Panaji, Jan 14 (TOI): Nestled between the rich red laterite soils of Surla, the aquatic expanse of River Mandovi, and a lush green forest, the masjid of Surla-Tar is one of the oldest surviving mosques in Goa, dating to the Adil Shah era.Referred to by its geographical name, the masjid of Surla-Tar is said to have been constructed by Ibrahim Adil Shah in the 16th century.
While the architecture bears resemblance to the Safa masjid in Ponda, it lacks a similar visual allure.
Locals say that in the days of yore there was no road leading down to the mosque. Only a dense cashew and mango forest surrounded its premises. Believers would either hike all the way to gain access to the prayer chamber or cross the river on a raft, a mode of transport that was upgraded to canoes and later, ferries. Eventually, a tarred road was constructed down the hill, making transit easy for visitors.
The masjid, however, lost most of its original structure to the ravages of time until it was rebuilt in 1956 and restored to its former glory. The state department of archives and archaeology took over the monument nearly two decades ago and pays occasional visits to the place, residents say.
An ancient water tank sits at the foot of this mosque. The serene waters of this reservoir present a stark contrast to the busy marine traffic floating on the Mandovi river.
“The water tank is not used today. There is a separate tap near the tank, which is used by the faithful for ablutions. There was an underground drainage, which used to run from the tank and empty into the river. At present, the drain is blocked,” writes Tinusha Pereira, a Goa College of Architecture alumnus in her study (2009) of the masjid.
A single untarred road runs between the mosque and the river bank, which leads to Ganjem-Ambeshi. While two-wheelers can pass over this narrow strip with ease, horses served as the means for passage on this route in the yesteryears.
“A boat from the Panaji side of the river would arrive carrying wheat, sugar, rice and flour for Surla residents and in return take fruits, kokum and maddi (taro root) from here to Panaji,” Harun Xa Muzavor (Shah Mujawar), the mosque’s caretaker, says.
In what could be considered a heritage lover’s dream residence, Muzavor, an octogenarian, lives in a house which overlooks the historical masjid and the tranquil waters of its tank. He has been its sole caretaker for decades, the responsibility being passed down his family from one generation to another.
A dargah (shrine) adjoining the river is cocooned behind the masjid. “The remains that lie at this dargah are of a Pir Saheb (saint) and his companion who had come to Goa to build harmony between the conflicting Hindus and Muslims in the pre-Portuguese era. Their names are not known to this date,” Muzavor says.
Sources reveal that the five-day long Shigmo festival in this area usually concludes with a procession to the mosque. Hindu villagers pay gratitude to the saint for bridging the gap between the two communities. This ceremony is called the ‘bhovartalo’.
“The place is open to both Hindu and Muslims, and we have been visiting it for years. This is a perfect example of communal harmony in Goa,” Viraj Govekar, a resident of Surla says.
With his descendants moving to other parts of the state, Muzavor is now looking for a successor to take care of the structure. Even though the monument is under the watchful eyes of the department of archives and archaeology today, Muzavor feels that a structure like the masjid of Surla-Tar needs continuous human presence.
It is because of this he chooses to stay alone in his ancestral home. “I spend my day cleaning the masjid and dargah, sharing information about its heritage with visitors, and looking after the overall management,” he says while walking into the chambers to give the ‘zuhur azaan’ (call for prayer).
Despite his efforts, this stunning piece of Islamic architecture is losing its splendour due to negligence in upkeep.
Heritage activist Prajal Sakhardande says, “The state archaeology department must review the maintenance of this masjid and take care of its upkeep. They must ensure its cleanliness and keep the place litter-free. Periodic inspection of the place must be done.”
9 hours ago 15
Source: Google news