The Mosque City of Bagerhat is indubitably among the most significant of Bangladesh’s archaeological sites. It may not be the oldest of them-that honour goes to Mahasthangarh, which has been dated to at least the 3rd century BC-but it is arguably the most well-known outside of the country, due to it having been pronounced one of the lost cities of the world. This marvellous site therefore inspires quite a bit of romantic curiosity, as indeed most things do that have been tagged as “lost” and were only recently found.
Located in the eponymous district and city today, in the Khulna Division of the country, the Mosque City of Bagerhat is said to have been founded in the 1400’s by Ulugh Khan Kahan, who is also known to historians as Khan Jahan Ali. This personage was a famed general of his time, and countless accounts also attest to his saintly benevolence, humility, and magnanimity, which has led to him being considered a holy person by the Bangladeshis even today. In fact, his mausoleum is among the most popularly visited structures inside the lost city.
The lost city’s original name was Khalifatabad. It covers an area of about 50 square kilometres and lies near the place where the Ganges and Brahmaputra waters meet, near the heavy swamps of the Sundarbans. The place was pronounced a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1985, and has seen a fairly steady flow of visitors since then, albeit most of them have been domestic tourists. Still, with the recent interest in promoting international tourism by the government, it is expected that more people from other countries should be turning up soon, especially those interested in archaeological sites of this character. There are many things to see here, from the world-renowned Shat Gombuj Masjid (also known as the 60-Pillar Mosque), to Khan Jahan’s Tomb (which, by the way, is near a pond called “thakhur dighi” that you should be wary of, it being that the waters have crocodiles in them), to Ronvijoypur Mosque (which holds the largest dome in the entire country, measured to be an enormous 11-metres wide-impressive indeed for such an old structure). There are dozens of other structures besides these, with well over 50 having been discovered already. There is also a Bagerhat Museum where artefacts from the site are displayed.
There is a problem lurking behind the charm of the Mosque City of Bagerhat, though: structural degradation. Close inspection of the more recently discovered buildings shall reveal erosion of the facades due to the increasing sulphate and salt content in the air and water of the environment-not too good for baked bricks, which were the prime construction material used here. Various teams have already set out renovating several of the buildings and restoring them with an eye to preservation, fortunately, although authorities still have some fears about how well these restorations can hold up in the long term, even if they do note that the buildings are not in any immediate danger (this sort of erosion being a slow, steady process).