Lal Masjid – The Red Mosque

Rangan Datta ( www.rangan-datta.info)




Just a few miles away from the mythical mound of Chandraketugarh lie the town of Haroa, containing the remains of an ancient mosque built on the ruins of an even more ancient Buddhist Stupa. Although some excavation work have been carried out at Chandraketugarh and at least the area have been cordoned off and marked of as a “Monument of National Importance” but the later, locally called Lal Masjid, nothing much has been done. The blue board of Archeological Survey of India is nowhere to be found. Since its first excavation in 1909 this ruins remains in utter neglect.




Haroa is the home of the mythical Pir Gorachand. According to local lore, pleased with Gorachand’s devotion the Sun God ordered him to build a mosque. But there was a condition, the entire mosque had to be built in his absence. In other words construction should start at sunset and should be completed by the next sunrise. In a desperate race against time Gorachand and his followers went on to please the Sun God, but as they were fixing the last pieces of bricks on the roof the crow cawed, marking the arrival of the Sun God. So the incomplete mosque was abandoned and can still be seen to this day.

Alas historians differ, Rakhaldas Banerjee, of Mahenjodaro fame, claims that the remains are of a Buddhist Stupa constructed during the time of Christ. According to him almost a thousand and three hundred years later an attempt was made to construct a mosque above the ruins and it is all that remains to this day.


The ruins can be reached from Haroa bus stop by a cycle van, popularly known as the Lal Masjid. Surrounded by ponds on three sides the 30 feet red wall, crowned with a banyan tree, is all that remains of the mosque. The walls of the other three sides have long collapsed and so have the roof. The huge banyan tree has spread its roots through the entire length of the wall, which is on the verge of collapsing. But it has remained in this condition for almost a century. Rakhaldas Banerjee, who carried out an excavation of the ruins in 1909 have reported the mosque to be in similar condition. The village elders also agree with this fact. Also according to them the ruins have remained in the same condition since their childhood.

The circular arrangement of bricks at the base of the wall clearly indicates that it was a Buddhist Stupa. Archeological (coins) findings justify this fact and confirm that it was almost 2000 years old. The upper wall with its distinctive red colour differs considerably from the mound of bricks on which it stands. Nothing is much known about the red wall, which was constructed about 700 years ago. Although popularly known as the Lal Masjid, but there is no historical evidence to prove that it was indeed a mosque.

Another interesting finding are a few stone pillars, two of which can still be seen. Two pillars about 6 feet in length lies on the ground just at the foot of the wall. The exact purpose of these massive pillars is unknown to this day.




Although the historians have come up with more rational explanation, but in Haroa the legend of Gorachand still lives on. It is said that Gorachand died of the injuries inflected by an enormous demon, whom Gorachand killed and thus in the process saved the entire human race. Again historians differ, according to them the original name of Gorachand was Hajarat Syed Abbas Ali. Abbas Ali, in the process of spreading Islam was engaged in a battle with the king of Hatigarh, in Sundarban area. During the battle Abbas Ali was mortally wounded by the princes Akananda, who used a God blessed weapon (Strangely here also myths takes over history). Abbas Ali died seven days later.

Little away from the ruins lie the original tomb of Gorachand. His mortal remains, consisting of a few bones, where later removed to a mosque in Haroa. Legends say that the word Haroa was derived from the Bengali word Har, meaning bones. The darga of Pir Gorachand can still be seen inside a mosque, located at the banks of the Vidyadhari River. Every year on the 12th day of the Bengali month of Falgun, which happens to be the death anniversary Pir, a procession starts of from the original grave of Gorachand goes past the Lal Masjid and finally terminates at the present darga. Candles are lit at all the three places and also a fair is held at Haroa.

Whether Muslims or Hindus, everyone in Haroa is aware of the strange exploits of this mythical man. In Haroa the legend of Gorachand still lives on even though his Lal Masjid lies in total neglect.

References:
1. Pashim Banga Bhraman O Darshan (Vol 1) by Bhupatiranjan Das.

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State Archeological Museum Exhibition

Collection of Dilip Kumar Maite

Collection of Asad-uj Jaman

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Courtesy: Asad-uj Jaman
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Ambarish Goswami
Last Revised February 27, 2007