The ancient city of Gaur, also known as Gauda, Lakshmanavati, Lakhnauti and Jannatabad, served as the seat of many powerful dynasties over time – the Buddhist Pala kings from the 8th century onwards, the Hindu Sena kings from the 12th century on, eventually falling into the hands of the Delhi Sultanate in 1204. It thrived during the Bengal Sultanate, passing between prominent dynasties including the Ilyas Shahi, Habshi and Hussain Shahi kings.
The largest of Gaur’s ancient monuments, the Great Golden Mosque or Sona Masjid possibly owes its name to the fact that the domes were once gilded. Traces of this were evident to Henry Creighton, an employee at an indigo plant near Gaur who inspected and meticulously documented the site between 1786 and 1807. The gilding no longer remains in this gigantic stone and brick structure built by Nasrat Shah in 1526, but the surface of the mosque is said to have once been ornamented to the extent that it seemed to be built entirely of gold when struck by sunlight. The mosque is locally also known by the name Baradwari, which translates to a building holding 12 doors, even though the structure holds only 11.
This photograph was published in Gaur: Its Ruins And Inscriptions by John Henry Ravenshaw in 1878. Ravenshaw was a Bengal Civil Service worker who was stationed as Magistrate and Collector at nearby Maldah. He had the opportunity to explore and photograph Gaur between 1865 and 1867. While Ravenshaw died in 1874, this volume of photographs and notes were arranged to be published thereafter by his widow, Caroline.
To read more about Gaur, as well as view more of Ravenshaw’s photographs from the region, click here.
TitleCorridor Of Golden Mosque
Album TitleGaur: Its Ruins And Inscriptions, 1878
PhotographerJohn Henry Ravenshaw
Accession No.2016.26.1 (9)