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The main mosque of Kolkata, the capital of West Bengal is the Nakhoda Mosque located in the centre of the city in the commercial district of Burra Bazaar. It is a landmark of central Kolkata built on the Rabindra Sarani – Zakaria Street Crossing.
The Nakhoda Mosque was built by Abdul Rahim Osman, a rich shipping merchant who belonged to the Memon sect of the Sunni Muslims from Kutch region of Gujarat. The name Nakhoda means ‘Seafarer ‘ or Mariner in Arabic. The construction of the mosque was started with a foundation stone being laid in September 1926. The total expense incurred by Abdul Rahim Osman for the completion of the building was Rs. 15 lakhs or 1.5 million.
The Nakhoda Mosque is a huge structure with a prayer hall that can accommodate 10000 devotees at a time. The architectural style used is Indo – Saracenic where elements from ancient Indian buildings are copied and remodeled to give a semblance of those buildings while using modern building techniques. Thus the mosque is a copy of Mughal Emperor Akbar’s Mausoleum in Sikandara, Agra and the gateway is taken from the Buland Darwaza of Fatehpur-Sikri. To make the perfect likeness, the granite came from Tolepur.
The Nakhoda Masjid has a huge central prayer hall that can hold 10000 faithfuls. There are three domes over the hall flanked by two minarets that are 151 ft. tall. The periphery is covered by smaller minarets that are 15 in number of varying heights between 100 and 117 ft.
Inside the mosque is covered with artistic carving and decorated extensively on columns and pillars and the inside of the domes.
The Nakhoda Mosque is the chief seat of Sunni Muslim sect in Kolkata and is the largest mosque in West Bengal. Located in the busy commercial district of Central Kolkata, the mosque is a landmark in the area. Scores of shops line the road outside the mosque selling a variety of things including ittar which is an essence of flowers and other aromatic compounds.
During Muslim festivals, the whole area is lit up in bright lights and there is a festive mood that is palpable. Street vendors sell biryani and other traditional Muslim sweet-meats.
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Kolkata is the capital of West Bengal and was well developed since the 19th Century AD. There is an international airport in Kolkata; Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose International Airport that brings in air traffic from all over the world. The Domestic Terminal of the airport is also well connected to all the cities and towns of India that are on the air map.
Kolkata is also a busy commercial port that is mainly used for export and import of goods from all over the world. Before air travel became popular, passenger ships and liners from the East and West called on Kolkata Port.
Kolkata is the hub of the Eastern Railway division of the Indian Railways. Trains from the North East, North, South, South East, South West, Central zone all pass through Kolkata bringing passengers and visitors from every nook and cranny of the country. There are four railway stations in Kolkata; Howrah Railway Station and Sealdah Railways Station are the two important ones. Kolkata Station in Chitpur and Shalimar Station in Howrah are the other stations.
Kolkata is well connected by road to the North Easter States as well as Sikkim and Bhutan. The neighboring states of Bihar, Jharkhand, Orissa are connected by State highways and National Highways. State Transport buses ply from small towns and cities on the outskirts of the mega city. Within the city, Metro, local trains, trams, buses, taxis, auto rikshaws and private cars are freely available.
The mosque is open from 6 AM to 8 PM on all days. The prayer hall is full to capacity of 10000 on Fridays and all festival days of Sunni Muslims.
The Nakhoda Mosque bears silent testimony to the tussle for political dominance in the Bengal region between the Mughals and the British. When the British moved their capital to Delhi in 1911, their hold over Bengal was somewhat lessened. The large mosque built in the centre of the erstwhile capital of the British Raj was an indication of the growing power of Muslims in the region. This was amply displayed by the rich merchant from Kutch; Abdul Rahim Osman who could afford to spend as much as 1.5 millions on a mosque in 1926.