mosque illegally without consulting any expert or concerned organisation like the Department of Archaeology.

The plan of the mosque includes the construction of a 70 feet high minaret and the extension of the present three-storey building to make it a seven-storey one. This will accommodate more people during Juma prayers, said members of the mosque committee.

Piling for the minaret is now going on in a full swing just beside the old mosque threatening its structure. A wall of the mosque has already been demolished.

Bakht Binat built the mosque in 1457 during the sultanate of Nasiruddin Mahmud Shah I. This is the pride of the residents of Narinda in Old Dhaka and a precious piece of history of this metropolis.

The main features of the mosque are - octagonal turret, single hemispherical dome atop a square room, arches on south, north and eastern sides, modest ornamentation, plaster coating and curved cornices.

There is a law forbidding any new structure within the 500 feet of a protected site but this mosque is not enlisted as a protected site by the Department of Archaeology, experts said.

Shafiqul Alam, Director of Department of Archaeology, said, "Binat Bibi Mosque is not a protected site and the department has no plan to declare the oldest mosque of the city a protected site."

Architecture students at the meeting presented seven models of the extension of the mosque designed without destroying the centuries-old structure to convince the mosque committee members on March 16. But in the meantime, the committee has started hammering down this edifice without showing the slightest respect toward the heritage of the country.

Dr Abu Sayeed M Ahmed, Head of the Department of Architecture of the University of Asia Pacific, said, "If the minaret is built too close to the original building then it can cause vibration. The capacity of the land should be taken into consideration."

He suggested that the proposed extension building should not be more than four-storey or it will cause two much pressure on the soil which can develop cracks in the original structure.

Ansar Uddin Bulu, Secretary of the mosque committee, said, "We have informed the environmentalists seven months ago that we were going to tear down the structure but they did not bother to call us up or take any step in the last seven months."

The mosque has seen three extensions to date. In the first extension, around 80 years ago, a dome was built atop a single room. In the second extension, around 20 years ago a two-storey building was built beside the mosque. In the third extension a four-storey building started to crop up covering the two domes, which was later dismantled due to pressure from concerned bodies.

Historically minaret does not bear special significance in mosque architecture in our country. There were no minarets in the Mughal and pre-Mughal structures. It was a new feature in the last 70 years. Adding a minaret to this ancient mosque is a kind of distortion. This is the oldest building of Dhaka, which should be preserved at any cost, said conservationists and historians.

© Copyright 2003 by The New Nation

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