The sharper edge to traveling in Asia

WoWasis visits Bagerhat’s exceptional historical temples and mosques near Khulna, Bangladesh

Written By: herbrunbridge - Jan• 08•13

Collecting the daily water at Ranabijoypur mosque

The city of Khulna, 12 hours south of Dhaka by train, is not only the gateway city to the Sundarbans National Park, but it’s also near to the town of Bagerhat, which hosts a number of wonderful historic masques and temples that you can see in less than one day,  by hiring a car and driver from Khulna. As a bonus, Khulna has a very nice old quarter in which to stroll, with old colonial houses is varying states of disrepair on virtually every block. It’s scenic, laid-back, and a fun walking town. But the Khulna highlight was, for us here at WoWasis, those historical temples and mosques of Baherhat. Rent a car and driver, go to Bagerhat, and here’s what you shouldn’t miss:

Shait Gumbad Mosque

Shait Gumbad Mosque, built in 1459, has been called the most significant historical mosque in Bangladesh, and it’s a beautiful brick and terra cotta structure. It boasts 77 domes, and its interior consists of whitewashed archways. It’s massive, and its towers have the banded decorations seen in traditional Tughlaq architecture. Right across the street from Shait Gumbad is the picturesque, one-domed Singar Mosque, set in a beautiful small garden.

Chunakhola Mosque

There are two other mosques within a short drive from Shait Gumbad. Our favorite, of all the ancient mosques of Bagerhat, was Chunakhola Mosque, located in a paddy field.  Your driver will have to take you to the small dirt access road. You then walk half a kilometer of so through a wonderful small village to the mosque, which suddenly appears in a clearing. Chances are, you’ll be the only one there, unless some local school children decide to accompany you to tag along, practice their English, and gather some boasting points that they’ll later use at school when telling about the westerner they met along the road. The mosque is stunning in its setting. Nearby to Chunakhola is the Bibi Begni Mosque, now shoehorned into a small site, but which has some intricate floral designs worth noting.

Friendly children always enjoy greeting visitors at ancient Zinda Pir Mosque

Two additional mosques are located adjacent to the Thakur Dighi pond, and are very much worth seeing. The Nine-Domed Mosque has a mihrab (prayer niche) inside that has wonderful floral reliefs. To enter, unfasten the metal door, remove your shoes, and remember to fasten the door again when you leave.  Short drive around the pond will take you to the Zinda Pir Mosque, located in a very pretty open setting.

While near the Thakur Dighi pond, you’ll want to visit the tomb of Khan Jahan Ali for historical reasons, but be warned: it’s a pilgrimage site, so expect to be panhandled by mendicants and mosque attendants.

The amazing Khodla Math temple

A km or so north of Khan Jahan Ali’s tomb, just off the main road, you’ll find the magnificent Ranabijoypur Mosque, with its 11 meter dome, the largest in Bangladesh. Gain, it’s in a small setting that you’ll probably have completely to yourself, with the exception of one or two neighborhood women who will collect water from the nearby well.

Your final stop with be to the one temple in the area, but you’ll have saved the best for last. The Khodla Math Temple is located 11 km from Bagerhat, in the village of Jatrapur. Its 20 meter high spire is filled with animal and human figures and geometrical and floral motis. Builit in the 17th century, this structure is a must-see, so be sure that your driver takes you there. Mr. Alam, the friendly caretaker, will want to show you a few of the motifs, including the elephant to the upper right of the entrance, and the apsaras (dancing women) on the left side of the temple’s outer wall.

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