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and processing of Indigo-powder, the surrounding rooms were used for storage. The front building may have been used as office. The rear of the building is completely fortified with blank wall surfaces. Main entry is located on the road and a side entry is located on the middle of the north wall next to the stair to upper floor. Though Neel Kuthi is a two-storeyed structure, the upper floor is provided with a mezzanine for storage purpose. The extended portion of the mezzanine floor is visible in the front facade as blank wall panels. A combination of Mughal and local decorative features have been applied in the building. It has been estimated that at least 100 such factories were in operation in Bengal during the middle of the 19th century, of which about 152 indigo kuthis were in Rajshahi region including Jessore and Khulna alone. It has been further pointed out that 16 indigo merchants were in Dhaka town in 1840s, and the building presently occupied by the Bulbul Academy at Wiseghat on the bank of the Buriganga was one of such kuthis (Faruq Abdullah Khan, pp. 75-76).

3.1.2 Palaces of Zamindars

The zamindari system of Bengal is an age-old institution. It was a legal institution connected with revenue management with which was closely associated a class of tax collectors to whom taxes were paid by the riyots. Before the coming of the Muslims in Bengal, the classes associated with this system were generally known as Samanta, Bhuyyan, Bhounik, Bishai, Choudhury, Mondol or Muqaddam. But with the coming of the Muslims and particularly during the time of the Mughals the above-mentioned landowners came to be known by the Persian nomenclature zamindars. The word zamindar was ultimately vernacularized to ‘zamidar’. It is during the time of the Mughals that the zamindari system assumed a concrete shape. Under the revenue management system introduced by Murshid Quli Khan, a Mughal subadar of Bengal many old zamindars lost their zamindari and a new class of zamindars replaced them. Under the Mughals the duties and functions of the zamindars were not merely confined to the collection of taxes and it’s remittance to Government treasury. They were also supposed to maintain law and order in their respective territorial jurisdiction. Besides this the development of land, execution of public works and the performance of some sort of judicial duties were very often assigned to them. Even on special occasions they were under obligation to render some sort of military service to the Government. As a return of these services they sometimes obtained hereditary right to the zamindari. After close scrutiny of the existing land system the British after trial and errors introduced the system of Permanent Settlement in 1793. Before the introduction of this system the zamindars were, however, in a sense the owner of the land. But they had no power either to sell or purchase new land belonging to the state. Although the Permanent Settlement vested property right of the land with the zamindars, yet under this system the zamindars lost their former administrative, military and judicial powers. Moreover, they were subjected to severe humiliation of sunset law in the event of their failure to pay their revenue in due time. Under such


circumstances their zamindari was sold on auction. As a result during the British rule many big zamindars lost their zamindari and in their place emerged a class of new zamindars most of whom belonged to rich Hindu merchant class.

Before 1950, the zamindars of Bengal played a vital role in social, political, economic and cultural spheres of this country. In the society they commanded respect as leaders and in the estimation of their general subjects they were as good as public representatives. Among the zamindars many earned respect and honor from the people of their areas for their good administration and benevolent works. At the same time the opposite also happened when many zamindars became infamous in their areas for their immoral acts and oppression of their subjects. For good administration and commendable public works many zamindars were awarded titles like Raja, Maharaja, Maharani, Raja Bahadur both from the Muslim and British rulers. Infact, the evolution of modern education and culture in this country was for the most part the result of direct and indirect patronage of these zamindars. Further, as leaders they very often constituted pivot of social activities and around which revolved all kinds of social developments.

As patron of architecture the contribution of the zamindars cannot be overestimated. Infact, through their sincere patronage the development of temple architecture of Bengal assumed a definite form. After the establishment of the British rule the Indian cultural legacy felt the pinch of the flow of modern Western ideas. In this respect Bengal was no exception. The pioneers of the admixture of Western ideas with the culture of Bengal were the zamindars and urban merchants. In their daily life style they tried to imitate their English masters in matters of food habit, manners, dress etc. At the same time these classes by borrowing the British architectural tradition brought about a significant change in the medieval architectural tradition. As a result there evolved in India a composite style which is commonly known as ‘Indo-European’, ‘Indo-British’ or ‘Colonial architecture’. Although the British rulers were mainly responsible for the evolution of this style in this country, yet it cannot be denied that the zamindars and urban merchants made the style popular mainly through their sustenance and patronage. Particularly through the construction of their residential palaces the zamindars played a vital role in the evolution of this Indo-European style. Their palaces faithfully reflected all the characteristic features of this style. In Bangladesh one can come across a number of zamindari palaces scattered in almost all the districts known by the name of the zamindars in their respective zamindaries. Most of them, however, are in dilapidated condition and are being constantly encroached upon. Built mostly in the 19th century, these zamindari palaces display some building techniques which are in large part different from those of the medieval architecture of Bengal.

Unless measures are taken to protect them it is likely that within a few years time many of them will vanish or will turn into modern buildings loosing all their grandeur and fineness of delicate ornamentation


General characteristics of the palaces

1. According to ground plan and architectural design these palaces can be classified into two classes: (a) Palaces with open courtyard or courtyard type and (b) Palaces with wide central hall rooms or consolidated type. In the category (a) is found the rooms with verandah around an open court. In this category is also found more than one courtyard around which are arranged the rooms with verandahs. In the category

(b) all the rooms are arranged centering around the hall room. The height of the walls of the hall, is more than those of the surrounding rooms. For light and ventilation the walls of the hall room are fitted with clerestory windows. Hall rooms are also found in the palaces built around courts.

2. For security and protection these palaces are surrounded by ditches. But the palaces without ditches are some times protected by huge and enormous tanks dug around them.

3. The building materials used for the construction of these palaces are brick, mortar, iron, wood and black and white stone, wooden and iron beams, iron pillars, wooden doors and windows. Stucco finish on the floor and body is the common feature. In exceptional cases however some palaces are decorated with tiles and colored ceramic pieces.

4. In style and ornamentation the palaces show commendable admixture of Indo- European characteristics. With utmost sophistication Classical Greek pillars of different varieties (Doric, Ionic, Corinthian) and Renaissance Tuscan have been used. While the use of pediment as a crowning member and that of fanlights and venetian blinds in proper places indicate genuine European influence, the use of pointed arches and domes ornamental arabesques indicate distinct Muslim influence. In cases, however, key-stone round arches of the Roman type and Renaissance domes are also noticed in the arcades and over the ball rooms. Alongside is also found the representations of animate objects indicating European and Indian influences. Most of the palaces have lofty entrance gateways, residential accommodation for the employees, temples for performing religious rites, stables for horses and elephants. All these establishments were arranged near the palace but were detached from it. It is generally noticed that centering around the palace there usually grew up a small bazaar or market for ensuring the supply of essential commodities of daily life.

In the following pages an attempt has been made to describe the key monuments district wise:

Rajshahi District

Tahirpur Palace. Tahirpur is a municipal town of Bagmara Upazila. From Puthia Upazila-town, situated on the Natore-Rajshahi highway, Tahirpur is about 17 km north. It is said that Tahirpur has been named after certain Pathan fief holder Tahir Khan. The zmaindari of Tahirpur is very old. This zamindari came into being in the


beginning of the 15th century. It’s founder was one Kamdev Bhatta, a Barind Brahmin. Bijoy Laskar, the son of Kamdev Bhatta, enlarged the territorial jurisdiction of Tahirpur zamindari. The most noted zamindar of Tahirpur was Raja Kansa Narayan. The first palace of the Tahirpur zamindars was built in the village of Ramrama, situated on the east bank of the river Baranai that flows through Tahirpur. But when this palace was destroyed by Subadar Shah Shuja (1639-1660), Raja Lakhasami Narayan built a new palace on the west bank of the river. The palace was rebuilt after it was damaged by earthquake in 1897. So the extant palace was built after 1897.

Tahirpur palace covers an area of about 3.84 acres of land. On the east and north the palace is protected by ditches. On the south and west it is surrounded by some tanks. At present within the palace can be found the main palace rooms and a number of temples. Besides these, other buildings of the palace such as Andar Mahal, Kitchen, Mahafez Khana, Hawa Khana etc have been destroyed long back. In 1967 Tahirpur College was established in this Rajbari which then underwent some structural changes. Rectangular in plan, this east facing and double storeyed palace with it’s external verandahs measures 26.22m × 21.04m. The entire palace was built on a platform with a height of 0.61 m. The palace is composed of ten rooms which are arranged centering around the main hall room. Extending from north to south the central hall room measures 5.44m × 9.35m. This hall room and it’s adjacent east and west verandah each has three rooms of different sizes, the middle one being slightly larger than the rest. For communication between the hall room and verandah there are three parallel entrances. For inter communication between these rooms there are entrances on the partition walls. The room situated on the southwest corner of the building contains a hexagonal staircase extending up to the upper storey. The arrangement of rooms in the upper storey is same as those in the lower storey. While the rooms of the ground floor are without any window, those of the upper storey have windows on the external wall. Besides this, in the east and west verandah of the upper storey can be found four sets of engaged pillars of Tuscan variety for bearing the load of the roof. While the roof of the hall room has iron beams, for the roof of the other rooms wooden beams have been used. This palace is virtually without any ornamentation. The wall surfaces have been simply coated with layers of plaster.

Puthia Palace. Puthia is an upazila headquarter. It is situated on the Rajshahi-Natore highway and it is 30 km east of Rajshahi town. The distance of Puthia palace from the Rajshahi-Natore highway is only one km south. Formerly Puthia was a village of Laskarpur pargana. It was named Laskarpur after a certain fief holder Laskar Khan. During the rule of the Mughals Laskar Khan, following the examples of other Afghan chiefs of Bengal opposed the establishment of Mughal rule and abstained from paying revenue to the Mughal Government. Mughal emperor Akbar (1556-1605) took punitive action against him whereby Laskar Khan was evicted from his fief which eventually was granted to the zamindar of Puthia. Batshacharya’s son Pitambar was the first zamindar of Puthia. His younger brother Nilambar was the first to get the title of Raja



Puthia: Residence of Rani Hemanta Kumari (1895), ground plan

from the Mughal Government. In 1744 this zmindari was divided among four co- sharers among whom Panch Ani (Five Annas) and Char Ani (Four Annas) co-sharers earned fame in conducting the zamindari. Maharani Sarat Sundari and Maharani Hemanta Kumari of Panch Ani estate were famous for successful management of their zamindari. On the other hand Paresh Narayan and his wife Monomohini of Char Ani estate became famous as patrons of education and learning. In the field of architectural activities the role of the Puthia zamindars is praiseworthy.

