The Mosque City of Bagerhat is one of the most renowned archaeological finds in Bangladesh and is actually considered a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. This lost city is absolutely stuffed with monuments and architectural marvels the likes of which would astound anyone interested in the local architectural styles, but it is arguably the Sixty Dome Mosque that is most well-regarded of them all, it being known even in other countries and considered one of the most attractive and impressive mosques in the country. Ironically enough, the mosque’s name (which is Shat Gombuj Masjid in the local language) is actually a misnomer. The mosque does not have 60 domes: it has 81 of them.
The domes are pretty much intact in the structure, so we can count them even today. There are 7 rows of them topping the rectangular edifice, with each row holding 11. At each corner of the mosque is another dome topping a gently tapered tower, which brings the total to 81 domes. All 81 are extant, and there can be no question of this count. It is actually the enormous brick-encased stone pillars supporting the structure that number 60 in total, which makes most people wonder why the mosque is named the Sixty Dome Mosque.
There are several supposed explanations for the misnomer, but perhaps the most creditable of them all is the one that suggests that it is a classic case of linguistic corruption over the centuries. It is postulated by some historians that the original name of the mosque might have been Shat Khumbaz Masjid instead, which would translate to the more appropriate (and factually correct) Sixty Pillar Mosque. “Khumbaz” is the word for “pillar” in the local language, but it is entirely possible, say the people supporting this theory, that locals eventually corrupted the word until it became confused with the word for “dome”, which may be transliterated as “gombuj” or “gumbad”. The result is the odd name the mosque has today.
Whatever the name, one cannot deny that the mosque is a sight worth seeing. It might look tidy in the usual picture you see online, but this mosque is massive, with the walls actually being a stupefying 1.83 metres in thickness. The rectangular structure is 48.77 metres by 32.92 metres in size, and has rows upon rows of arched entryways on all sides (save the west, which only has one entryway). The east has 11 entryways, the north has 7, and the south has another 7. This keeps the mosque nice and airy inside, although it has also led to significant problems with degradation as increasing salinity in the environment has worked on the terracotta interiors and exteriors. Fortunately, the government and several archaeological teams have undertaken efforts to restore the mosque to its former beauty.
The Sixty Dome Mosque or Shat Gombuj Masjid was supposed to have been built in the 15th century, along with the other monuments in the Mosque City of Bagerhat. The place is only about 5km away from Bagerhat town, so it is easy to get to and definitely worth the trip. Do not forget to stop by the Bagerhat Museum, where relics and artefacts from the site are stored.