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Fascinating Bengal

Discussion in 'Bangladesh Defence Forum' started by TopCat, Nov 4, 2009.

  1. CaPtAiN_pLaNeT

    CaPtAiN_pLaNeT SENIOR MEMBER

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    Dhaka Gardens of Yesteryear: Dilkusha Garden, Part I

    The "Nawab" family of Dhaka owned several garden estates near the city. Two of these, originally on the outskirts of of town, are now well within city limits. One of these was the Dilkusha garden ("Dil kusha" means "heart pleasing"). In Mughal times there was mansion known as Rang Mahal, built by one Mirza Mohammed, which stood on the land. Eventually the property came under the ownership of the Khwaja familyNawab Khwaja Abdul Ghani built the Dilkusha garden house for his son Ahsanullah in 1866. When Ahsan Manzil was badly damaged in the tornado of 1888, this house served for a time as the principal residence of the family.

    In 1905, at the time of the first partition of Bengal, the government leased the southern part of this estate to construct a new government HQ and official residence of the Lt. Governor. After the creation of Pakistan, the residence of the Governor of East Pakistan was located here. Today the elegant Mughal inspired mansion is known as Banga Bhaban ("Bengal House") and is the official residence of the President of Bangladesh.

    The northern part of the Dilkusha garden complex was acquired by the government in 1957 and added to the newly created Motijheel Commercial Area which was adjacent to the site. Various office buildings including RajUK HQ now occupy the land.

    Below is a pic of principal mansion of the Dilkusha garden, which was located east of where the RajUK building is today:

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    This is Mosque of Shah Jalal Dakhini at Dilkusha. I am not sure exactly when it was built, but it probably dates from the Mughal period. Several members of the "nawab" family are buried within the mosque compound. The mosque survives today and is located next to Jibon Bima Tower.

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    "Manuk House" was built by the zamindar of that name and was located within the Dilkusha estate. You may recall that Manuk was one of the Armenians who found their fortunes in Dhaka - I posted a pic of his riverfront mansion in post 59 (page 3) of this thread. This building has also survived and today is located within the Banga Bhaban complex.

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    Farhat Manzil was another mansion of the "nawab" family within the Dilkusha Garden

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    Part of the gardens at Dilkusha:

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    Pavilion on the edge of a pond in Dilkusha Garden. This pond still survives as part of the Banga Bhaban complex.

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    Bridge over a lake in Dilkusha Garden:

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    Deer in Dilkusha Garden:

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  2. LaBong

    LaBong ELITE MEMBER

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  3. CaPtAiN_pLaNeT

    CaPtAiN_pLaNeT SENIOR MEMBER

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    Dhaka Gardens of Yesteryear - Shahbagh

    In Mughal times there was a garden called Bagh-e-Badshahi ("Royal Garden") in the area currently occupied by the Old High Court and Shishu Academy. To the north of this was some sort of palace complex in an area then known as Sujatpur. Inbetween the two, there was a large meadow called Ramna. In colonial times Sujatpur Palace area was purchased by the Armenian zamindar Aratun, who built two garden houses on that land (those who follow this thread may recall that Aratun also built the precursor to Ruplal House). The area north of Sujatpur was purchased by another zamindar, Nuruddin Hossain, who then built Nurkhan Bazar on this land. Khwaja Alimullah bought these two properties (of Aratun and Nuruddin Hossain) in 1840. His grandson, Ahsanullah, one of the latter-day "nawabs" of Dhaka, developed the garden from the 1870s to include the buildings seen below as well as a zoo and other structures. The garden was an important venue of the Dhaka social scene in the late 19th / early 20th centuries and is also historically important as the setting for foundation of the Muslim League of India in 1906. Anually at the Christian New Year there was also an exposition of agricultural and indigenous industrial products held on the grounds. Today by land is divided between the Dhaka University's TSC and Arts and Business departments, plus the National Museum.

    Two views of the main mansion of the Shah Bagh garden:

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    The "Darbar Hall" of the Shahbagh garden, where the Muslim League of India was founded in 1906, setting in motion a chain of events leading to the creation of Pakistan. The building survives and today is the well known "Madhu's Canteen" of Dhaka University.