The palace of Puthia is surrounded by ditches. The Panch Ani palace is situated on the south end of an open field. The palace was built on 4.31 acres of land. Although damaged at many places, the surrounding wall of this palace was once very strong and unassailable. According to the ground plan the entire palace is divided into four courts:

(a) Kachari (office) Angan (court); (b) Mandirangan or Gobindabari (Temple court);

(c) Andar Mahal (inner quarters); and (d) Residence of Maharani Hemanta Kumari. Centering around these courts are arranged the rooms of this palace with the exception of north and west blocks of the Kachari Angan, which are two storeyed. The other remaining parts of the palace are one storeyed. For entering into the court of this north- facing block there are two lofty entrances with spacious porches on the west and east ends. Entrance gate on the west end leads to Kachari Angan, while the eastern one facilities entry into Temple court or Gobindabari court. In front of each porch there are four lofty semi-Corinthian pillars extending up to the upper storeys where they have

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attached to two balconies. Between these two entrances there is a wide verandah which measures 17.89m × 8.82 m. Also in front of this verandah are four semi- Corinthian pillars covering the upper part of this building. On the east side of this verandah there is a wooden staircase leading to the upper storey. Along the verandah there are three rooms with different measurements. Among these three rooms two are of large size and these two were used as treasuries. Western part of the western entrance has four rooms with open verandah. The rooms are of different measurements. On the western end of the rooms there are two latrines. Attached to the eastern part of the eastern entrance and close to Govindabari are two small rooms with verandah. Besides these, all the rooms built on the east and south of Kachari Angan are in ruins.


The double storeyed portion of the northern block of the building with east-west axis has a wide hall room with the measurement of 21.95m × 7.16m. Besides this wide hall room this upper storey portion has six rooms with varied measurements. In front of the hall room there is a wide verandah flanked by two balconies on the east and west. In the center of the Gobindabari of this palace there is a pancharatna Bara Gobinda temple. The temple is beautifully ornamented with terracotta plaques. On the western part of the Andar Mahal of the palace there are two rooms and several bathrooms. On the southern part of the inner quarters there are two bedrooms. Most of the rooms of this court are in ruins. On the eastern part of the Andar Mahal there is the one storeyed residence of Rani Hemanta Kumari. This east facing residence of Hemanta Kumari has in it’s front a porch. This residential building of Hemanta Kumari has a central reception hall (10.12m × 6.25m) with nine rooms on it’s north and south. These rooms are similarly arranged on two sides of the hall room. Besides this, there are stretched verandahs with arches in front and rear of the hall room. In the construction of the roof of this palace iron and wooden beams have been used.

On the western side of the Panch Ani palace there is a pond called Sham Sarobar on the bank of which is situated Char Ani palace. This palace once covered an area of

4.80 acres of land. At present this palace is totally destroyed. Only in extant in dilapidated condition are it’s entrance portal, Kachari Bari and the Khazanchi Khana (treasury house). The Khazanchi Khana building is divided into eighteen rooms with wide verandahs on north, east and west.

The Panch Ani palace and Char Ani Kachari Bari and Khazanchi Khana of Puthia used simple scheme of ornamentation. Walls of these buildings are coated with plaster. In many places, particularly on the cornices of Panch Ani palace can be seen cut plaster decoration depicting leaves, undulating vines and dogtooth patterns.

According to an inscription the Panch Ani palace was erected by Rani Hemanta Kumari in 1895 and the Char Ani palace was erected in 1886.

Talondo Palace. Talondo is in Tanor Upazila and it stands on the bank of the river Shiba. In the village of Talondo there is a Rajbari. One Anandamohan Maitrayo founded Talondo zamindari sometimes in 19th century. Lalitmohan was a reputed zamindar of this zamindar family. This Rajbari covers an area of 1.4 acres of land. It was built in a simple way. Major part of this Rajbari is in ruin. This Rajbari was composed of four isolated buildings. These buildings do not display any architectural feature at all. In 1972, in this Rajbari was started Lalitmohan Degree College.

Natore District

Natore Palace. Natore Zmaindari was famous not only in north Bengal. It was rather one of the largest zamindaris of Bengal. The founders of this zamindari were Ramjivan and Raghunandan, both son of Kamdev. Ramjivan was the first zamandar of this zamindar family. His daughter-in- law (wife of Ramkanta) Maharani Bhawani was a reputed zamindar not only in the area but also earned fame among the zamindars of whole Bengal. In Natore Zamindari there came into being two co-sharers in 1778. One



Natore Rajbari (Barataraf)

Kachari Bhavan

is known Barataraf (elder line of descent, composed of descendants of Sibnath) and the other Chototaraf (younger line of descent, composed of descendants of Viswanath).

After becoming zamindar Ramjivan built his Rajbari at Natore. It was constructed on

a huge area of 50.42 acres of land. The Rajbari was protected on all sides by ditches. There were nine secular buildings in this Rajbari. They are the palace of Barataraf, palace of Chototaraf, Kachari Bhavan and Guard House of Barataraf, Kachari Bhavan of Chototaraf, Rani Mahal, Guest House, Madhu Rani Bahavan etc. Among these only four extant buildings of this Rajbari are described below.

Palace (Barataraf). It is built in rectangular plan. It has a central reception hall (7.47m × 16.01m) with twelve rooms. The palace has four verandahs on four sides. For light and ventilation of the central hall room there are Venetian arch and clerestory windows in the upper part of the walls. Besides this, the hall room has three entrances each having one fanlight. In front of the southern verandah of the building there is an arched porch. Each entrance of the building has segmental arch and is fitted with wooden Venetian blind. The floor of each room of this building and the verandah are covered with marble stone. The parapet of the building has arrow slit. The walls of all the rooms of the palace are coated with plaster. The walls of the reception hall and other rooms have a multi coloured painted frieze consisting of undulating vines, leaves and flower vases. The parapet of the central hall has merlons and below the cornice there is a frieze of undulating vines and leaves all executed in cut-plaster technique.


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Kachari Bhavan (Barataraf). It is a one storeyed building. With a hall room in the center this building has in all eleven rooms. There is a porch in front of the northern verandah. On the east and west of the central room there are ten rooms of various sizes. The measurement of the hall room is 5.18m × 8.79m. It has twelve clerestory windows to facilitate the entry of light. All the rooms have segmental arched entrances. The building is coated with plaster and has no trace of any kind of ornamentation.

Guard House and Store House (Barataraf). It is also a one storeyed building. It is divided into three blocks each having an iwan. The first iwan of the southern side is double-storeyed. While the first block of the building has seven rooms, middle one has only one and third one has four rooms. The rooms of the first block were used as guardhouse and those of middle and third blocks were used as storehouses. In front of each block there is a verandah supported by Tuscan pillars. This building has some traces of decoration. Below the cornice has been depicted a row of dogtooth design and below this runs in cut-plaster decoration a frieze consisting of a flower, a bud and a leaf.

Palace (Chototaraf). This palace is situated on the west bank of Ananda Kali tank. It is also one storeyed. There is a central reception hall around which are arranged fifteen rooms. This east-facing palace has three verandahs on the east, west and south. Each verandah has an arcade of semi-circular arch. In front of the eastern verandah there is a porch with two arched entrances on it’s north and south. The central hall room measures 7.32m × 15.55m. The east and west sides the central hall room are respectively flanked by seven and eight rooms. The flat roof of each room of the palace is constructed with iron beams. The three verandahs of palace are covered with black and white marble stone. In the courtyard situated in front of the southern verandah there is a water fountain. The inner part of the palace is without any ornamentation whatsoever. But the outer surface of the walls bears some sort of cut plaster decoration. The cornice of the building is supported by a row of small brackets below which runs a wide frieze having flower, female figure and undulating vines and leaves all executed in cut-plaster technique. The arches of the verandah and those of the entrances of the rooms have some plaster decoration. The keystones of these arches bear the figure of a sage. In the ornamented scheme of the arches have been included undulating vines and figures of birds. On the front parapet of the porch has been incised on the plaster a medallion which perhaps indicates a symbol of royal insignia. This is also accompanied by undulating vines, leaves and sculptured human figures as used in classical Greek architecture. In the scheme of decoration is also noticed female figure flanked by two kores.

Since no exact date is found on the record the date of construction of these buildings cannot be determined with exact precision. But the building style indicates that these were constructed after the earthquake of 1897 and most probably in the early years of the 20th century.

Other Buildings. The other buildings of the Natore Rajbari such as Rani Mahal, Guesthouse of the Barataraf, Madhu Rani Bhavan, Kachari Bhavan of Chototaraf etc



Natore: Dighapatia Palace, main gateway

(from west)

are in a dilapidated condition. These buildings have no new architectural features worth mention. But these buildings were perhaps built before the construction of the above mentioned buildings ie, at the later half of the 19th century.

Dhigapatia Palace. Dhigapatia Rajbari is situated to the west of Natore-Bogra highway and is about three km north-east of Natore town. The founder of this zamindari was Dayaram Roy, the Diwan of Natore zamindari. For dutifulness, efficiency and faithfulness of Dayaram Roy the founder of Natore Zmaindari Ramjivan presented to Dayaram a good amount of landed property in Rajshahi, Bogra and Jessore Districts. Out of these land grants was created the Dighapatia Zamindari which lasted till 1950 when the zamindari system was abolished by the then Government of East Pakistan.

Dhigapatia Rajbari was built over a wide area covering about 41.50 acres of land. The Rajbari was protected on all sides by wide ditches. The second line of defence for the palace was constituted by a high surrounding wall. This one is perhaps in a best state of preservation. In 1967 Monayem Khan, the then governor of East Pakistan named this palace as the ‘Governor House’ and in 1972, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the first and the then President of Bangladesh named this Rajbari as Uttara Gana Bhavan. At present this palace has four buildings each with it’s own architectural characteristics. These are entrance gateway, main palace, Kumar Palace and Khajanchi Khana (treasury building). In the construction of these buildings brick,


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morter, iron, wood, marble stone have been used. But in Kumar Palace and Khajanchi Khana one can find the use of cement.

Entrance Gateway. The only entrance to the palace is the arched gateway placed in the middle part of the eastern outer wall. It is a three-storyed structure and measures 4.27m × 3.05m. On both sides of the entrance path of this gateway there are internally related rooms of the same size. There are two spiral wooden staircases on both sides of the gateway to go up to the first and second floors. On the front wall of the second floor there is a big clock to indicate time. On the plain roof of the upper most storey there is a chouchala structure which bears similarity with a pyramid. The outer surface of the gateway building has been painted with red colour.

Main Palace Building. The east facing main palace building is one storyed. It has

verandah on all sides. Centering around it’s central reception and dinning halls there are in all 34 rooms of various sizes. Besides reception and dinning halls there are in this palace a conference room, a confidential room, nine bedrooms, several dressing rooms and bath rooms. The central reception and dining halls measure 7.57m × 15.25m and 5.49m × 15.25m. On the other hand the conference room measures 5.49m

× 9.45m. There are clerestory windows in the central reception hall room. On the middle portion of the east facade there is the main entrance with a porch. On the north and south sides of this part of the building there are ten rooms– five on each side. These rooms are slightly projected. The shape of this portion of the building resembles the English letter E. The verandah on the northern side is open like a courtyard. The verandah on the western side has an arcade of pointed arch; the verandah of the southern side has a row of trifoil-arches and the eastern verandah has both pointed and trifoil-arches. The reception hall of this palace has a big dome built in 1967. The roof of this palace is flat and iron beams have been used for it’s construction. In the parapet have been used ornamental bricks and merlons. The steps of verandah and floors of the rooms are covered with white and black marble stone bearing geometric designs. Below the cornice of the outer wall there are dogtooth patterns super imposed in a row of arched designs. The dome of the central room is covered with star design. It has a finial in the form of kalasha motif. In front of the southern verandah of the palace there is a flower garden with a water fountain. In imitation of ancient Greek architecture on the four corners of the garden there are four statues of female figures made of marble stone.

