City

Cuttack’s Qadam-e-Rasool: Unveiling Timeless Legacy Of Islamic Architecture In Odisha

By
Shradha Suman

Cuttack: Cuttack, one of India’s most ancient urban centres, has roots stretching back over two millennia. This resilient city has been witness to the rise and fall of mighty dynasties and civilisations; yet it has preserved remarkable remnants of its storied past.

Cuttack’s history is a vast tapestry woven with countless threads, but certain sites stand out as particularly significant markers of its rich heritage. One such monument that commands attention is the Qadam-e-Rasool shrine, nestled amidst the bustling Dargah Bazar area. While wandering through these lively streets lined with weathered colonial-era buildings adorned with intricate details, one is transported back in time, the air thick with tales of a bygone era. The Qadam-e-Rasool itself, a hallowed burial ground turned shrine, holds immense religious significance, for it is said to enshrine the very footprint of the Prophet Mohammed imprinted upon a rock, hence its literal meaning “the footprint of the messenger.”

According to the accounts of historian Mohammad Yamin, the origins of this revered relic can be traced back to the Alamgiri era under Aurangzeb’s rule. It was Haji Syed Alimullah, a close relative of Syed Hashim of Mashar of Persian, who brought the sacred relic bearing the signature of the Sherif of Mecca from Najab in Arabia to the village of Kukuriapada in Cuttack district. Initially placed under a Khirni tree, a testament to its authenticity, the site was aptly named Rasulpur, and its presence was believed to miraculously heal numerous ailments.

Word of the relic’s powers soon reached Shujauddin Mohammed Khan, the Deputy Nazim of Odisha during Aurangzeb’s reign, who yearned to pay homage. As the ‘Guardian of the Country’ appointed by the Mughals, this Islamic patron recognised the immense significance of the Qadam-e-Rasool and sought to honour the Prophet’s legacy with a fitting tribute. However, due to poor communication, the relic was relocated to Cuttack in 1099 Amli under the direction of Diwan Muhammed Ali, finding temporary shelter in a humble straw-thatched house at Jobra Ghat on the banks of the Mahanadi.

Over time, this humble abode was transformed into a magnificent two-storey mosque by Shuja-ud-Din Muhammad Khan at Dargah Bazaar. The octagonal structure, built upon an octagonal plinth, stands tall as a prime example of Mughal architecture, adorned with intricate paintings and Persian inscriptions within its central hall. Yet, it also seamlessly incorporates elements of the Odia style of temple and monument construction, serving as a testament to the unique Indo-Islamic architectural synergy that flourished in this region.

According to ASI member Jeevan Pattnaik, the shrine once boasted a Mughal garden within its premises, a verdant oasis now lost to the ravages of time. “Nothing remains to this date,” Pattnaik told Odisha Bytes

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The entire Qadam-e-Rasool complex comprises three significant structures – Moti Masjid, Qadam-e-Rasool Masjid itself, and the Nawabat Khana, where devotees and saints gather to revel in the soul-stirring melodies of Sufi music and evening prayers. Radiating outward from the central hall, the site encompasses a vast Muslim graveyard, a final resting place for numerous notable Islamic personalities throughout history, including Shaheed Pani, Atharuddin Mohammed, Mohammad Mohsin, Sayeed Mohammed, Begum Badar un nissa Akhtar, Afzal-ul Amin, Sikandar Alam, and Muhammad Taqi Khan, a former Nawab of Masulipatam, Nawab of Cuttack, and Subedar of Odisha. To this day, it remains a revered burial ground for many prominent Muslim families of the city.

However, it has its own share of controversies. Researcher Anil Dhir told Odisha Bytes about the communal disputes surrounding the mosque, with claims that it was built upon the ruins of a Hindu temple. While official records do not explicitly mention the deliberate destruction of any temple, Dhir points to evidence found at the pond of Qadam-e-Rasool, stating, “There are lots of temple remnants there.”

He also recalled how, long back, he had requested Trilochan Kanungo, a former mayor of Cuttack, to dry the pond to reveal potential archaeological treasures lurking beneath its waters. It was Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH) that undertook the ambitious renovation project of this centuries-old heritage site, with Cuttack Municipal Corporation entrusting the Industrial Infrastructure Development Corporation (IDCO) with the landscaping work. The renovation project, funded by a substantial Rs 1.5 crore grant from the Indian Government, aimed to restore the mosque to its former glory.

Nevertheless, Qadam-e-Rasool with its enduring presence as a proud monument to Cuttack’s rich cultural heritage, stands testimony to the city’s resilient spirit that has withstood the tides of time. Beyond religious differences and cultural disputes, this sacred site inspires and uplifts all who bear witness to its grandeur, a testament to the harmonious coexistence of the past and present that makes Cuttack a truly fascinating destination for history enthusiasts, spiritual seekers, and cultural explorers alike.

Shradha Suman

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