THE LOST CAPITAL: PANDUA
The Malda district in North West Bengal, which has been a pilgrimage site for years, has today lost its importance in the books of history, and has become the lost capital. Located 19km away from the administrative center of English Bazaar, stand the ruins of the old capital city of Pandua, also called as Hazrat Pandua. It was given the prefix Hazrat, as several prominent Muslim saints and scholars such as Jalaluddin Tabrizi and Noor Qutub Alam, made the capital their home. Their tombs have made Pandua, a prominent Muslim pilgrimage site.
From the mid-14th century to the mid-15th century, Pandua served as the capital of Bengal under the Ilyas Shahi Dynasty. The dynasty built, palaces, forts, bridges, mosques and mausoleums, which today are in ruins or have disappeared.
Coins from the Ilyas Shahi Dynasty
In the architecture of the Ilyas Shahi Dynasty, we find the first instances of Islamic and Bengali styles mixed together. Attempts of fusing together the two styles can be seen at the Adina Masjid built-in 1373 CE. At its time of construction, the Adina Masjid was one of the largest mosques in the Indian subcontinent.
Islamic and Bengali style of architecture at the Darashbari Mosque
The Ilyas Shahi line of succession, was only once broken by a Hindu king called Ganesha. Ganesha was succeeded by his son, Jaadu, who embraced Islam and became Jalaluddin. Under Jallaludin, emerged the Bengal style of Mosques, whose key feature is the curved roofs which were modeled keeping in mind the thatched bamboo huts in the region of Bengal. The best example of such mosques is Jallaludin’s own tomb, which is the Eklakhi Mausoleum, whose name comes from the cost of building it, as it took 1 Lakh rupees to build it. On the western side of the mausoleum is the Qutub Shahi Masjid, which is named after the Muslim Saint, Noor Qutub Alam.
The palace of this once grand capital doesn’t stand today, partially due to adverse climatic conditions and moreover due to human neglect, that is visible all across the capital of Pandua.