Kumar Palace. Between the entrances gateway of the Rajbari and the main palace stands a beautiful two storyed building. Rectangular in plan, it is mainly west facing. On the east there a long verandah on the second storey built on the pillars made of iron, rod and cement. On the south there is a porch. These are perhaps later additions. On the western side there is a staircase that leads to upper storey. The lower storey is divided into five rooms which were probably used as store rooms. In the upper storey there are as many as nine rooms– all arranged centering around the central reception hall room. Of these nine rooms four were used as bedrooms and the rest as bath rooms.


The central hall room measures 6.61m × 6.71m. Built on iron beams, the roof of the building is flat. With the exception of central hall room the floors of other rooms and those of verandah are covered with mosaic. The roof is protected by parapet. On the outer walls of north, west and south there runs below the cornice a broad frieze containing floral design executed in cut-plaster technique. In this building this is the only ornamentation that can be noticed.

Khazanchi Khana. Between the main palace and the Kumar Palace stands this building. North facing and one storeyed, this building is built around an open courtyard measuring 10.52m × 15.70m. On the four sides of this courtyard there are twenty-six rooms. On the north facade of the building there is a corridor (15.70m × 1.83m) stretching from east to west. This verandah has an arcade composed of five pointed arches. Around the central courtyard there are verandah on the east, west and north. The building is plastered with cement.

Dayarampur Rajbari. A co-sharer of Dighapatia Zamindari established their residence at Dayarampur, a place 12 km west of Banpara of Natore District. This Rajbari was built over an area of about nine acres of land. The Rajbari was surrounded by high walls. Situated on the bank of the river Baral this Rajbari is at present used as the main building of the Kadirabad Cantonment. At present the Rajbari has two one­ storyed buildings– one is known as Raja Mahal and the other Rani Mahal. For the construction of these two buildings brick, mortar, iron and stone have been used. The two buildings are of the same design. There is a central hall room and several bedrooms. The roof is flat. But over the room of the vevandah infront of Raja Mahal there is a ribbed dome made of tin. The surface of the walls of these two buildings is painted in red.

No building of Dighapatia Rajbari bears any date of construction. But according to some sources the Dighapatia Rajbari was damaged by the earthquake of 1897. It was then repaired and rebuilt by Raja Pramadanath. From this it may be assumed that the extant buildings of Dighapatia Rajbari were either built or repaired at the end of 19th or in the beginning of the 20th century. The Rajbari of Dayarampur was probably built around the same date.

Naogaon District

Dubalhati Palace. Dubalhati is situated about 7 km south-west of Naogaon town. It is the oldest Zamindar family of greater Rajshahi District. According to Kalinath Choudhury the Zamindari of Dubalhati was established during the reign of the Pala dynasty (750-1150 AD). This zamindari was founded by one Jagatram Roy, a salt merchant. This zamindari was also recognized by the Mughals. Among the zamindars of this family Haranath Roy Chaudhury received the title of Raja from the British government in 1875 and the title of Raja Bahadur in 1877 in recognition of his benevolent services during the famine of 1874.


For residential and administrative purpose, the zamindars of Dubalhati constructed a beautiful palace at Dubalhati. The two-storyed palace covers an area of 2.45 acres of land. On four sides of the palace there are four large tanks. According to the ground plan the palace has four courts (angan): (a) Nat Mahal or Rang Mahal Angan; (b) Kachari Angan; (c) Andar Mahal or Andar Angan and (d) Randhanshala Angan (kitchen court). Centering around these courts, in the ground floor and first floor of this palace, have been built more than one hundred rooms. The palace is north facing. In the middle part of the north facade of the palace there is a lofty arched entrance. On the east and west end of the north face there are two extended verandahs with semi­ circular arches. Besides this, the main entrance gateway is flanked on the east and west by two verandahs. In front of these two verandahs there are in all eight lofty Corinthian pillars which covered the height of the upper storey. Of these pillars, the ones placed on the east and west end are of engaged variety. If some one enters into the palace through the main entrance he will first see the Nat Mahal and to it’s east Kachari Angan. On the west of the Nat Mahal Angan there is a beautiful theatre-stage covered with a flat roof. Along with the stage, this building is divided into five rooms. The main stage measures 8.38m × 9.60m. In the second storey of the north block of this courtyard there is a big hall room (20.12m ×5.26m) with two balconies on it’s north and south. In the double storyed middle block that stands between Nat Mahal and Andar Mahal there are four large bed rooms of the same size– two in the lower


Naogaon: Dubalhati Rajbari, the crest (from north)


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storey and two in the upper storey. In the same way in the double storyed south block of the Andar Mahal there are six bedrooms– three in each storey. In the upper storey of this block there are balconies built on iron pillars. Each room of the palace rests on iron and wooden beams. There is a ribbed dome on the roof which is protected by parapet. The upper part of the entrance doors of the rooms are shaped like segmental arches. The external and internal wall surfaces of each room of the palace are covered with plaster. Only on the internal wall surface of the hall room is seen painted leaves, floral motifs and undulating vines forming an ornamental frieze. But the most attractive ornamentation of this palace is found in the parapet of the theatre-stage and also in the parapet of the building’s north facade. The parapet of the theatre stage has been decorated with undulating vines and leaves placed around medallions. Along with these are also found humane figures as was used in Greek architectural decoration. All are executed in lime and sand. The parapet of the north facade of this palace is decorated with highly ornate plaster decoration consisting of floral patterns and sculptures of classical Greek male and female figures. In the center of the floral parapet a familiar English insignia, resembling a shield bearing some indistinct English letters’ circle in relief, is still visible. Besides this, below the cornice of the facade of the second storey of this building there runs from east to west a frieze containing leaves and vines executed in cut-plaster technique. Similar decoration with the addition of grapes are also found on the cornice of the projected verandahs of the ground floor. The iron pillars used in the palace display Corinthian ornamental scheme. Judged from the point of view of building style, the date of the construction of the building can be placed at the end of the 19th century.

Mahadevpur Palace. At Mahadevpur, an upazila of Naogaon District, there is a

Rajbari built by the zamindars of Mahadevpur. This zamindari, it is said, was created during the reign of Mughal Emperor Jahangir (1605-1627). Nayanchandra Roy Choudhury was the founder of this zamindari and Roy Bahadur Narayanchandra Roy Choudhury was it’s last zamindar. For themselves the Mahadevpur Zamindars built a two stoeyed palace that covered an area of 0.74 acres of land. Brick, mortar, wood and iron have been used for it’s construction. This east facing palace is mainly divided into two parts– Andarangan (inner court) and Bahirangan (outer court). On the east of the wide court in front of the palace building stands the main entrance gateway of the palace. The entrance gateway is flanked by two rectangular rooms facing the wide court. There is a lofty gateway (measuring 2.39m × 3.66m) that facilitates the communication between the outer and inner courts of the palace. The ground floor of the palace building is divided into eight rooms and in the upper storey there are three hall rooms. It is reported that the north-east hall room (7.37m × 3.66m) of the upper storey was once used as a music room. All rooms of the palace are arranged on the east and north sides of the inner court. On the south side of the inner court there were some rooms, which are not in extant now. To reach upper storey there are two staircases on the south and west ends of the building. The flat roof the building rests on wooden


MODERN PERIOD 371

beams. The external and internal wall surfaces of the rooms of the palace are plastered

with cement and sand. The inner wall surface of the music room of the upper storey

has painted designs of leaves, undulating vines, butterflies, flower, parrot and birds of

different varieties. Systematic arrangement of all these motifs formed a wide

ornamental frieze. On the external wall of the building there runs below the cornice a

continuous decorative band. In the middle of the decorative band is seen nine

rectangular panels all containing flower with flower vase– all executed in cut-plaster

technique. Besides these, in imitation of the Greek architectural tradition the addition

of pediment in the frontal roof has enhanced the architectural majesty of the building.

At the apex of the pediment is an arrow slit which is flanked by figures of two lions

separated by a floral design. It is assumed that the palace was probably built at the end

of the 19th century.

Balihar Palace. It is another zamindari palace situated in the district of Naogaon. The

founder of this zamindari was a Brahmin named Nresingha Chakravarty. His original

home was at Bikrampur of Dhaka District. It is said that this Brahmin got a taluk from

his father-in-law as marriage dowry. This taluk ultimately developed into a zamindari.

Probably, during the time of the Mughals this zamindari was created in the 17th

century. Raja Krishnendra Roy was a reputed zamindar of this zamindar family.

The zamindars of Balihar built a palace that covered 3.5 acres of land. In the palace

Naogaon: Balihar

area can be seen three buildings and two temples. Brick, mortar, iron and wood have

Rajbari the gate


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been used for the construction of the buildings. On the east of the palace there is a double storeyed entrance gateway. The entrance gateway measures 3.81m × 9.45m and is flanked by two projected verandahs with rooms attached therewith. The projected verandahs have Tuscan pillars over which have been built two balconies of the upper storey. The rooms of the upper storey of the gateway were used as guest rooms. Crossing the entrance gateway one finds himself in an open court on the south of which are heaped the ruins of the older palace. Rooms of this north facing double storeyed palace was built centering around a spacious courtyard (18.29m × 12.20m). All these rooms are now in ruins save and except some portions of dilapidated walls. In front of this ruined building there is an open court on the north of which stands the Kali temple and on the west of this court is situated Rajrajeswari temple courtyard. At the end of this temple complex and at the western end of the courtyard lies the main double storeyed palace, which was built in a later date. It is in tact till today and in the name of Balihar palace it attracts the tourists.

Surrounded by high boundary walls the lower part of this double storeyed building is divided into twenty rooms of different sizes. The building has been constructed on the four sides of a courtyard which measures 7.32m × 9.45m. All the rooms with their corridors have been arranged centering around this courtyard. On the corridors of all four sides there are arcades composed of twelve arches. In front of this building there is a projected portal with spacious verandah with pillars having Corinthian capitals. In front of this verandah there is a big room measuring 6.33m × 5.54m. Possibly this was the office room for the sherastadar. On the north and south of this room there are two corridors of the same measurement. These are designed to establish connection with the interior of the main building. After crossing the verandah and the corridors one finds himself in the central court of the building. The arrangement and measurement of the rooms of the upper storey are similar to those of the lower storey. The arched entrance doors of the hall room are fitted with fanlights. The flat roof rests on iron and wooden beams. The surfaces of the inner walls have plaster finishing. But on the verandahs of both the storeys are found the decoration of geometric designs depicting octagon, rectangle and lozenges made of ceramic pieces of different colours like maroon, blue, green, white and yellow. This beautiful colour decoration has created a unique semblance of complex mosaic decoration. Besides this, on the outer surface of the external walls of both the storeys are found friezes containing floral designs, small square panels containing yellow flowers, dog-tooth design etc.

