Located on the banks of the Ichhamati River (aka Kadamtali canal), the historic Ishwaripur village was once the capital of Pratapaditya, a Zamindar and later Maharaja of Jashore.
He was among the most influential of the Baro-Bhuiyan (one of the 12 feudal lords of Bengal who declared their sovereignty from the Mughal Empire) of the Indian subcontinent.
The capital of Maharaja Pratapaditya was once located at Dhumghat, a strategic position at the confluence of the Jamuna and the Ichhamati.
Later, due to his fight against the Mughal Empire, he transferred his capital to Ishwaripur, which was the capital from 1590 to 1610. And now this 1.5-square-kilometre area is under the Shyamnagar Upazila of Satkhira.
The ancient capital of South Bengal is renowned for several heritage sites, including the Jeshoreshwari Kali Temple, the triangular Chanda Bhairab Temple (built during the Sena period), Govinda Dev Temple (built by Basanta Roy, the uncle of Maharaja Pratapaditya), Twin Shiva Temple of Haricharan Ray Chowdhuri's zamindar palace, the five-domed Tenga Mosque, and a four small-domed Hamam Khana built in the late 16th century by Maharaja Pratapaditya.
According to legend, a general of the Maharaja Pratapaditya's army was attracted to the undergrowth by a beam of light. Upon closer inspection, he found that the light was emanating from a piece of stone in the shape of a human palm. The temple was built on the site of this discovery and named Jeshoreshwari.
Moreover, the first Catholic Church of Bengal was built in the village at the same time, by Portuguese soldiers under the rule of the Hindu king.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited the Jeshoreshwari Kali Temple on 27 March 2021, marking his recent landmark visit to Bangladesh.
A large rectangular covered platform called 'Natmandir' was erected adjacent to the main temple, from where the face of the goddess can be seen. Raja Laxman Sen renovated this in the late 13th century. After 1971, it crumbled. Now only the pillars can be seen.
The length of the Tenga Mosque is plain with 2.13m thick walls. The eastern exterior of the mosque is pierced with five domed doorways; only one doorway exists in the north and south walls.
The mosque deserves special appreciation due to its ground plan. It can be considered as the most ancient example of Muslim architecture of Bengal, which consists of five domes in the same line.
After the fall of Pratapaditya, Ishwaripur became a forest, and people began leaving the area. Mughal Foujder and Zamnidar also retreated from the area. In the end, the area was used by local robbers as a den.
Robbers worshipped the goddess Kali at that time. After several hundred years, people from other villages came to worship the goddess.
Ishwaripur has a long history of socio-religious harmony. The Jeshoreshwari Kali Temple, the Catholic Church, and the Tenga Mosque play an important role in the villagers' harmonious relationships.
The Ichhamati River flowing through India and Bangladesh forms a natural boundary between the two countries. The river also plays an important role in Hindu religious rituals, especially during Durga Puja.
The final day of the celebration sees worshippers from both India and Bangladesh mixing freely as they take to the river on decorated boats and immerse their idols on the lone day of the year where religious ritual outweighs the otherwise strict border controls between the two countries.
As the village 'Ishwaripur' represents various heritage sites, the government together with all concerned should come forward to preserve the landmarks and carry out proper research to safeguard the history of the place.
The wall on the west of the mosque has five semi-circular mihrab apertures in alignment with the eastern doorways. The central mihrab and the central entrance are larger than their flanking counterparts and are projected outside.
The mosque is partitioned internally into five independent square apartments, of which the central one is bigger (6.40m a side) than the other ones (5.70m a side).
Axial archways interconnect all the apartments in the north-south alignment, which correspond to the single arched gateway in the middle of the north and south walls.
There are five domes over the roof, one over each apartment; the central one is larger than those on top of the other apartments.
The Jeshoreshwari Kali Temple
The Jeshoreshwari Kali Temple is considered as one of the 51 Pithas (places of worship) of Sati (Durga), representing the palm of Sati's hand when she fell during Shiva's Rudra Tandava, an epic tale depicting the violent aspect of Shiva's nature as the destroyer of the universe.
According to legend, a general of the Maharaja Pratapaditya's army was attracted to the undergrowth by a beam of light. Upon closer inspection, he found that the light was emanating from a piece of stone in the shape of a human palm.
The temple was built on the site of this discovery and named Jeshoreshwari, an important pilgrimage site, where Hindus travelled from far and wide to worship.
How to go there
There are many A/C and non-A/C buses which travel directly from Dhaka to Shyamnagar Upazila in Satkhira. The journey usually takes six to seven hours. The bus fare is around Tk1,000.
Once you reach Shyamnagar, you can take a rickshaw or an auto rickshaw to visit the temple, mosque, and church. The rickshaw fare is approximately Tk60-70.
All three spots can be visited within a day. The locals are usually quite helpful and friendly.