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  4. CaPtAiN_pLaNeT

    CaPtAiN_pLaNeT SENIOR MEMBER

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    Gotta go... enough for today... will come back with more picture.... hope all of you will like the picture that I have posted and will all like the future posts... :)
     
    Last edited: Nov 8, 2010
  5. CaPtAiN_pLaNeT

    CaPtAiN_pLaNeT SENIOR MEMBER

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    Historic Gardens of Dhaka - Baldah Garden

    Baldah Garden is actually two gardens on either of side of a road in the Wari neighborhood of Old Dhaka. This botanical garden was founded in 1909 by local zamindar Narendra Narayan Roy Chaudhury (1880 - 1943), a noted naturalist and philanthropist. The gardens are named Cybele and Psyche after characters from Greek mythology. The property was acquired by the government in 1962. The gardens boast an outstanding collection of 15,000 plants from 672 species.

    When I was younger an aunt of mine was in charge of this garden, so I would visit there not infrequently. Back in those days, everything was maintained in tip-top shape. However, from what I have read things have downhill since then. Maintenance is not nearly what is used to be, plants are threatened by poor sunlight secondary to highrises that now encircle the garden as well as higher levels of air pollution, and miscreants from nearby slums have harassed visitors. This being a garden, as opposed to a building, and being in government hands, gives me hope that in the future it will once again receive the care that it deserves, and be restored to its former self.

    Mr. Chaudhury is one of the people seen seated in this photo. Unfortunately, I don't know which one of them he is . Besides Baldah Garden, he also created the Baldah Museum from his collections. These artifacts are currently displayed in the National Museum.

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    Pond within the Cybele section of the garden:

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    Photo by Anwar Hossain, Dhaka Portrait:

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  6. CaPtAiN_pLaNeT

    CaPtAiN_pLaNeT SENIOR MEMBER

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    Historic Gardens of Dhaka - Rose Garden

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    Around the turn of the last century jalsas (parties) held at Baldah Garden (see previous post) were an important part of the social life of the city's wealthier Hindu residents. The story goes that Hrishikesh Das, a zamindar of lower caste background, being insulted on this account by someone at one of the jalsas at Baldah Garden, decided to create his own garden to outshine that of Baldah. Here he staged jalsas of his own. The centerpiece of the garden is an elegant pavilion, which in other threads on this site, has been referred to as a "palace" or "mansion". However, this building was not built as a residence, but rather a setting for entertainment such as musical performances (although subsequent owners did use it as a house). Unfortunately for Mr. Das his extravagant lifestyle caused him to go bankrupt and he was forced to sell his garden. Today this property remains in private hands. The owners are usually pretty accommodating towards visitors. The gardens themselves are rather uncared for and few of the rose plants for which it was once famous survive. The main pavilion however remains in a reasonably good state of preservation. The garden is decorated with classical statuettes. Of note, this garden is also historically significant as the setting for the foundation of the Awami League in 1949. Of course the AL has many opponents today but back then it was the only political voice for East Pakistanis. The complex in its current state could easily be restored to its former elegance. However as long as the property remains in private hands there is always the danger that it be torn down and replaced with a highrise apartment or some other structure.

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    Some pictures of Rose Garden of 1998:

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  7. CaPtAiN_pLaNeT

    CaPtAiN_pLaNeT SENIOR MEMBER

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    The Heritage Buildings of Tipu Sultan Road – A Failure of Architectural Conservation - Part I

    The story of architectural conservation in Bangladesh is mostly one of loss. Once in a while, there are some major triumphs – Ahsan Manzil, Lalbagh Fort, etc. However, for every success story, there are many more battles which are lost. While I don’t want to turn this into a doom-and-gloom thread, I can’t change the realities on the ground. One of the most regrettable losses in recent years has taken place on Tipu Sultan Road. The case of the heritage buildings of Tipu Sultan Road, which I will discuss in three parts, is also a good illustration of the incompetency of the Directorate of Archaeology, which listed them as being among Dhaka’s “protected” landmarks.