There is no definite information as to when the palaces both old and new were constructed. From the building style it may, however, be assumed that the ruined palace which was comparatively old was built in the first half of the 19th century and that the present existing one probably by the end of the same century.

Apart from the palaces mentioned above there are some other Rajbaris in the district of Naogaon. These are Shailagachi Rajbari, 8 km south of Naogaon town; Kashimpur Rajbari of Raninagar Upazila; Zora Shako’s Kacharibari at Atrai Upazila. They are


all virtually in a ruined condition. In the district of Chapai Nawabganj there is a small establishment of Muktagacha Zamindar at Kanshat. It consists of a small double storeyed building. It is also in a dilapidated condition and displays no architectural value of worth mention.

Dinajpur District

Dinajpur Palace. Dinajpur Zamindari is one of the oldest zamindaris of Bengal. Legend goes that certain Din Raja or Din Raj was the founder of this zamindari. Even the district of Dinajpur has been named after him. But according to another version, this zamindari was founded by famous Raja Ganesha who in 15th century exterminated the Ilyas Shahi dynasty for a short period. Whatever it might be, it is an accepted fact that in 17th century Srimanta Datta Choudhury (d. 1642) was a reputed zamindar of this zamindar family. After this Maharaja Prannath (son of Shukhadeva) and his adopted son Ramnath earned special fame in conducting the affairs of the zamindari. They were infact the builders of famous Navaratna Temple of Kantanagar. Raja Girizanath (adopted son of Tarakanath) an enlightened and renowned potentate of this zamindar family died in 1919. His adopted son Jagadishnath was the last zamindar of Dinajpur Zamindar family. Raja Girizanath is remembered for the major repair works of Dinajpur Rajbari and Kantajir Temple, both seriously damaged by the earthquake of 1897.

Dinajpur Rajbari now in ruins is situated on the north-eastern skirt of Dinajpur town.

The picturesque ruins of the extensive palace complex may be approached through a dilapidated metal road. On entering through a lofty, arched-lion gate one comes across a Krisna temple on the left, some derelict out houses in front and another gateway to the right, which leads one to an inner square courtyard of about 30.49m a side. On the east facing inward to the open court there is a flat-roofed large temple (nat mandir) beautifully decorated with attractive stucco floral motifs. While the front verandah of this nat mandir is supported on four semi-Corinthian pillars, the main hall of the temple is carried on another set of columns. Immediately behind the nat mandir is situated Rani Mahal which is composed of a square block of two-storeyed buildings enclosing square open courtyard. It is in a ruinous condition. Farther to the east of Rani Mahal stands the main palace block now in an advanced stage of decay. The two­ storeyed palace has an imposing facade the central part of which with prominent projection carries a 3.05m wide verandah above. The front projection has been made more attractive with the inclusion of a series of elegant Tuscon columns in pair on the upper floor. The parapet is plain. But variety has been introduced with the addition of a curved plaque-wall in the center depicting in relief two elephants standing face to face and holding a crown. Above and below it is noticed some indistinct English letters. On either side of the projected balcony there is a broad spiral masonry staircase that leads to the upper storey. The roof of the 4.57m wide balcony has collapsed.

Immediately behind the balcony there is a large hall (15.24m × 6.10m). Originally it was flagged with white marble stone and flanked by two 3.05m wide verandahs on the east


and west. The hall is roofed over with massive iron girders. The lofty (7.62m high) roof is in a tottering condition. On it’s north can be found another smaller (9.15m × 6.10m) hall and on the south a broad corridor that leads to the inner quadrangle of residential quarters. Once very gorgeous, the main palace block now is in a state of ruin.

Rangpur District

Tajhat Palace. Once there was a fairly large number of eminent zamindar families in the greater Rangpur District. These zamindar families had beautiful palaces such as Tajhat, Dimla, Kankina, Manthana, Pirganj, Bardhankot etc in the district of Rangpur. With the exception of Tajhat Palace which is still in a good state of preservation all others are virtually destroyed.

One Mannalal Roy was the founder of Tajhat Zamindar family. He was a Hindu Khatri and an adherent of the Sikh religion. It is said that he migrated from the Punjab in the 19th century to escape the persecution of the Mughal authority which was then at war with the Sikhs. He was a jeweller by profession and settled at Mahiganj, the then headquarters of the district of Rangpur. It is said that at Mahiganj market he used to sell caps encrusted with jewels. Hence the place came to be known as Tajhat. According to another version his estate was called Tajhat because of the conspicuous appearance of his Taj or jewelled crown. There is also another view according to which the place was named Tajhat because of the Tajia fair held every year in the month of Muharram. By dint of his labour Mannalal gradually acquired large landed properties in Rangpur. In this way he founded the zamindari at Tajhat. Giridhari Lal Roy was a noted zamindar of this family. His inheritor Govinda has an adopted son, was very generous and was much devoted to the well-being of his subjects. It is because of these qualities he was conferred with the title of Raja in 1888, Raja Bahadur in 1892 and Maharaja in 1896. After his death in 1897, he was succeeded by his son Maharaja Kumar Gopal Lal Roy in 1908.

Tajhat palace is situated about three km on the south-east outskirts of Rangpur town. This is a magnificent edifice with a beautiful frontage of about 76.22 m. Facing east, this beautiful palace rises in two storeys. In the center there is an imposing broad staircase paved with highly finished white marble. This staircase leads directly above the portico to the upper storey. The palace is crowned by a ribbed conical dome in the center of the roof with a tall octagonal neck. The dome is partly supported on a series of slender semi-Corinthian columns. At each end of the front facade can be seen a semi- octagonal projections. The facade of the building has a 9.15 m long projective central

porch. The balcony roof above the porch rests on four graceful Corinthian columns. There are two similar columns on each of the projecting ends of the building supporting a triangular gable. The layout of the palace can be compared with the form of the English letter U with it’s open end to the west. Beyond the entrance at ground floor level there is a large hall which measures 18.29m × 13.72m. This hall is flanked

on either side by two north-south oriented apartments. A wide corridor measuring


3.05m wide runs the entire length of the U shaped inner block. On the north of the main block there is a broad staircase that leads to the upper floor. On two floors there are about twenty-two apartments. The palace is in a good state of maintenance and a few years back it housed the High Court Division of the Supreme Court.

Pabna District

Taras Rajbari. This elegant two-storeyed building located in Pabna town is on the main Trunk Road facing east. It reached through a tall semi-circular arched gateway, flanked by paired Doric columns. The oblong palace is about 30.50m 18.20m with a prominent projecting two-storeyed portico in front which is supported on four tall Corinthian columns. At either end of the building there are two more projecting portions, each relieved with rectangular pilasters and topped by semi-Corinthian capitals at each storey. Semi-circular arches have been liberally used in the building. It is still in a fairly good state of preservation as it was only erected in the late 19th century. It now houses the office of the Government Acquired Property.

Taras is a village west of Sirajganj and was the headquarters of the largest zamindari of Pabna District. The late Rai Banamali Ray Bahadur probably built this present palace in Pabna during the late 19th century. One Basudeva Talukdar founded the Taras zamindari in the 7th century. His grandson, Balaram Das was an employee of the Natore Raj and adopted the title of ‘Ray’ as recorded in one of his inscriptions, dated 1711 CE. In the early 19th century Ram Sundar Ray, the fifth in descent from Balaram Ray, being childless, adopted Rai Banamali Ray Bahadur, who died in 1914. He was conferred the title of ‘Rai Bahadur’ by the government in 1894 in recognition of his munificence and public spirit. One of his many acts of munificence was his contribution of Rs. 50,000 to the Pabna Edward College for the erection of the new college building. Their headquarters at Taras is known as ‘Banwari-Nagar’ derived from the name of a member of the family.

Sitlai Palace. Picturesquely situated on the abandoned northern banks of the river Padma towards the eastern outskirt of the town, this double-storeyed grand palace, is still fairly well preserved, and presents an imposing 30.50m frontage on the east with it’s prominently projecting semi-circular portico in the middle. A broad staircase, flagged with white marble, directly leads from the portico to a spacious corridor on the upper storey. The arched portico facing east, is supported on semi-Corinthian columns above which there is a spacious hall, measuring 9.45m 6.10m. The parapet of the portico terminates in a triangular pediment. The inner mahal behind the front block is also a double-storeyed building and is arranged around 15.25m 9.45m inner open courtyard linked by an 2.45m verandah running in front of more than twenty apartments of varying dimensions. The verandahs are carried on slender cast iron pillars with Corinthian capitals. The floors are all laid in white marble. In all, there are about thirty apartments in the palace. The northern facade is broken by a central porch,


with an octagonal tower on the north-west corner which is capped by a ribbed dome. The southern facade has also a central projection, and the elevation is variegated by a series of semi-circular arches on the ground floor and semi-Corinthian columns on the upper floor, whilst the parapet above the central projection is terminated in a triangular gable. Today the palace is occupied by the EDRUC, an eminent drug manufacturing laboratory in Bangladesh.

The palace was built around 1900 by Jogendra Nath Mitra, one of the zarnindars of Sitlai estate as the family residence in Pabna town. Sitlai is a village about five miles east of Saratnagar Railway Station in Sirajganj District. The well-known Sitlai Zamindars with ‘Maitra’ as their family title rose to eminence in 18th century. During Rani Bhawani’s time Chandi Prasad Maitra received extensive ‘debottar’ rent-free properties in this area. His son, Jagannath Maitra, born in 1766, was a learned person who left behind two sons and one daughter Loknath, Iswar Chandra and Kamalmoni. Loknath Maitra abandoning his ancestral home, first carne to Natore and afterwards, to Rampur-Boalia (Rajshahi) ostensibly to study. In course of time he acquired vast properties by engaging himself in business, while Iswar Chandra looked after the ancestral property. Loknath was a public spirited person who, beside other public works, established the famous Loknath School in Rajshahi town in 1849 and constructed the present highway from Tahirpur to Bilmoy, still known as Loknath Danra. The British government, in recognition of his liberality and philanthropic activities, conferred on him the title of Ray Bahadur.

On his death in 1854, his younger wife, Durga Sundari, adopted Chandra Nath Maitra as her son. Chandra Nath’s wife Gyananda Sundari Devi first adopted Govinda Vidyabhusan, the manager of her estate but later, on his death, adopted Surendra Nath Maitra in 1885. Subsequently Jogendra Nath Maitra, inherited the ancestral estate. When he married in the Goswami faimly of Srirampur, he abandoned his ancestral residence at Sitalai, consructed the present Sitlai House in Pabna town and began to live here.

