Baitul Mukarram, the National Mosque
Baitul Mukarram Mosque is the National Mosque of Bangladesh. In the late 1950s Dhaka grew very rapidly. Abdul Latif Ibrahim Bawani first came up with the idea of building a grand mosque that can accommodate a large number of people of the fast growing city. The ‘Baitul Mukarram Mosque Society’ was formed in 1959 to facilitate the project. Land was allocated for the mosque complex at the meeting point of ‘old’ and ‘new’ Dhaka. The site was also in close proximity to Motijheel, the central business district of the city. Architect T Abdul Hussain Thariani was commissioned to design the mosque
complex. The plan included offices, libraries, shops and parking areas within the complex. Construction of Baitul Mukarram began on January 27, 1960. It was declared the National Mosque after the War of Liberation.
The design of the mosque reflects the architecture of the period as can be seen from the use of a white and almost cube-form for the main building. A mosque without a dome over the roof of its main prayer hall must have been a unique experiment at that time. The main building is eight storied and 99 feet high from the ground level. According to the original plan, the main entrance of the mosque was to be on the eastern side. The ‘shahan’ on the east is 29,000 square feet with ablution space on its south and north sides.
The absence of a dome on the main building is compensated by the two shallow domed entrance porticoes, one on the south, and the other on the north. The elevation of these porticoes consists of three horseshoe shaped arches, the middle of which is bigger than the rest. Two patios ensure that enough light and air enter the prayer halls. The area of the main prayer hall is 26,517 square feet with a mezzanine floor of 1,840 square feet at the eastern side. The hall is surrounded by verandas on three of its sides. The mihrab of the hall is rectangular instead of semi-circular. Excessive ornamentation is avoided throughout the mosque, since minimising ornamentation is typical of modern architecture. According to Thariani’s original plan, the minar was a detached structure on the south side of the main building.
Two new minars are now under construction according to a new plan, following the implementation of which the mosque will be able to accommodate 30,000 musallies for prayer. It is the only mosque with a prayer area for 5,500 women Two hundred people can perform ozu at a time. The reservoir underneath can hold 5 lakh litres of water. There are plans to air-condition the complex.
Besides the prayer area, there is alibrary with over 1.20 lakh religious books and rare copies of Holy Quran.
When constructed, its shops on the ground floor was the shopping area for city elite – there are now 589 of them selling clothes, caps, electronic items, jewellery, carpets etc. Two hundred vehicles can be parked on its premises.
The Baitul Mukarram mosque is modern in its architectural style. But it has not discarded traditional principles of mosque architecture. It has found its place in the hearts of the Muslims because of the resemblance of its form to the famous Ka’aba Sharif at Makkah.