    The British Raj was a prosperous time for one segment of the Hindu community, who found wealth through the zamindari system and elsewhere. In colonial times they accounted for most of Dhaka’s wealthy class. Their houses tended to be clustered in a few neighborhoods – Farashganj (see previous post), Sutrapur, Tipu Sultan Road, Narinda, and Wari. Among the affluent residents of Tipu Sultan Road, the Banik family was most prominent. They built several beautiful buildings along this street.

    I have stated previously, that if I could save only two Old Dhaka mansions, those would be Ahsan Manzil and Ruplal House. If I could save only three, the third would be Bhajahari Lodge. Sadly, I am not sure whether there is still time.

    Bhajahari Lodge

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    Of the three Banik brothers, the eldest, Bhajahari Saha Banik, had the grandest mansion. Unlike Ahsan Manzil and Ruplal House, which draw primarily upon classical European traditions, Bhajahari Lodge was designed in an Indo-Saracenic aesthetic. “Indo-Saracenic” was an architectural style, popular during the Raj, that sought to blend European and South Asian traditions. Curzon Hall is another example of this style. Typically, the end result of this admixture was a building that turned out to be picturesque, but not particularly elegant. However, Bhajahari Lodge, just like Curzon Hall, was a handsome exception to the rule.

    As you can see in the picture above (which was taken before the changes I mention below), the building is two storied and generally symmetric in design, having a frontage of about 150 feet facing Tipu Sultan Road. The forecourt used to showcase an elegant fountain which has long since disappeared. There are three large halls on each floor. Two staircases lead upstairs, the grander being at the southeast corner.

    The Lodge, despite being one of Dhaka’s “protected” landmarks, is currently occupied by Salimullah College. I visited the mansion in 2000. At that time, the school had built a new multistory building in the area of the front courtyard, obscuring the view of the building from the road. More tragically, the central portion of the front façade had been demolished in order to build a connection to the new building now standing in front of it. In fact, although I don't know the details, the building is supposedly at the center of an legal dispute between Salimullah College and Graduate High School, the terms of which have encouraged demolition of parts of the building. I have not seen any recent pictures of this beautiful mansion. I don’t know if it still (partially) survives, or has been demolished altogether.
     
  8. CaPtAiN_pLaNeT

    CaPtAiN_pLaNeT SENIOR MEMBER

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    The Heritage Buildings of Tipu Sultan Road – A Failure of Architectural Conservation - Part II

    Shankhanidhi Lodge

    There is no better illustration of the incompetence, indeed outright criminal negligence, of the government, in regards to architectural conservation, than the case of Shankhanidhi Lodge. The Lodge, the home of the two younger Banik brothers (see previous post), actually consisted of two main structures, a mansion and a dance hall, as well as a small cottage. They were located quite close to Bhajahari Lodge on Tipu Sultan Road. The Hindu owners left the country after the War of 1971 (many wealthy Hindus already having left after the creation of Pakistan in 1947 and subsequent abolition of the zamindari system in 1950), and the property was placed under the control of the Ministry of Land Reforms. The ministry, however, sold the estate to a private individual. This transaction was completely illegal. In the late 1980s, Shankhanidhi Lodge, along with many other Dhaka heritage buildings, was placed on a list of “protected” landmarks by the Directorate of Archaeology. However, in 1991, the guy who owned the Lodge decided to tear it down. Concerned citizens learned of his plans and alerted the Directorate of Archaeology. The Directorate, however, decided to do nothing. Why so, you ask? Well, they did make some high and mighty statements, which give some insight into their thought process. For one, they refused to believe that private individuals would learn of such a demolition before they themselves did. For another, they said that since demolishing “protected” buildings was illegal, no one would dare to do such a thing. So, (big surprise) the house and dance hall were destroyed as planned. They were replaced by a few tin sheds and a small plastics factory. The final irony in the whole matter is that The Directorate had never completely documented the existence of these two “protected” buildings. As a consequence, they would not be able to take legal action against the owner, even if they wanted to. Remember, guys, that the main job of the Directorate is to protect our built heritage. They have nothing else to do all day long. Public money pays for their salaries. Yet, out of sheer laziness and apathy, they chose to do nothing in the rare instance when action was demanded of them.