Mymensingh District including Tangail

Mymensingh Rajbari. Situated in the middle of the town this extremely attractive late mediaeval palace with a Grand River frontage of 45.46m on the south, overlooks the mighty Brahmaputra and is still in a fairly good state of preservation. At present it houses the women Teachers Training Academy. It’s fairly large area, occupying about nine areas of land, approached through an imposing semi-circular arched gateway, flanked on either side with Doric columns. In between the palace and the gateway there is a large grassy lawn with an ornamental marble fountain containing a beautiful classical statue of a semi-nude nymph. The palace presents a symmetrical facade with three prominently projecting porches two on either end and one in the centre of which only the central portico supported on twelve elegant Corinthian columns, allows wheeled carriages to pass under it’s semi-circular arched opening. In between these porches there are two more projecting bays with entrances to vary the plan and the


elevation of the edifice. It is a single-storeyed building, with a centrally placed triangular pediment bearing floral scrolls in plaster above the parapet. The elevation is further decorated by adding a short ornamental wall with a semi-circular opening in it on either side of the central pediment. The projecting bays of either end of the building to the east and the west, are relieved further by two pairs of Corinthian columns flanking the short staircases. The elegant kiosks, supported on Corinthian capitals, break the skyline of the building at the corners, whilst the whole facade of the palace is relieved with a series of atttractive Corinthian columns. The rear of the building on it’s east and west ends have projecting wings in the shape of an English U, and beyond a large tank which is identified as the ‘Jai-Tungi’ or ‘the ladies bathing pavilion’.

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On entering the palace through the central porch there is a foyer, which leads into a large hall (7.60m × 15.25m) with a timber floor, which was used originally as the ballroom. Beyond it and further to the south is a commodious covered balcony. There is also an entrance to the building from the east which leads on to a spacious hall with an ornamental polygonal marble fountain in the middle. Hanging from the ceiling there is an elaborate glass chandelier for lighting. There are two more large halls to the west of the ballroom which are flagged with marble and at the two far ends are a number of smaller apartments which complete the total accommodation of ten apartments. The surviving original glass panes fitted to the doors of the central hall are beautifully decorated with various etched plant designs.


Mymensingh Rajbari entrance (late 19th century)


Built between 1905 and 1911, the palace originally was known as ‘Sashi Lodge’ being the name of it’s builder, Zamindar Sashi Kanta Acharya Chaudhury of Muktagacha. A 18.20m square simple wooden bungalow set on a masonry plinth with a north facing porch, overlooking the river was also erected by Sashi Kanta and still survives about 500 yards north-west of the main palace across the road. It has a high- ridged sloping roof, covered with corrugated iron sheets and on either side of the porch there are two excellently reproduced marble statues of some Greek classical females, wearing long flowing robes.

Mymensingh’s earlier name Nasirabad was derived from Sultan Nusrat Shah who reigned between 1519-1532 and who conquered it from the Kamrup kings. The present name Mymensingh seems to have originated from Momin Shah, a lieutenant of the Sultan. In the rent-roll of Raja Todar Mall, Mymensingh was included in Sarkar Bazuha and Jafar Shahi Pargana in Ghoraghat, Dinajpur. Both were within the 22 parganas granted to Isa Khan by Akbar, but the entire estate slipped out of the hands of his family after his death. Subsequently the property passed through various hands and eventually came under the possession of Srikrishna Chaudhury, the founder of the Mymensingh Zamindari in 1727, as a grant from Nawab Alivardi Khan. Srikrishna’s father, Joy Narayan Talapatra, who settled at Karai in Bogra, had already received two parganas of Taraf Karai and Tappe Hindi in 1710 from Murshid Quli Khan. Srikrishna had four sons who transferred their headquarters in 1750 from Bogra to Bahadurpur and afterwards to Muktagacha, about twenty kilometres due west of Mymensingh town. It is believed that a local smith, named Muktaram presented Ram Ram, the eldest brother with a brass gachha or lamp-stand as his nazar and that Ram Ram in recognition of the gift named the town as ‘Muktagacha’. Ram Ram separated a four-anna share of the family property. Raja Jagat Kishore Acharya later, acquired the whole of his second brother’s share and remained in possession of the eight-anna share. The late Maharaja Surya Kanta Acharya and his adopted son Sashi Kanta Acharya are representatives of the youngest brother, owning the remaining four-anna share. Maharaja Surya Kanta was a munificent potentate who extended his zamindari considerably by adding properties in Sherpur, Susang, Dhaka, Maldah, Faridpur, Murshidabad, Bogra and Pabna. He was made a Rai Bahadur in 1877, a Raja in 1880 and a Maharaja in 1897 at the time of the Diamond Jubilee. Surya Kanta’s adopted son Sashi Kanta Acharya was the son of Raja Jagat Kishore Acharya, who was made a Raja in 1914.

Muktagacha Palace. This ruined palace complex can be approached along an excellent 18 kilometres metalled road to the west of Mymensingh. The whole complex of several different blocks spreads over ten acres of land and includes several choked up tanks and five elegant temples within it’s abandoned compound. The surviving remains consist of two detached block of buildings facing east, occupied respectively by the Muktagacha College and a co-operative institute. The southern block has a frontage of about 30.50m with a central arched gateway through which a 15.25m long


passage leads on to an extensive courtyard. The passage on oither side is flanked by a series of guardrooms. The block on the north is more imposing than the others and has a prominent porch, surmounted by a globular dome which rests on a raised square base. The entrance porch leads to a 15.25m long passage, opening under a semi­ circular arch which is carried on Corinthian columns both singly, and in pairs, on the flanking wings. The spandrels of the entrance arch are relieved with simple floral scrolls in plaster. The slightly projecting side wings are surmounted by triangular pediments on the parapet and there are similar pediments over the windows. The windows on the ground floor are flanked by Corinthian columns.

Beyond the gateway block a courtyard opens up with an outer mandapa block to the west through which a passage leads on to a 15.25m square nat-mandapa which is covered by a high, humped-back roof of corrugated iron sheets supported on eight iron pillars. On it’s north is an elegant temple known as the Rajesvari Temple. The temple hall and it’s verandah are provided with two rows of five semi-circular arched entrances each, one behind the other, which are supported on a ring of slender round columns with stylized Corinthian capitals. The spandrels of the arches are beautifully decorated with intricate floral patterns in plasterwork. At present the brick altar is in a badly damaged condition. An interesting feature of this nat-mandapa is the provision of a revolving stage on it’s western side for theatrical performances. Sadly it is now covered with filth and debris.

Behind it and farther to the west is the inner apartment of the palace or andar mahal, arranged around a large open courtyard, which is now occupied by a dilapidated two­ storeyed old wooden bungalow in it’s centre. In it’s western most part there is a 18.20m wing running north-south, with a verandah looking inward towards the courtyard. It’s upper structure is carried on four pairs of round Corinthian columns. This is the palace of the eight-anna sharers. It was built by Jagat Kishore and his son Ram Kishore Acharya. The other adjacent block on the south was built by Surya Kanta Acharya and his son Sashi Kanta.

Among the five old surviving temples of the estate, is a small elegant stone temple, believed to be dedicated to Siva with a short sikhara. It is located outside the palace to the north-east, and overlooks a large tank on the east. It stands on a raised 6.10m square platform with a short porch on the south. The entire outer wall of this dainty little shrine is covered with a red sandstone facing, engraved in low relief with sinuous tendrils, terminating in the shape of a bunch of grapes. The slender stone columns supporting the porch are also tastefully carved with floral motifs in high relief. Two other temples with tall sikharas stand at some distance to the south. Further south there are a further pair of identical old sikhara temples dedicated to Siva and Kali respectively which overlook a large tank on the south. Each has a highly decorated rectangular verandah at their front which serves as a mandapa and gives access to the inner shrines, which are still in use. The octagonal bodies of the temples rest on square bases and are covered by tall sikharas. The facades of the shrines are profusely decorated with floral scrolls in plasterwork.


There are derelict structures of other adjacent blocks of the palace complex to the south, of which a gateway still survives. It’s general appearance, is similar to the other gateways having a semi-circular arched gateway with two wings on either side, the facades of which are decorated with single and paired Corinthiah columns. The other straggling ruins of the palace are either occupied by destitutes or sundry offices. One such building facing east with a porch houses the Sub-Registrar’s office which is an oblong block measuring 18.20m 21.35m. This was obviously built much later, and is decorated with various decadent floral motifs in plaster. It’s walls up to dado level are covered with fragments of glazed modern china porcelain, bearing floral motifs, whilst it’s floors are laid in white marble.

Gauripur Palace. The Gauripur Palace is now the headquarters of the upazila of Mymensingh District, and is located 19 kilometres east of the town across the Brahmaputra river. It is reached along a five kilometres stretch of feeder road which branches off from the Mymensingh-Kishoreganj highway. This palace was the seat of the famous Gauripur Zamindars in the last century and the scattered ruins of their palaces are still visible amidst the overgrown jungle thickets. Apart from the vestige of a highly ruinous substantial brick building precariously surviving within the extensive ruins which probably was their principal palace, the Gauripur Zamindars seem to had preference for elegant light structures of a bungalow style which were constructed in timber, resting on masonry plinth and roofed with corrugated iron sheets. The only wooden bungalow in Mymensingh town, facing the Brahmaputra river, was also built in the same fashion.

The layout of the main palace is not dissimilar to those already mentioned. It has a 30.75m broad frontage facing south with an imposing central arched gateway giving access to the inner mahals. There are a number of apartments, arranged on either side of the gateway with a verandah in front, carried on eight round columns four on each side with Corinthian capitals and with semi-circular archways and is flanked on either side by a pair of Corinthian columns. The gateway is surmounted by a large ribbed dome resting on a tall arched neck bearing affinity to the dome of the Ahsan Manzil in Dhaka. This imposing dome, somewhat out of proportion is carried on a series of semi-circular arches resting on Corinthian columns.

The gateways open on to an oblong courtyard measuring about 30.75m 21.35m which is occupied by a nat-mandap with a humped-back corrugated iron sheet roof that is supported on a series of iron pillars. On the eastern side of the courtyard there is a flat-roofed single-storeyed family shrine with floral decorations in plaster on it’s facade. An arched passage to the left of the nat-mandap gives access to an open inner courtyard which is surrounded on three sides with single-storeyed blocks of apartments whilst the main palace block occupies the fourth side on north. The palace block, now in a derelict condition, has a 30.75m long facade with a verandah in front which is carried on a series of Gothic arches. Behind it is a two-storeyed block covered with a terraced tin roof. A wooden staircase at it’s eastern end leads to the


upper storey. This block contains a total of twenty-four apartments symmetrically laid out on two floors. There is a central 9.45m 6.10m hall accommodated in the middle of each floor with access on to a 9.45m 3.5m wide verandah. The walls and floors of this bungalow are all fabricated in wooden planks and strengthened by steel frames beneath. A second wooden staircase, built at the western corner also leads to the upper storey. An open pavilion with a terraced tin roof, which is said to have been a Kali temple before, stands beyond.

