“It's our heritage,” Mohammad Babuluzzaman, current chairman of Atia union parishad, told the Daily Satr on Friday, August 28.
“Local people, together with the local administration, have taken steps on several occasions to protect the site. But the Department of Archaeology always discourages us.”
Babuluzzaman was taking about the centuries-old Atia mosque which was built on the bank of the Louhajang River in Tangail's Delduar upazila in 1609 as a gift by the Mughal emperor Jahangir.
Located adjacent to the shrine of Hazrat Shahan Shah who came from Kashmir to Atia in about 1508 along with 49 followers to preach Islam in the region, the archaeological site has a national significance.
Reflecting the beauty of the Bengali art, the nine-foot walls of the mosque is decorated with terracotta plaques.
Nowadays, most of the colorful plaques are fading and losing their paints, while others are damaged.
“Many plaques are worn,” says the current Imam of the mosque, Farid Ahmed.
“Parts of its unique decoration are falling off and water is leaking on the top of the structure.”
Over the past centuries, Atia mosque was restored many times. In 1837, the mosque was restored by Rowshan Khatoon Chowdhurani, a female merchant from Delhi, after being badly damaged in 1800 earthquake.
The historic mosque came under the archaeology department's responsibility in 1978. Partially repaired in 2000 and 2009, the mosques need urgent repairs, according to the mosque's caretaker Monirul Haque.
“After sending reports, senior Department of Archaeology officials visited the mosque about six months ago to examine the structure,” Haque says,
“And they assured us repair work would begin by this year.” Yet there is no sign of activity. With a population of 144 million, Bangladesh is the world's third-largest Muslim-majority nation.