Walking through the narrow, crowded alleys of Old Dhaka, or Puran Dhaka, always gives me a view into the history and background of our vibrant city. The old buildings with diverse architectural designs that still remain or the local people speaking the delightful local dialect, known as Dhakaiya, reflect the centuries of migrations and settlements that shape our historic city.
The names of the streets and neighbourhoods themselves reflect the diverse history of the city. Simpson Road, Johnson Road, Buckland Bund are, for example, relics from the colonial era, while Armanitola is a reminder of the Armenian community that once settled in Dhaka, and so on.
A few months ago, I had gone on one of my visits to the archaeological relics of old Dhaka and it was already evening; I was walking along a wide street and very soon found myself in Sadarghat, the historically important port of Dhaka. I observed the Buriganga River, the once-beautiful river on which our city was built. Today, the glory of the river has almost faded away, it is greatly polluted. In spite of the stench and congestion, I kept standing there, looking at the launches and boats, the people rushing around, the river. In spite of the pollution, I feel a kind of attraction to Sadarghat, because, not very long ago, it used to a beautiful place, the river used to be magnificent. In spite of the many problems that trouble Old Dhaka _ including the extremely narrow alleys, the crowds _ I keep coming back to the place to explore the history of our city, to explore our magnificent past.
I do love visiting the old part of our city, and here I would like to give an insight into the remarkable places in the old part of our capital.
Bahadur Shah Park
Bahadur Shah Park is the site where the captured rebels of the 1857 Sepoy Mutiny (Shipahi Bidroho) were hanged to death. The place, previously called Victoria Park, was renamed in 1957 after Bahadur Shah Zafar, the last Mughal Emperor of India. A memorial in Bahadur Shah Park reminds us of the sacrifices of the martyrs of the 1857 Sepoy Mutiny.
Saint Gregory’s School and Saint Francis Xavier’s High School, two historically significant schools of Dhaka, are within a walking distance of the Park.
Ahsan Manzil was once the seat of the influential and powerful Dhaka Nawab family. Today, the splendid palace is a museum. A visit to the palace_ which has now been beautifully renovated_ gives you an insight into the lifestyle of the Nawab family. I got to know about many significant things about the history of our city from the museum, of which I had previously been unaware.
Lalbagh Fort is possibly the most famous landmark of Dhaka city. An incomplete Mughal fortress, the Fort is historically and archaeologically significant, and definitely a very educational place to visit.
Northbrook Hall, also known as Lalkuthi (Red House), situated in Farashganj, is a town hall built in 1880. It has beautiful architectural works_ a fusion of Mughal and European Renaissance styles.
The Armenian Church, situated in Armanitola, was built in 1781. It is perhaps the most important relic of the once-flourishing Armenian community of Dhaka who settled here mainly for business purposes. Today, the Armenian community has virtually disappeared from our city. However, their memories remain alive through the presence of this church. Historically important, this church is also one of the calmest and most serene places in Dhaka.
Beauty Boarding is a historically important hotel in Old Dhaka. Many poets and authors are reputed to have visited the place for chats and tea. While boarding rooms are extremely plain and far from being fancy and the food in the restaurant is simple, the hotel has its own remarkable history. I remember spending a quiet afternoon in the front yard, sitting in the same place where many important people had once chatted over cups of tea. It felt so peaceful and overwhelming as I kept thinking of how things might have been back then.
writer :Shounak Reza