Lahiri Lodge. Situated about 300 yards north of the main palace block is a beautiful large north-south bungalow-style lodge, known as Lahiri Lodge, which overlooks a fairly large pond to the west. It has a 46m frontage with a central porch, carried on paired masonry columns of the Doric and Corinthian orders. A verandah runs in front of the apartments and the central part of the building is covered by a huge ribbed dome of steel plates, crowned by an amphora. The walls and the plinth are built in brick masonry whilst the ridged roof is covered by corrugated iron sheets. The lodge is equally balanced on both wings with ten apartments which terminate in short octagonal projections at either end.

Within the extensive palace area there are other scattered smaller bungalows of this type with triangular gable-ends but these are now largely in an advanced stage of ruin. There is another small masonry block at a short distance from the Lahiri Lodge, facing south, which has a 18.20m long frontage. A 2.45m wide verandah runs the entire length of this block. It’s slightly projecting triple-arched entrance is supported on

double Corinthian columns. Immediately behind the front verandah there is a 6.10m 4.60m reception hall, flanked on either side with two more apartments. A corridor runs behind these apartments. The entire roof of this once elegant building has collapsed and is now filled with filth and debris.

The original seats of the Roys and Chaudhuries of Gauripur, were located at Ramgopalpur and Kalipur near Gauripur which were largely surrounded by swamps and marshy lands. Until 1908 the eight-anna share of Taraf was held jointly by the descendants of Krishna Kishore and Krishna Gopal, but at the Permanent Settlement of pargana, it was settled in four equal shares. Jugal Kishore, the adopted son of Krishna Gopal, tried to prevent his uncle’s widow from adopting a son, but a sanad of Warren Hastings in 1774 recognized the title of the widow. They then moved from Gauripur to Ramgopalpur. On the death of Ratnamala, the widow, the whole of the four-anna share of the property was given to Narayani. Narayani’s great grandson, the Raja of Ramgopalpur, inherited the whole of the four-anna property. Jugal Kishore Roy’s service in suppressing the Sannyasi rebellion was highly appreciated by the English Government. His share descended through an adopted grandson to Rajendra Kishore who died childless. His widow Bisvesvari Devi enjoyed a fourth of the estate (Gauripur four-anna). Her adopted son Brajendra Kishore instituted the famous Swadeshi case against Mr. Clarke, the collector of the district, in connection with the Jamalpur riots in 1907. She was the sole proprietress of the second four-anna share.


Dhonbari Nawab Palace. The remote small village of Dhonbari in Tangail District is located at a distance of ‘about ninety-two miles’ northwest of Dhaka and is ‘about eight miles’ west of Madhupur. It was the family residence of the nawabs of Dhonbari which now presents a desolate site. The palace complex consists of the main palace, a large kutchery building and an elegant three-domed mosque.

The single-storeyed kutchery building facing east, stands near the entrance gateway of the main palace and at right angles. It has a 52.20m frontage. A 3.5m wide verandah runs the entire length of this north-south oriented building which is relieved by sixteen pairs of semi-Corinthian brick columns, alternated by semi-circular multi-cusped arches. The central part of the block is surmounted by a very fanciful dochala hut- shaped pavilion, carried on a series of Corinthian columns alternated with semi­ circular arches. It is flanked on either side by ribbed kiosks resting on tall octagonal necks which consist of a series of slender Corinthian columns. The crest of the curvilinear ridge is decorated with rows of flaming motifs with a large foliated plaster ornamentation occupying the central part. The whole facade with it’s parapet, the crowning pavilion and the friezes below the cornies, are tastefully embellished with profuse floral scrolls. The building, erected in the middle of the last century, indeed presents a strange combination of European and indigenous architectural elements and smaller kiosks at the roof corners variegating the skyline. It contains thirteen apartments of varying dimensions set in a row.

The main palace block, set in an extensive garden within a boundary wall, faces south with an impressive 31.50m long main facade. This block with it’s wide verandah in front is unequally disposed on either side of a tall arched entrance. The entrance is slightly projected and decorated with a pair of rectangular plasters with stylized Corinthian capitals, ornamental friezes and cornices, blind merlons and two kiosks above. The wing on the east is shorter than that of the west. It’s 4.60m wide verandah is supported on ten pairs of Corinthian columns, alternated with semi-circular casped arches. Bands of friezes, running below the cornice, are relieved with floral scrolls and the parapet is relieved with battlemented crestings and kiosks at regular intervals. The entrance to the edifice on the east is gained through another arched passage which opens under a squat dome. This building contains four large halls and a number of smaller apartments. The semi-circular skylight openings at the either end are fitted with coloured glass-panes of red, green and yellow, some bearing floral patterns.

Close to it to the south-east, is a highly decorated three-domed mosque which was

renovated by Nawab Ali Chaudhury early in this century (1319 AH/1901 CE). Every inch of it’s interior from wall to wall and floor to ceiling, is covered profusely with mural decorations in broken porcelain pieces, mostly using floral motifs. The over- ornate mihrabs and slender round columns crested with stylized Corinthian capitals are particularly attractive. There are two marble inscriptions fixed over the entrances on the east, which records the date in Persian, of renovation of the mosque in 1901 by Nawab Ali Chaudhury. It’s two-storeyed entrance block on the east, overlooking a


large tank, is flanked by two attractive domes. The other ribbed dome surrounded by four kiosks, cover the two entrances on the north and the south, and are all decorated with mosaics of broken china pieces.

The family history of this house is not clear. It is believed that, during the Sultanate period (1338-1575), a certain Dhanwar Khan acquired the estate from his patron, who was a Hindu Raja. It remained under the control of his family through five generations, but eventually Raja Ali Khan, the last of the line, died intestate. Raja Ali’s father-in-law then succeeded to the estate property. His descendants, Sayed Nawab Ali, and later Nawab Hasan Ali Chaudhury succeeded to the family estate.

Dhaka District including Narayanganj and Manikganj

The palaces in Dhaka are outlined in two groups: those belonging to individual zamindars in different localities, and those belonging to talukdars (small land holders) class at Panam all belonging to Hindu communities including Sahas. Their position was like those of the earlier baniya group in Calcutta such as those belonging to the house of Jayaram Mallick, Govindaram Mitra, Nandaram Sen, Navakrishna Dev, Bhuvanmohan Nayogi etc. These intermediaries between the English East India Company and the local producers of cotton, silk, indigo and the like amassed huge wealth and instituted a life style following the British generally known as ‘Babu culture’. These Babus generally lived in Calcutta trying to be in close contact with the Company and subsequently the Raj people leaving their establishments to their employees coming only once or twice in a year particularly in the puja celebration time. It is not known if all the Sahas of Panam were also landlords, but their life-style was like that of local zamindars. The palaces they erected in the area, a locality of historical Sonargaon, were of the Italian renaissance order and although in smaller scale were highly romanticised and competed well with the great zamindar palaces of the time. The number of these palaces is counted presently at sixty on both the sides of the Panam street, beside those individual ones which were constructed near about in a more grandiose scale. The street facing ones apparently built by the Sahas are unromantic in nature in which large and small buildings were lined up in rows along a road having large backyards with ponds, wells and trees. The individual ones probably built by the genuine talukders occupied the central position in a large compound surrounded by lands developed also with ponds, beautiful trees and gardens. The street front houses were placed with little or no frontal space from the road the height of these houses vary from single to three storeyes, representing considerable variety in quality and content of architectural design. It may therefore be presumed that the buildings did not represent uniform economic class of their users or owners. A shared use of backyard facilities among the adjoining houses can be observed from the layout of pond, ghat and well etc. The individual ones on the other hand are scattered and may be described as compound houses. They certainly belonged to richer merchant class, and were built in complex with of a variety of structures to serve diversified domestic diamands in connection with affluent living.


The examples are Bara Sardar Bari, Ananda Mohan Podder’s House, Hashimoy Sen’s House and Bhanu Babu’s House. As has been mentioned in the beginning only the key-note examples are described below.

Panam Group Street Front Houses

These are is the most prominent early example of Street Front Houses in a non-urban setting. Located about 550 meters from Folk Art Museum, Panamnagar is an unique township in Sonargaon stretched in a single road 5m wide on the average and 600m in length. The road extends from west to east, slightly turns towards northeast after it is halfway through. The road moves with delicate curves that offer changing vistas of the street facade. The road is linked with the Dulalpur road by a humped bridge at the west and Thana road on the east. The area is isolated by Pankhiraj River running almost parallel to the road on the north and a moat, the Pankhiraj Khal, that separates the land from west and south. Fifty-two houses in dilapidated and disused condition in the settlement have been identified. At present 31 houses are surviving on the north side of the road and 21 houses on the south. The area is densely built with single to three storeyed attached and detached houses of varying types and sizes. Only eight single storey houses have been identified. Majority of the houses are two storeyed. Large houses are partially three storeyed. Exact count of buildings according to the number of floors cannot be done due to poor accessibility and precarious condition of structures.

Very little is known about the history of Panamnagar from the texts. Dr. James Taylor in his Sketch of the Topgoaplay and Statistics of Dhaka (1840 CE) describes Panam as the ancient city of Sonargaon. He found the area inaccessible except by small boats and by elephant or horseback. The area was hidden within dense foliage of tropical vegetation. The physical condition of Panam is stated as follows: ‘It consists of too narrow streets of straw huts, and good brick built houses of two to three storeys in height. Surrounding it there in a deep muddy and stagnant canal which appears to have originally been a moat for it’s protection upon an old bridge across this ditch (the only avenue leading to the village) which in former times when there was more wealth in the place than at present was shut every night and no person was allowed to enter or leave the town until the following morning’.

Notes on Sonargoan, Eastern Bengal written by Dr. J. Wise (Jan 1872) gives an

account of the inhabitants and trade in Panam which says, ‘A great trade in cotton, chiefly English piece goods is carried out. The majority of the residents are prosperous marchants who make extensive purchases in Calcutta and Dhaka, which are disposed of in the villages around.’ About the inhabitants it says, ‘There is not a single Muhammadan. The householders are chiefly talughdars who pay Government revenue direct to Dhaka treasury. There are ninety of them in this village. There is also a superfluity of Brahmans. In Panam the caste are as follows: thirty houses of


Brahmans, sixty-five of Sahas, five Bhuimalis and the remainder of Barbers and etc. At Amirpur there is a Government school where the children of these families received education’.

Comparing the accounts given by Taylor and J. Wise at a difference of 32 years, it is evident that the years after 1840 was a period of decline and the years following 1872 was a period of reincarnation for Panam. The surviving buildings of Panam also dates back to late 19th and early 20th century. Plaques have been found in three buildings of Panam indicating their dates of construction building no. 11 (ref. Map) built in 1220 BS (around 1813 CE), building no. 38, known as Kashinath House in 1305 BS (1898 CE) and Building no. 42, in 1335 BS (1928 CE). It should be mentioned here that tourists are being frequently misinformed by some local people that Panam is the ruins of old capital of Isa Khan of the 16th century.

