Monumental Gates has always been a reflection of prosperity for Kingdoms. Rulers, over the course of human civilisation, have always wanted to build gigantic gates which will play a pivotal role in the security of the countrymen and also display the might of the state. Not only for military reasons, many gates have been erected to display joy, honour and in good gesture. ‘Gates’ have remained a very important component of Architecture in the country. All these mighty gates carry unforgettable legacy and history. In this Journey, I will be travelling through all those famous or infamous gates of India which have played important roles in the History of the Great Nation.
It is true that today, Bengal is characterised by its capital Kolkata but that was not always the case. Kolkata is a young city built by the Britons reclaiming a marshy land on the banks of river Bhagirathi. It is only three centuries old and before that Bengal or Banga had a completely different definition. Before the foreign invasion, Bengal was basically the fertile land north of Ganga-Padma channel and was known as – Gouda. Present day Malda & Murshidabad districts literally were the power centre before the city of Calcutta (Kolkata) came into existence.
- Located at: Gour-Pandua, Malda, West Bengal
- Built Between: 1311
- Height: 14.95 Mtrs
- Width: 24.7 Mtrs
- Architectural Style: Indo-Islamic (Terracotta Construction)
- Architect: Unknown (Built under supervision of Ala-ud-din-Hussain Shah)
Bengal has not been a power centre for most of the ancient and mediaeval period. It was only after the fall of Gupta Empire, Bengal got a separate identity and the credit for that mostly goes to Sashanka. He can be called the first ruler of Bengal because he was the first major king to establish a capital in the region – Gour city.
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After Sashanka, Pala & Sena dynasty took control over the region and Lakshmanasena, the greatest Sena king gave Gouda a new name – Lakhanvati which later changed to Lakhnauti under the Sultanate of Bengal. The administrative divisions also changed to be called – Sonargaon (Present Bangladesh area on the banks of river Padma), Satgaon or Saptagram (The banks of the river Bhagirathi) and Lakhnauti (Gour region).
In the year 1338, the governor of Bengal appointed by the Tughlaq sultans of Delhi claimed independence and for next one and half decades they remained Independent Sultans of Bengal with an affiliation of the Sultanate of Delhi. In the year 1352, Shamsuddin Illiyas Shah found the first independent state of Bengal and the timeline for Bengal Sultanate started. This was the beginning of a two-century-long Sultanate rule of Bengal and it ended only when the Mughals conquered Bengal to convert it into a Subah(Division).
The seat of the Sultanate remained mostly in the city of Gour with a small break when it was shifted to nearby Pandua and that had been a major boost for the art and architecture of the region. The Afghan Origin Sultans started massive construction works in the Gour city and the entire city was fortified. As part of the fort, some amazing gates were also constructed which are still standing as the evidence of the good sense of architecture and battle technology of the sultans.
‘Dakhil Darwaza’ which literally means an entrance gate was the main entrance to the citadel of Lakhnauti. Situated on the North of Lakhnauti city, the gateway was used for welcoming guests with the gun salute and that has given the gate another name – ‘Salami Darwaza’ which means ‘The Welcome Gate’. The massive gate – surely the largest constructed gate in the entire region is entirely built of bricks. Only the piers between the gateways which hold the entrance arches were given support by stone block – which could be an addition later. The structure of Dakhil Darwaza has a width of 24.7 meters and the length of the gate is 24.5 meters and the height is 14.5 meters. While most of the top structure of the gate has been destroyed over time, its glory can still be observed.
The architecture of the gate is totally inspired by the Afghan Architecture but the use of local techniques and materials is really admirable. The main access gate is 4.5 meters wide and has a height of 10.35 meters. The sides of the main entrance corridor is flanked with long guard rooms (24.7 mt X 2.9 mt) which exits on the sides also. This is an amazing feature where the entrance of the guard room stays totally hidden from outside. The gateway arch is projected in the shape of an iwan portal and has two massive twelve-sided towers on both sides. These towers also forming the corners of the rectangular shaped gateway building gives a massive grandeur to the gateway.
While the surface finish of the gateway totally gone with the weather, it is most likely that the gateway had a stucco finish with terracotta mural tiling finish like some other monuments of the period. However, the simple yet beautiful designs made of terracotta tiles & bricks are remarkable. The base levels have string mouldings and the corner towers have inset fret-rings but the most important feature is certainly the vertical offsets created by projected terracotta bricks – something that gives a soothing effect to the building. Most of the surface of the gateway is covered with arched-window motifs with hanging features inside those. The segments are in some sense true examples of Islamic architecture which does not have any mix of Rajput or Indian Hindu architecture.
There is a controversy about the actual builder of the gateway and majority of historians give the credit to Sultan Rukunuddin Barbak Shah (1459 – 1474). Even the ASI plaque placed in front of the gate also says so however, it is very difficult for a structure of that period to be still present in this condition. No other structure of that period – Chand Darwaza, Nim Darwaza. It is very unlikely that the knowledge of technique and materials had not reached this advanced stage then. That is why a section of historians date this gateway to the period of Ala-ud-din Hussain Shah (1494-1518) because Ala-ud-din has commissioned the majestic Bara Sona Mosque also and it is acceptable that by this time the masons and the designers had gathered enough knowledge of construction. This section also suggests that the present gate could have been a replacement of a weaker gateway at the same location.
Best Time to Visit: The Qutb Complex remains open all day between 9am-6pm. The summer days can be avoided for scorching sun on the head.
How to Reach: Regular Bus facility from Malda Town can be availed. Bagdogra is the nearest airport. Gour Malda or Old Malda station has connectivity with New Jalpaiguri and Sealdah (Kolkata) Station.