(Last Updated on : 20/04/2013)
Monuments in Tribeni which include Zafar Khan Ghazi's mosque and tomb are considered to be the earliest surviving monuments of Muslims in Bengal. Tribeni, a small riverside village in the district of Hooghly
, was one of the earliest Muslim settlements in Bengal. From their base here the Muslims pressed inland and established control over a wide area between Burdwan
and Hooghly. There are two interesting early remains in Tribeni belonging to the Muslims.
The Mosque of Zafar Khan Ghazi bears the Arabic chronogram 1298, but several later inscriptions can also be found which suggest that the mosque was remodelled over time, although the simple rectangular plan is probably original. The east facade has five large basalt-faced arched entrances crowned by domes. The interior is split into two aisles by huge piers with pre-Islamic characteristics. Zafar Khan was one of the well-known 13th century military agents of the Delhi Sultanate
. The Tomb of Zafar Khan Ghazi is regarded as the oldest surviving mausoleum in eastern India. The date 1313 is inscribed on two basalt slabs cemented into the sarcophagus. The tomb was probably used as a Madrasa or Muslim centre of learning, and it may stand on the site of an earlier temple. The doorways are reused from a temple and sculpted panels bearing Vaishnavite subjects can be seen embedded in the plinth.
The mosque of Zafar Khan Ghazi and the attached Dargah, constructed by Zafar Khan Ghazi at Tribeni is located in the Hooghly district
. It is known to be one of the earliest monuments of Muslims in Bengal. There is an inscription which dates the mosque to 1298, which is within a century of the conquest of Bengal in the year 1205 by Bhaktiyar Khalji, and within twenty years of the occupation of the region by Zafar Khan in 1267. In some form or the other, this monument presents a significant change from the stone post-and-lintel temples belonging to the Pala-Senas to the brick dome-and-arch structures which are favoured by most of the Bengali Muslim rulers. The bases and stone columns used here to provide support to the sandstone and brick arches and domes are possibly reused from temples.
The east hall bears five arched entrances and these arches are provided support by the short hexagonal stone piers. It presents the multi-domed oblong type which was developed by the Bengal Muslims where the total number of domes on the roof is equal to the total number of entrances to the east wall multiplied by those present on either side. Each of the south and north walls possess two doors. Ten domes are there which roof the mosque. The inner portion of the structure is divided into two longitudinal aisles and five short bays with the help of stone pillars, forming ten similar-sized compartments. The domes made of brick are rested on pointed arches and stone pillars with brick pedantries in the corners.
The outline of the consecutively pointed arches has helped in provide enough space and increased the magnificence of the interior portion of the mosque. Equivalent to the five entrances to the east, there are five mihrabs to the west wall, incorporated within the multifold arches. There are spare decorations within the panels of the mihrab wall. The parapet and cornice of the structure are straight. The mosque adheres to the Bengali type of construction having only the prayer chamber without court, minaret and riwaq. The most striking feature of the interior portion of this mosque is that there is a brick wall which reaches the level of the arch-spring and has helped in closing the bay at each end, south and north, across the middle and it is the mosque's that part where one can find terracotta ornamentation. The mosque's southern part is fairly preserved and displays a panelled composition. The central panel is divided in two halves upright by means of rosettes inside the square frames - the lower portion representing a swinging creeper having luxurious leaf age and the two half-arch motifs of the upper portion possesses a finial in the thick of foliage and shrubs. The lying panels are likewise disposed and ornamented. All the panels exhibit multifoil arches with decorations. The vegetal motifs are not influenced by the local style and speak of the adaptive spirit of Muslims.
The decoration of the bay wall to the north is in ruins, but some of the surviving traces display its dissimilarity to that of the southern walls. The composition includes two small vertical panels with each possessing a multifoil arch with a decoration and from there hangs a chain which ends in a round pendant. The most striking feature of these walls is their incongruity with the interior of the mosque, but surprisingly their orientation is similar to that of the Bagha Mosque in the districts of Rajasthan
A few yards to the east of the mosque, outside an open courtyard, are two square rooms arrayed east-west adjacent to each other. The western room holds two graves; Zafar Khan Ghazi and his wife while the eastern room exhibiting four graves placed on a masonry platform. The walls are constructed by using old temple materials including rectangular stone pieces while the rooms do not possess any roof. The entrance to the rooms is through a central door which is present in the north wall edged on both sides by a shallow niche of rectangular shape and a pointed arch above. The western room's northern door is constructed by using Hindu frame as evident from the carved Hindu figures while the eastern room exhibits sculptured scenes linked to the Mahabharata
and the Ramayana
. Several other stone sculptures are there, which are fixed at the outer face of the plinth. It is surprising to notice that the structures neither conform to a Muslim tomb nor to a Hindu temple. It can thus be assumed that the structure was constructed on a temporary plan by using reshuffled temple materials. The unsettled form of occupation of the region by the Muslims of the period adheres to this suggestion.