A map of Panam was prepared for the purpose of a Architectural conservation workshop held at BUET in April 1989. It showed all the buildings along with natural features. Some of the buildings were studied in details to prepare waterfront. Water of the river and the moat was used for sanitation purpose. Four large ponds exist in Panam. All are located on the south of the Panam road. The ponds are placed almost at a regular interval from one another. Two of the Ponds on the eastern side locally known as G.R. Pond and Awal Saheber pond respectively are linked directly with the moat on the south. The other two ponds known as Karai Poddar’s pond and Bittahin


Panamnagar Site Plan (1996)


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pond are independent in nature. All the ponds are provided with more than one ghat or stepped approach to water. The ponds served the purpose of bathing. Adjoing dressing rooms have been identified near the ponds. Existence of old pipelines suggest that there may have been bathing facilities inside some of the houses. The drinking water was supplied by the wells. Thirteen such wells have been identified in Panam. All these wells are located at the rear of the plots except in one example next to building no. 26, where the well is placed in the front close to the road. Building layouts are both detached and attached types, mostly elongated in the north-south direction along the plot. Design of buildings do not follow a regular pattern, but mixture of different typologies.

Architectural Ambience of Panam. In it’s present state of disuse and dilapidation, one can still feel the vibrant life of Panam in it’s hey days. A subtle competition to glorify the houses as an expression of self-image among the owners is apparent. In other words each owner was presenting a facade to Panam Street in order to enrich the visual symphony of the ensemble, where each building keeping it’s own identity

Panam street blended with the harmonious whole. The buildings followed a pattern language by


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which a unity had been achieved, like the use of two to three storey height, axiality, symmetry, arched openings etc. On the other hand variety had been achieved through the introduction of verandahs, balconies, loggias, porches etc and their inter-spaced location along the continuous, street facade. The crowning of the buildings with decorative parapet and projected cornice fascinatingly interlocked the structures with the sky in the backdrop.

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Material and Construction. Bricks of Panam, the prime construction material have been modelled in different shape like rounded, angular, arched, pointed semi-circular, curvilinear etc according to the need of surface articulation. Bricks are either plastered or left exposed for facade delineation. Angular brick masonry has been used in the area between the spring point and the crown of the arch, presumably for structural reasons. The thickness of brick masonry walls vary between 50 to 70 cm. Lime mortar have been used primarily for bonding. Roof stands on rafter and purlin made of wood in most cases. I-beam was

also used occasionally. Brick vaulted roof usually covered the small rooms. Plaster decoration have been extensively applied in facade design and interior decoration. False wooden doors and windows shaped with plaster were also applied as a common decorative element. Stone quoins have also been copied in brick and plaster. Cast iron brackets, ventilators, window grills, balusters had been extensively used. Decoration with broken china locally known as chinitikri work was very popular in interior decoration and modest exterior application is also found in some examples.

Formal Order of Buildings. The buildings are mostly rectangular in shape. The depth is greater than frontage in most houses. The width of the building facade vary widely. Smallest bring building no. 8 which is only 3.5m wide. The largest are building no. 5 and 26, both are around 15m wide. Average facade width varies between 6m to 9m. facade of all buildings are axially balanced with three, five, seven and nine openings. However, the axiality is not followed in the internal organization of spaces. Openings are made with different kinds of arches with pilasters in between. All the pilasters have defined base, shaft and capital. The floor levels are expressed externally with projected cornice. Parapets followed an uniform design and high with vertical slit openings, rounded at the top and bottom. Decorative elements have been extensively applied in the space between the arch and ceiling. The edge of the end walls were


Circular columns


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Boarding House and

Old Meseum

defined with special decorative treatment. Compared to the front facade the side and rear walls and openings are left relatively plain without any articulation. This is clearly evident in building no. 1, 26 and 40. However, the surrounding walls and openings of inner courts and hall rooms were profusely delineated. The individual rooms in the dwellings were simply plastered with lamp niches in different locations. Raised plinth and verandah created the transition space between the inner house and the street.

Building Typology

According to building layout design the dwelling houses of Panam can be classified into four basic typologies. They are Central Hall type, Central Courtyard type, Consolidated type and Compound Houses.

Central Hall Type. The design of central hall type generated with a double height covered hall room as the main focus of the layout plan. However, the central hall does not mean the physical center of the plan, but the conceptual center from which the rest of the plan originated. Primary examples are building no. 1, 2, 5, 16 and 26. The location, size and orientation of central hall vary from building to building. In building


no. 2 and 5, the halls are located in the first floor, in all other examples the halls are in the ground floor. The shape of all the halls are rectangular but the size vary widely in building no. 5 the hall extends along the entire width of the building, the hall is 15.25m in length and 10.36 m in width. The dimensions of the central hall in building no. 1 is 6.42m in width and 10.65 in length; in building no. 26 length is 7 m and width is 6.5m. In building no. 1 and 16 the orientation of the longer axis of the half are in north-south direction, while the longer axis of building no. 5 and 26 are extended east- west. The central halls being the nerve centre of the houses, were highly romanticised with extensive ornamentation. These are the most expensive part of the house expressing the wealth and power of the owner-occupier.

Central Courtyard Type. This is derived from traditional rural house form centering around a courtyard. In this case also the central courtyard does not refer to the physical centre of the house; it means that the building activities and layout are arranged around the courtyard. The courtyards are essentially enclosed, paved and open to sky. The inner house overlooks into the courtyard. In general the courtyards are surrounded by verandah on all sides having arched openings, except in those cases like house no. 38, where one end of the court is lined with the boundary wall. The surrounding verandah acts as corridor and gives access to individual rooms. The enclosing walls of the courtyard are extensively delineated with arched openings and pilasters having ornamentation in base, shaft, capital, cornice and parapet. It appears that almost similar emphasis was given to the design of street facade and courtyard facades. The building no. 36, where the Sonargaon Art Gallery is housed at present, is a matured example of courtyard type house, which is still maintained in decent order.

Consolidated Type. This topology refers to those houses without any inner court or hall. Majority of houses in Panam belong to this typology. The consolidated types are designed with either an entrance portal or a verandah or a high plinth as transition space from street to inner house. No uniformity is found in the organisation of inner cells and rooms. Formal balance have been maintained in all the front facades unrelated to inner organisation of the houses. Single storeyed buildings in Panam mostly belong to consolidated typology.

Compound Houses. The compound houses followed the model of Colonial

Bungalow compound complex. Ironically the Bungalow compound complex was developed in India in reference to traditional rural architecture of Bengal. The improvised model became a symbol of Colonial power and the typology was extensively used in civil line and police line in Colonial urban development. The basic characteristic was to place one or two storeyed main house in the middle of a large compound with garden of fruit and flower all around, and to place subsidiary service structures at a distance with the accommodation of domestic service people further down, away from the main building. Since this was a powerful available model of domestic architecture, it was an obvious preference of the affluent merchant class. Nevertheless, the model was modified to suit the needs and desire of local people. The main differences as we find in Sonargaon is that the buildings are much more massive


and elaborate in plan than the Colonial Bungalows to suit diversified social demand. Colonial Bungalow had different domains for separation of locals and non-locals. Since such separation was not necessary in the local version the secondary structures were either an extension of the main building, or additive units placed close to the main building. The importance of the domain is expressed through interior and exterior decoration and finishing, location with respect to the approach, and orientation in reference to view and climatic conditions. The complexity of creating different social domains in the house and providing respective privacy gradients required more than one court in the house to be built around. The application of inner courts responded effectively with the demands of social domains and climatic adaptation of the house. Therefore, in all the examples of compound houses in Sonargaon, we find the existence of more than one court as regulating element of design and layout.

Special Features. Some of the unique designs, elements and special features in Panam are worth mentioning. Considerable variation have been found in roof-top design. Building no. 9 has a roof-top pavilion standing on round columns with well-designed base and capital. House no. 14 has a corner tower topped with a dome on the southeast corner, visible from the road.

In house no. 30 and 31, iron pillars have been used to support the projected verandah structure and verandah roof. Building no. 25 and 42 are provided with small temple like structure on rooftop. The structures have hut-shaped curved roof with finial at the centre point. Both the structures are designed with three arched openings in the facade. Building no. 39 and 41 are unique in character for their relatively smaller size and the uniformity of their decorative treatment in all four sides. A flight of steps or glut extends directly from building no. 39 into the G.R. Pond. Though the two structures are now being used for residential accommodation their original purpose may have been different. The very location, next to pond, and smaller size of the structures suggest that their purpose could have been related to bathing, changing and dressing.

The Sardar Bari. The house located 460m south of Panamnagar is one of the most refined examples of compound houses. This has now been converted into the Folk Art Museum. The structure, built in 1308 BS (1901 CE) was designed with double court. The main court on the south, is rectangular measuring 15.24m 15.24m. The rear court is oblong shaped measuring 15.24m 7.62m. The courts are connected by corridors. There are seventy chambers of different sizes arranged around the two courts of the double storeyed structures. The main entry to the building is through an archway of a relatively lower and highly ornamented frontal building on the south. The majestic facade of the building is on the west overlooking a reflecting pond. Two equestrian statues are placed flanking the steps leading down to the pond. The west facade is projected forward at two ends and designed with nine arched openings both in the ground and upper level. The upper floor openings are slender in proportion. A highly ornamental parapet with floral decoration is placed on the top. In the main axis of this


facade inside the front court a huge recess with high columns had been designed to accommodate a Krishna temple. To give further emphasis to temple axis two massive parapets were built on the east and west facade of the court that dominate the skyline. The temple facade is profusely decorated. The second court on the north was designed as informal court and therefore, it is relatively simple in character. All other facades of the building were left unornamented with doors and windows placed directly on the walls with minimum technical details. The building complex in large compound is isolated by natural barrier of canals. The building is under a slow process of conservation by the Archaeology Department.

Ananda Mohan Poddar’s House. This is another matured example of a compound house. Located on the north of Panam township and approached through the Thana road the house is placed 20m away from the road on the west. The name of the house is ‘Sonajil’. Locally it is also known as ‘Awal Manzil’, since the ownership was transferred from the original owner Ananda Mohan Poddar to a person called Awal. This building is popularly referred to as a house of hundred and one rooms. The building is oblong in shape measuring 125m 80m, elongated in the north-south direction. The layout is composed around two courtyards. The house is approached from the north, and the courtyards are placed in the central axis-one in the north and the other in the south. There are two ponds facing the north and south facade. Both the ponds are provided with ghat or steps leading to the pond. The southern pond is protected through a running wall. There is an annex building linear in shape, extended in east-west direction and located at northwest corner of Poddar’s house, facing a lawn. The exterior facade treatment of the house is relatively simple straightforward arched openings are placed at regular intervals. Contrary to the outside the courtyard enclosure walls inside are extensively decorated with large and small pilasters and floral decorations over the arch, cornice, parapet etc. It is important to observe that the quality and intricacy of decoration is sequentially intensified from the bottom towards the top. The main building is badly damaged and it is unsuitable for use, only the annex building is being used for living accommodation. The building complex includes a specially designed enclosed flower garden at the northeast corner of the main house on the right hand side of the approach road.

