The Unfinished Footie Mosque of Murshidabad
Have you ever heard of an unfinished Mosque?
An incomplete construction that still stands with all its grandeur in the middle of the lost capital of Siraj-ud-daullah! The very tale captivated me and I decided to explore its history during my Eid holidays. A trip to the historic city of Nawabs – royal Murshidabad, around 200 kilometres from Kolkata via NH34, located along the banks of the Ganga. Murshidabad still retains its old-world charm with laid back Tonga rides, that are slow, but has the exciting ‘tip-tap’ foot-play of the pony hoofs and a slightly bumpy ride. But that’s fun!
Every nook and corner of Murshidabad exudes the tenor of its rich cultural past. Be it the Hazar Duari Palace, Dakshin Darwaza, Qila Nizamat, Motijheel, Katra Mosque, Imambara, Prince’s Quarters, Jahan Kosha, Wasef Manzil, Nach Mahal, Top Khana, Jaan Ghar, Royal Horse and Elephant Stables, Nimak Haram Deorhi, Jafaraganj Cemetery, Siraj-ud-Daullah’s tomb at Khoshbag, Nawab School or the innumerable royal monuments spread across every nookand corner.
However, of all the architectural wonders, the edifice that aroused interest in me was a century-old incomplete mosque with a hole and a captivating story surrounding it. The mosque also has an interesting name – it is called the Footie Masjid. Any tourist visiting Murshidabad will tell you hundreds of legends about the major palaces and cemeteries. However, hardly anyone would tell mention this mysterious piece of incomplete art.The brick moulded building is now in ruins, overgrown by bushy jungles. Kamarpur, where this mosque is located is about two and half kilometres to the east of Qila Nizamat and is believed to be one of the most haunted corners of Murshidabad. If completed, the mosque would have been one hundred thirty-five feet long and thirty-eight feet broad, the largest structure in Murshidabad. It was to be mounted by five domes – four at the corners and one in the middle. Plans were there for specially designed spiral staircases to the top of the cupolas at all four turrets which could be easily found from its entrance at the base. All the walls and stairs were constructed, but the ceiling of the three domes remained incomplete. Due to a series of ghost sightings, workers refused to finish the work.
During 1740s, Nawab Sarfaraz Khan started the construction of this mosque with five thousand workers. They had been working day and night for the timely completion of the structure. Suddenly one-day the young Nawab paid a surprise visit to the site to check the progress of the building. During his stopover, a master roll call was done by the site manager and an astonishing fact came out – from the first day onwards, there was a counting error for one extra labour whose wages were duly released every week, but no one knew him by his name. Upon such an enigmatic revelation, over the next month this absence was closely observed but again the same ghostly event was repeated! Nothing concrete could be inferred as such about the furtive presence of that unknown mason. News spread about the mysterious ghost mason and workers refused to work at the haunted place.
To avoid further delay, Nawab Sarfaraz Khan tried to spread a message in the community saying that he had solemnly pledged to complete the construction overnight to compete with his grandfather Nawab Murshid Quli Khan, who had built the famous Katra Masjid. But the mosque could not be finished overnight. Since then the mosque has been left unfinished and three out of five tomb ceilings appear like holes at a glance.
No one knows the real story though. People initially believed the adage but soon they started experiencing eerie incidents at the construction site. Since then the erection of the mosque was thus permanently stalled, with hardly any footfalls in a radius of two kilometres around it for centuries. Due to its partial creation, it earned the uncanny name with time – Footie Masjid (meaning mosque with a hole).
Natives still do not enter the Footie Masjid as they believe that since no Namaz had been ever held there, it houses ill spirits. It stands like an abandoned mosque and due to the lack of maintenance; it is at present infested with snakes. If you still cannot resist yourself from entering it, then do take a few more steps up a dilapidated spiral staircase to climb to the top of the tomb turret. The view from rooftop is breath-taking. Caution:Dare only if you can fight with the venomous creatures.