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    Shankhanidhi House is partially visible on the picture above. On the outside, the building, designed in a classical Eurpean style, was really no different from many other mansions built during the Raj. However, the interior was more reflective of the affluence of the Banik family, with the rooms (which included a central hall surrounded by apartments), all paved with marble. An elegant cottage stood next to the house.

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    More significant architecturally, was the dance hall (above). This elaborately ornamented structure was designed to look like a temple, but was intended for cultural not religeous functions. The central hall had a decorated wooden ceiling and walls covered with glazed tilework.
     
  9. CaPtAiN_pLaNeT

    CaPtAiN_pLaNeT SENIOR MEMBER

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    The Heritage Buildings of Tipu Sultan Road - A Failure of Architectural Conservation - Part III

    Radha-Krishna Temple

    The Radha-Krishna Temple, located very close to Bhajahari Lodge, was also built by the Banik family. As originally conceived this was undoubtedly one of the most attractive religeous structures in Dhaka. The temple is fronted by a rectangular courtyard. On three sides of this courtyard, are two-storeyed, arcaded buildings buildings, which used to house pilgrims. The ornate one-storeyed temple stands at the far end of the courtyard. Although single storeyed, the height, including the decorative elements on its roof, was equal to that of the other buildings around the courtyard. All in all, a very pleasing composition of buildings that lends a sense to grandeur to this not-so-big temple. The temple used to boast an multi-arched entrance, elaborate floral decoration, marble stairs and floors, and colored glass windows. The first picture below shows how the temple used to look like before recent times. The second picture is a detail of the ornamentation, showing combination of Mughal and European elements..

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    The priest of the temple was killed in 1965 in violence preceding secession from Pakistan. The family of the priest left for Calcutta and the temple was abandoned. The complex today is in private hands and no longer holds religeous services. The owner wanted to demolish it and build something else in its place but was dissuaded by protests from the local Hindu community. Instead what he has done (if I can see correctly from the picture below, which was taken last year) is build a multistory structure on top of the temple. In doing so, the decorative elements on the roof of the temple have been demolished. The formerly open archways have been closed off and the building itself remains locked up. The courtyard is used as an auto repair workshop and rooms in the other three buildings surrounding it are rented out. Like the other Tipu Sultan Road landmarks which I wrote of earlier, this complex was also added to the list of Dhaka's "protected" sites in the 1980s by the Directorate of Archaeology. As with those other buildings, this designation has turned out to be pretty meaningless. However, more so than the other three structures, with adequate funding and political will, the possiblity of easily restoring the temple to a semblance of its former self, is still a possibility.
     
  10. CaPtAiN_pLaNeT

    CaPtAiN_pLaNeT SENIOR MEMBER

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    Rebati Mohan Lodge

    Of the many beautiful old mansions in Old Dhaka, four usually merit mention in books on hisotric architecture. We have talked about three of them previously - Ahsan Manzil, Ruplal House, and Bhajahari Lodge. The fourth is Rebati Mohan Lodge, home of the zamindar of Sutrapur, at the east end of Old Dhaka. This large manor is oriented north-south with the west front facing the road and the east facing the Dolai Khal, which flows into the Buriganga. The house is comprised of two blocks, built at different times, featuring several inner courtyards and a total of about seventy rooms. The southern block, the older of the two, is also the more artistically significant, being rendered in a dignified neo-classical aesthetic. The northern block is less ornamented and shows more modern influences. This building is also included in the list of Dhaka's "protected" landmarks, which readers of this pseudo-blog know as being a pretty meaningless designation. However, unlike many other buildings on that aforementioned list, the last time I saw this building, it had survived intact other than some age related wear and tear. In its present state this grand dame could easily be restored. However, as I have mentioned previously, as long as any such structure remains in private hands, it can at any time be torn down at the will of its owner.

    The first pic was taken by me some years ago, and shows the west front of the southern block. The next image shows the layout of the whole building, while the last is again a render of the west face of the southern section.

