Monday, 29 May, 2023

Historic Tara Mosque still glitters

Historic Tara Mosque still glitters
Tara Mosque constructed by Mirza Gulam Pir in the late 18th century is located in Armanitola area of the capital. Kamrul Islam Ratan

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In the middle of hundreds of unattractive and shabby buildings in the alleys of overcrowded Abdul Khairat Road in Armanitola, an amazing white marble structure decorated with engraved floral and star patterns makes all bound to stop for a while and enjoy its incredible beauty.

Three centuries have passed since the construction of Tara Masjid or Tara Mosque, but still it captures everyone’s attention with its dazzling splendour in one of the oldest parts of Dhaka.

From the walls and floors that touch the ground to the top of the dome on the roof, Tara Mosque is inextricably decorated. The entire interior and exterior of it is adorned with various precious materials, including rare ancient tiles, coloured glass pieces and porcelain plaques.

This method of designing is called ‘Chini Tikri’. Especially when the light inside is turned on, the design of Chini  Tikri cut out of coloured glass pieces on the wall becomes so colourful that it dazzles the eyes at first sight.

Unlike other Mughal architectures, there is no inscription found in the mosque mentioning its founding year. Archaeologists and historians also have differences of opinion regarding the age of Tara Mosque.

According to the trustees of the mosque, it was built in the year 1711, when Dhaka was under Mughal rule. Historian Muntasir Mamun mentions in his book ‘Dhaka: Smriti Bismritir Nagari’ that the mosque was built in the last part of the 18th century, while Banglapedia describes the construction period as being at the beginning of the 19th century.

The mosque on a land of around two bighas and three katha was built by a wealthy landlord named Mirza Gulam Pir. His ancestor Mir Abu Said came to Dhaka from Turkey in search of fortune.

Muntasir Mamun mentioned that in the eighteenth century, his family had developed a relationship with the family of Mir Ashraf Ali, a noble zamindar of Dhaka. Therefore, the business and social influence of the Mirzas increased considerably in the consequent years.

Initially the Tara Mosque was a tiny three-domed structure made with marble imported from Rajmahal of India. The length of the building was 10.06 metres and the width was 4.04 metres.

There were three mihrabs on the Qibla wall in alignment with the three doorways of the mosque, of which the central one was larger than the side ones. The prayer chamber was roofed with three domes, the central one being taller and larger than the other two.

The original mosque building was not as decorated as it is now. The dilapidated plain and naked wall of the western side bears witness to the plainness of the past. The three southern doorways of the mosque are no doubt the old ones.

Tara Mosque has gone through several renovations. In 1926, a wealthy merchant named Ali

Jaan Bepari,        who was a resident of Armanitola, took the initiative to refurbish the entire mosque.

He imported exquisite, precious china clay tiles from Japan and England. Then, with the help of skilled local artisans, he decorated the entire mosque walls, even the domes, with beautiful floral and star shaped patterns.

In the white marble background, the glistening engraved stars and floral patterns offer a magical environment of light and shade in the mosque through reflecting sunlight in different angles.

There are also verses from the holy Quran engraved in the interior walls. A courtyard and the star-shaped fountain were built at that time on the eastern side of the mosque.

Ali Jan Bepari did not change the original structural design of the mosque and only beautified the existing structure but in 1987, the government’s archaeological department extended the prayer hall and included two more domes, damaging its original historic structure in the name of beautification.

Tara Mosque still shines with all its rare features and attracts a big number of local and foreign tourists to enjoy its perpetual beauty.