Chowk Bazar Shahi Mosque also known as Chowk Mosque is one of the oldest Mosques in Dhaka. It is located in the Chowk Bazar area of the old town of Dhaka, south to the current city center.
The mosque was constructed in 1676 by Subahdar Shayesta Khan (সুবাহদার শায়েস্তা খান). It is called ‘Shahi Mosque’ as it is founded by Subahdar Shayesta Khan. The mosque is built above a raised platform. The three domed mosque above the platform, now transformed into a multi-storied structure was originally a copy of Shayesta Khan’s another three domed mosque at the Mitford Hospital compound near the Buriganga River. Some square shaped rooms may be built for Imam and for students of the Madrashah. As a result of several renovation & reconstruction work, this mosque has lost its ancient original view.
History: This Mosque was constructed in 1676, as noted by an inscription in the Persian language over a gateway. The inscription attributes the project to Subahdar Shaista Khan. So far, this is known as the earliest dated mosque in the History of Muslim Architecture in Bengal, built on a high vaulted platform. Its architectural design was perhaps influenced by Tughlaq Architectures; such as Khirki Masjid or Kalan Mosque of Delhi. Influenced by this structure, some other mosques were built in Dhaka and Murshidabad.
Architectural Properties: The western half of the 3.05 meter high vaulted platform (28.65 meter from north to south and 24.38 meter from east to west) is occupied by the original three-domed mosque. It measures, inclusive of the four octagonal towers on the exterior angles, 16.15 meter by 7.92 meter. There are three four-centered archways in the east, all opening out under half-domed vaults. The half-domed vault of the central archway still contains beautiful Muqarnas works in stucco.
Corresponding to the three eastern entrances, there are three Mihrabs inside the west wall, all now redesigned. The central mihrab still has a semi-octagonal aperture, while its flanking counterparts are rectangular in design. The mihrabs are now all studded with lustrous pieces of enamel. The rectangular frames enclosing the mihrabs are now topped by rows of painted cresting. The floor of the mosque is now laid with marble.
Three bays divides interior view of this Mosque- the central one square shaped and the side ones are rectangular. All these bays were covered with domes, the central one being bigger than its flanking counterparts. This can be deduced from the newly built three-domed prayer chamber exactly above the original one, where the central dome has been kept larger than the side ones.
The vaulted rooms, all round underneath the platform, are either square or rectangular in shape. Many of them are now let out to shopkeepers and others are still being used as accommodation. The under ceilings of these rooms are flat on the top and barrel-shaped at the sides.
Very uniquely designed and Space utilized Madrasa & Mosque: The promenade around the three domed prayer chamber, since there was no separate structure for study purpose, might have been used for open-air classes and the vaulted room with book-shelves on their walls underneath the platform may have been designed to provide residential accommodation for those who used to teach and study here. In that perspective, Chawk Mosque may be regarded as the first known example of Residential Madrasa Mosque.
It is an ingenious way of accommodating two structures-a madrasa and a mosque in a single building which not only saved space but also a considerable amount of money.