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Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Mosque run by Hindu trust

JHIMLI MUKHERJEE PANDEY

KOLKATA: Fanatics who squabble over the rightful site for temples and mosques should take a leaf out of the book of the Marble Palace Trust. Tucked away in the southern corner of the palace, which houses an art gallery, a zoo and a Jagannath temple, is one of the oldest mosques in Kolkata, which is run by a Hindu trust.

In the past 215 years, the trust has maintained the mosque, popularly called Bangali Babur Masjid, with equal care and zeal as it runs the Jagannath temple. It is perhaps the only mosque in the country that is owned and run by a Hindu trust.

In the late eighteenth century, Raja Rajendra Mullick built the Marble Palace and set up the trust for its manintenance. He constructed the temple of the family deity, Jagannath Diu, and the mosque opposite each other because he wanted the estate to be the melting point for all communities.

August is a special month for the trust as it has lined up two big events for both the religions communities - Janmashtami for Hindus and Kunda for Muslims. Both the festivals fall on the same day, August 26. So, while the temple is being given a face-lift, the mosque has been white-washed, electrical connections repaired and arrangements made for distribution of halwa, puri and kheer to anyone who walks into the mosque on the Chand ka Bais tareekh, the day Kunda is observed.

The trust ensures that every Muslim festival is observed at the mosque. Hafiz Mohammed Hanif, who performs the azaan every day, has been associated with the mosque since childhood as his father, Moran Miyan too was an employee of the estate.

The namaz is offered by Hafiz Mohammed Moqimuddin, whose father also worked here.”We have two Muslim employees who ensure that Fajjar, Johar, Asar, Magrib and Esa are observed at the right time, along with namaz. The atmosphere of the palace is such that no one hesitates to walk in," said Hiren Mullick, a member of the Mullick family and spokesperson of the palace.

The mosque is also unique for its architectural features. Its dome has gothic features and the green colour has been kept intact since 1790, when the structure was built.

"The number of people who pray at this mosque has grown manifold over the past two centuries and many have offered to renovate the mosque so that it accommodates more people. But we don’t want to disturb the uniqueness of this mosque," said Mullick.

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