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  11. CaPtAiN_pLaNeT

    CaPtAiN_pLaNeT SENIOR MEMBER

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    For any of you with an interest in Dhaka history, the following pictures should be pretty special. They are to me. In looking through books on Dhaka history, I had noticed, in several places, paintings dated from the 1840s. I had wondered if they belonged to some series. This suspicion was proved when I found the whole series on a British Library website. Someone painted the entire Dhaka waterfront in the 1840s. I wish I knew who this was, but all the site says is that the paintings were published by Dickinson. I don't know if Dickinson is the painter or publisher. Anyway, enjoy!

    I will post these pictures in groups of two, which means that you will have to scroll right for the whole image. I will be posting the descriptions of the images separately, so you don't have to scroll. I will post the commentary to the first set in just a little bit. The two pics below, show the western end of the Dhaka riverfront. We will be cruising east. Can you identify the landmark which takes up about half the images?

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    ---------- Post added at 02:21 PM ---------- Previous post was at 02:20 PM ----------

    Could you identify the landmark in my last post? The one starting on the right end of the first pic and extending throughout the most of the second pic? The answer of course, is Lalbagh Fort, an impressive sight from the River Buriganga in days gone by. The river has since changed its course and the Fort is no longer visible from the river.

    Can you spot the massive pillars at the western end of the Fort, seen at the right of the first pic? I had posted Charles D’Oyly’s sketch of these pillars in the first post of this thread (see below). I don’t know what purpose they served.

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    ook along the ramparts in the second pic. You will see many structures along the top which no longer survive today. Notice also the dome of Pari Bibi’s tomb peeking out from behind the walls, at the left of the second pic, and the main gate of the fort, at the right of the second pic.
     
  12. CaPtAiN_pLaNeT

    CaPtAiN_pLaNeT SENIOR MEMBER

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    The second set of pictures. Remember this is continuous with the first set, moving east. I will post a commentary on these pics later today. Noticeable in the first pic, a temple which must have been a prominent landmark at one time. I will provide a little more info on this temple in my commentary. In the second pic, can you spot an Old Dhaka landmark I wrote about earlier? See if you can guess, if not you will find the answer in my commentary.

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    ---------- Post added at 02:23 PM ---------- Previous post was at 02:22 PM ----------

    Some notes to go along with the pictures in post 131. You can see in the first picture, a temple prominently positioned along the riverfront. I don't know what the name of the this temple was. The main building of the temple was washed away by the Buriganga around 1880 (under what exact circumstances - erosion or flooding, etc, I don't know). The tower / sprire of the temple stood for a few more years before collapsing as well. The picture below was taken after the temple building had been washed away, but the tower still standing.

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    On the far right of the second pic, you can see Bara Katra, the principal Mughal caravanserai of Dhaka. At this time (1840s) it was still visible from the river. I posted pics and info about this building in the first page of this thread, so check it out if you are interested.

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    Last edited: Nov 9, 2010
  13. CaPtAiN_pLaNeT

    CaPtAiN_pLaNeT SENIOR MEMBER

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    Continuing eastward along the riverfront, circa 1840. Remember that the scene below is continuous with the last two parts of this series. Visible in these two images are two buildings which I wrote about earlier in this thread. Can you tell which ones? I'll post the commentary.

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  14. CaPtAiN_pLaNeT

    CaPtAiN_pLaNeT SENIOR MEMBER

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    Could you identify the two landmarks in the previous post? Seen prominently in the middle of the first pic is the Chhotta Katra (Small Caravanserai). I wrote about this building in the first page of this thread and posted an old photograph during the first river cruise on the third age of this thread(reposted below).

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    See the mosque in the second pic? I'm pretty sure that's the Mosque of Mirza Ghulam Pir. I posted an old pic of this mosque during the first river cruise on the third page of this thread (reposted below). If you recall, Mr. Pir is also responsible for the construction of the well known Tara Masjid (Star Mosque). You can find some more info about him on page 3 of this thread.

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    If you combine the second pic in post 131 with the first pic in last post , you can see both "katras" together (Bara Katra on the left, Chhotta Katra on the right):

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  15. CaPtAiN_pLaNeT

    CaPtAiN_pLaNeT SENIOR MEMBER

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    Remember that these paintings are part of a continuous panorama, headed east from post 133. In these two images you can see three buildings which I wrote about, and posted pictures of, previously. Can you tell which ones?

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