Even now, around 2,000 people come to the 352-year-old mosque every day to say prayers
With the passage of time, the ancient mosque in Chittagong city’s Anderkilla area has become a place of historical interest.
The 352-year-old Anderkilla Shahi Jame Masjid still bears witness to the Mughal victory over Arakani Moghs and Portuguese pirates in Chittagong.
Scores of people come to the mosque every day to pray. Many others come here to witness the Mughal architecture.
History of the mosque
In his book ‘Islamabad,’ Abdul Karim Shahityabisharad described in detail the Mughal victory and the subsequent construction of the mosque.
According to him, Anderkilla is the oldest mosque of the port city.
Chittagong was under Arakanese rule during Shaista Khan's subahdari.
The Arakanese and Portuguese pirates based in Chittagong, sometimes penetrated deep into Bengal. In December 1665, Shaista Khan launched a major military campaign against Chittagong which was the mainstay of the Arakenese kingdom. The overall command was given to Shaista Khan’s son Buzurg Umed Khan.
This was a time when the Arakanese were in conflict with the Portuguese, and so the latter decided to join hands with the Mughals in their expedition against the Arakanese.
The capture of Chittagong was completed by the end of January 1666. The Mughals renamed it as Islamabad, and Umed Khan was appointed the first faujdar.
Upon the directives of Aurangzeb, Buzurg Umed Khan, son of Mughal Subahdar Shaista Khan, set up the hilltop mosque in 1667. Aurangzeb gave Umed the title of Khan in the first year of his reign.
The structural design of the Mughal era mosque is similar to the Jama Masjid of Delhi.
Built some 30 feet above ground on a hilltop, every wall of the mosque is 2.50 yards thick.
The western wall of the mosque was made of terracotta and the remaining three walls were made of stone. Three domes adorn the roof of the spectacular mosque.
Reclamation of the mosque
According to historians, during British colonial rule, the East India Company turned the mosque into an arsenal.
They demolished the domes and some pillars of the mosque and kept all the mosque’s activities suspended forcibly from 1761 till 1855.
Khan Bahadur Hamidullah Khan, a revenue officer of the British Raj in the 19th century, launched a movement that succeeded to free the mosque in 1856.
Preservation is a must
According to mosque sources, around 2,000 people come to the mosque every day to say prayers. The number swells to 8,000 on a Jummah day.
By the Chittagong Shahi Jame Masjid Ordinance 1986, the 2.42-acre historical mosque was handed over to the Islamic Foundation Bangladesh for its maintenance and management.
Shamshul Hossain, historian and former curator of Chittagong University Museum, told Dhaka Tribune: “The historical site should be preserved for future generations. Otherwise, we will lose an invaluable monument.”
Dr Md Ataur Rahman, regional director, Department of Archeology, told Dhaka Tribune that a survey is underway to identify the ancient structures of the region.