Bangladesh’s Sparkling Star Mosque

In a city well known for its numerous mosques, the Star Mosque (Tara Masjid) stands out as a sparkling jewel in the Armanitola area in the older part of the city of Dhaka, Bangladesh. Although the mosque has no inscription relating to the date of construction, it is known that the mosque was erected by the son of a prominent landowner (zaminder), Mirza Golam Pir who died in 1860. Therefore, it is generally agreed that the beautiful Star Mosque, which at that time was known as Mosque of Mirza Shaheb, was built in the first half of the 19th century.

The original Mughal architectural style mosque was a three-domed oblong structure with three mihrabs (prayer areas facing Mecca) in alignment with the three doorways of the mosque, with the central mihrab being larger than those flanking it. The prayer chamber was covered by three domes, with the central dome being taller and larger than the other two. Unlike the mosque as it stands today, there was very little in the way of decoration of the original building.

Alijan Bepari, a local businessman, made some changes to the Star Mosque in 1926. Along with some extensions, such as a verandah with five arches on the eastern side, he financed the resurfacing of the mosque with richly colored, delicate tiles in a variety of patterns. Extensive renovations and additions to the Star Mosque were undertaken in 1987 resulting in the five-domed mosque that exists today.

The Star Mosque gets its name from the fact that it is predominantly decorated with stars. The white marble domes are decorated with hundreds of blue stars that shine in the sunlight. Throughout the mosque the walls, columns, floors and ceilings are decorated with mosaics of flowers in vases, crescents, Arabic calligraphic writing and hundreds of stars, mostly made from small chips of Chinaware crockery and pieces of glass. This unusual and beautiful form of mosaic work is known as “Chini Tikri”.

In the hustle and bustle of the busy city of Dhaka, the serenely beautiful Star Mosque stands out as a symbol of Islam, the dominant religion of Bangladesh.