Among other examples of compound houses in Sonargaon the Chota Sardar Bari is located on further south of the Bara Sardar Bari. This is a relatively new structure still in use. The Hashimoy Sen’s house and the Bhanu Babu’s house are located on the north of Panam across the Pankhiraj River. Both the building complex are hidden within dense foliage of trees.

Mane temporary structures have been built later within the complex, primarily for accommodation purpose. In Hashimoy Sen’s building complex five old structures have been identified out of which four are two storeyed and one is single storeyed. Ruins of two older structures, presumably from Mughal period, are still surviving within the complex and remains of two original gate structures also exist at two ends, on east and west.


Local Individual Palaces

Ahsan Manzil. Situated on the bank of the river Buriganga near Wiseghat, this stately monument was originally built in 1872 by Nawab Abdul Ghani as a palace on the site of an old French factory and was named after his son, Nawab Ahsanullah Bahadur. It was heavily damaged in the great tornado of 1888 but was later reconstructed completely with substantial alternations to it’s original appearance. A model of the old Ahsan Manzil is now preserved, in beautiful silver filigree work, in the Dhaka Museum.

This two-storeyed grand palace of the Palladian style with a broad picturesque river front stands on a high podium, of which the central part is crowned by a lofty dome. An imposing flight of steps, from the riverside, leads directly to the prominently projecting grand triple-arched portal of the second storey. The palace is divided into two symmetrical halves accommodating apartments of varying sizes and uses such as a drawing room, library and guest rooms, etc. On the ground floor of the palace there is a spacious darbar hall in the west wing and dining hall in the east wing. Lord Curzon stayed in this palace for some time as an honourable guest of Nawab Salimullab Bahadur and witnessed the emergence of Dhaka as the new capital of Eastern Bengal after the first partition of Bengal in 1905.

Coochbihar Palace. This building is almost in the same Palladian style of the Ahsan Manzil, and must have been built approximately of the same date.

Murapara Palace. The palace is situated in Murapara village, about 25 km southeast of Dhaka on the Narsingdi Road. It is connected by a five kilometre stretch of bumpy brick-paved feeder road on the west of the main Dhaka-Sylhet Trunk Road. This prosperous village occupies the eastern bank of the Shitalakhya River, opposite Rupganj across the river. Within the extensive perimeter of the palace there are two conspicuous temples, one on the west by the roadside, and a smaller one with a south facing porch on the south, built largely in carved red stone. The larger and more ornate one, is built entirely in brick with attractive stucco decorations of floral and foliate motifs on the walls. The smaller nava-ratna sikhara temple facing south has a marble stone plaque, bearing, in old Bengali script, the date and name of the builder. According to the inscription, it was built by Ramratan Banerjee in 1296 BS (1889 CE) The adjacent larger temple, which also faces south, is crowned by a large onion shaped hemispherical dome. It was designed with a curious combination of trifoil, sharply pointed, as well as foiled and semi-circular arches. These arches are carried on semi- Corinthian columns and the elevation is broken by ribbed kiosks at the corners. Both are now abandoned and decaying shrines. On the stone facade of the smaller temple and behind the porch, the following icons are carved in high relief: Sri-Gauranga, Siva with Sati on his shoulder Ganesha, Yamuna Laksmi and Srikamal.

The two-storeyed palace with it’s 61.50m broad frontage, faces west across a fenced

off tank which was excavated by Zamindar Bijoy Chandra Banerjee in 1304 BS (1897 CE). It has an imposing central porch with a semi-circular arched entrance that is


decorated by a series of paired Corinthian columns, surmounted by a triangular pediment. The wall surface of the facade is attractively embellished with diverse floral patterns in plasterwork. A 2.45m wide corridor runs the entire length of the building at both levels and provides access to the five large halls which measure 15.25m 6.10m behind. The floors of these halls are laid in black and white marble and the semi­ circular corridor ends are decorated with green, red and blue tinted glass mosaics in various geometric patterns. Immediately behind the main north-south block, there is an open paved 30.75m square courtyard, with a flat-roofed single-storeyed temple on the north, a two-storeyed inner mahal on the east and a cloister of single-storeyed apartments on the south. The mandapa of the temple is supported on a ring of six slender Corinthian columns carrying semi-circular arches. The whole southern facade is tastefully relieved with a variety of floral designs in plaster. The eastern two­ storeyed wing accommodates six apartments at ground floor level and five large halls on the upper floor. The total number of apartments is forty. The palace at present houses the private Murapara College and is still in a fairly good state of preservation.

The founder of the Murapara Raj family was one Ramratan Banerjee, who, towards the end of the 18th century, was appointed as treasurer of the Natore estate. He rose to a high position and acquired large properties by dint of his honesty and perseverance. The property was further extended by Ishana Chandra and Pratap Chandra, the grandsons of Ramratan. Later, the zamindari was divided among Dinesh Chandra, Tarak Chandra and Keshab Chandra all descendants of Ramratan’s eldest son, and Jagadish Chandra and Ashutosh Chandra the sons of Vijay Chandra who descended from Ramratan’s younger son. The property was further fragmented and shared among five other descendants of Ramratan’s brother, namely Birendra Chandra, Brajendra Chandra, Nripendra Chandra, Rajendra Chandra and Gyanendra Chandra Banerjee.

Joydevpur Palace, Bhawal. This extensive palace, occupying an area of about 40 kilometres of flat-land, is about twenty-four miles due north of Dhaka via the Tongi industrial area. The last five kilometres of approach road branches off towards the east at the intersection of the Mymensingh and Mirzapur road. The palace is highly irregular in plan, with it’s main axis from north to south measuring about 130m in length. It’s double-storeyed entrance portico on the south projects 6.10m beyond the main building and is supported on four pairs of round columns. The porch is backed by a wide verandah. On either side of the hall there are three sets of rooms each, to the east and the west. A broad wooden staircase, accommodated within the entrance hall on the right, gives access to the upper floor, which is similarly laid out in plan. This front block, known as baro-dalan was reserved for European guests.

Behind this block is a 30.75m square open court, occupied by a nat-mandap which is covered with a humped-back corrugated iron roof carried on a series of slender concrete pillars. Looking inward to the nat-mandap there are two-storeyed blocks of residential apartments on the southern, eastern and western sides with an uninterrupted verandah in front with semi-circular arches. The verandah on the fourth


side, however, is supported on a number of Corinthian columns. Above it is an open terrace, flanked on either side by two, chauchala shrines, and behind it rises the plain upper storey. Further to the north and behind the first court is another open court, which is surrounded on three sides by two-storeyed residential apartments with paired round columns in front. On the remaining northern side there is the family shrine. The verandah in front of the shrine rests on two parallel rows of six round columns, each ringed around with a series of slender Ionic columns supporting the semi-circular arches above.

Beyond this block and further to the north there is a north-south running block of residential apartments, accessible through a narrow corridor to the west. This long block has a projecting wing on the west which is at right angles to the main block. It is known as the Rani-Mahal or the harem of the palace. The Rani-Mahal which is also two-storeyed has a semi-circular projection on it’s southern side with a large airy balcony, supported on a series of semi-circular arches. This part of the complicated palace is enclosed on the west by a low boundary wall and a 61.50m wide fosse which runs the whole length of the Rajbari and beyond. Across the moat to the southwest, is a small dilapidated bungalow, said to be the residential quarters of the infamous family doctor Ashutosh Das Gupta.

Immediately behind the Rani-Mahal and further to the north there is an east-west running block which now houses the superintendent of police’s office. It was originally a single-storeyed building but recently a second storey has been added.

Outside the Rajbari, across a meadow on the south, stood the manager’s office, the diwankhana and two stable blocks where, in 1909, forty horses and carriages, including a silver mounted carriage and twenty elephants were housed.

The stupendous mass of this irregularly laid out palace, the largest in Bangladesh, which contains more than 360 apartments of varying dimensions, now houses the newly created headquarters of the Gazipur District.

Joydevpur was the family seat of the powerful zamindars of Bhawal who were the leading Hindu landlords of the Dhaka District. It is ringed around by the famous gazari forest of the area which extends up to the heavy forest reserve of eastern Madhupur Garh in Tangail District. Even fifty years back it was a fascinating game sanctuary of wildlife in which tigers, elephants, wild boar and herds of deer freely roamed about.

The first renowned chief of Bhawal was Fazl Ghazi, a close associate of Isa Khan, one

of the leading Bara Bhuiyans of Bengal. Bahadur Ghazi, one of his descendants, received a jaigir of 22 parganas in East Bengal from the Mughal Emperor Akbar. The zamindari was retained by the Ghazi family who originally settled at Kaliganj till the time of Daulat Ghazi when, in 1645 CE, they received a fresh settlement. Daulat Ghazi, however, failed to regularly pay the revenue of his estate and as a consequence, his zamindari was taken away from him by the Mughals and was settled in favour of his three Hindu employees: Bala Ram, Krishna Ram Chaudhury and Balasanna


Ghosh. Bala Ram was succeeded by his son Srikrishna. Laksmi Narayan, sixth in line of descent from Bala Ram, held the zamindari in 1763 when the East India Company received the diwani of Bengal. His son Kali Narayan extended his estate considerably by purchasing a share belonging to Mr. Wise, the famous indigo-planter in Bhawal and by acquiring the zamindari of Phulbaria. Kali Narayan died in 1878 and was succeeded by his son, Raja Rajendra Narayan Dev Bahadur, who died in 1901. He had three sons: Ranendra, Ramendra and Rabindra Narayan. The eldest two did not survive long and as they left no issue, the youngest succeeded to the inheritance. The main fabric of the Joydevpur Palace seems to have been built around 1838 by Zamindar Kali Narayan.

The vast palace remains of Bhawal conjures up an extremely tragic human drama for one of the two comparatively recent and strange murder cases involving the heirs of two princely estates. These triggered off a wave of sensational publicity in the Indian press during the 1930s. They were the Bhawal Prince murder case and the Pakur Prince murder case in Bihar.

The former is an incredible episode of a prince of Bhawal who succumbed to death by poisoning as a result of palace intrigue but miraculously came back to life, a story which reads stranger than a fiction. Briefly the story is this: In May 1909 Prince Ramendra Narayan Roy was taken to Darjeeling for a change by his wife Bibhavati Devi after an illness. They were accompanied by the family physician Dr. Asutosh Das Gupta, some relations and his personal staff members. During this rest cure he was poisoned by the family physician. He became unconscious and on 8th May was certified dead by Dr. Calvert, the civil surgeon of Darjeeling. That night he was taken to the burning ghat for cremation. Then a heavy shower and a violent storm drove the party entrusted with the ceremony, to a shelter away from the ghat. When they returned after the storm had abated, they found the corpse was missing. The Prince, on regaining consciousness after a few days, found himself in the company of a number of Naga sannyasis who had nursed him back to life. Thereafter he lost his memory and wandered around India for twelve years until at last he returned to Dhaka towards the end of 1921 and took up residence on the Buckland Bund in the garb of a sannyasi with a long beard and long matted hair. Gradually his memory was revived and he eventually filed title suit declaring himself to be the second Kumar Ramendra Narayan Roy of Bhawal. His wife immediately disowned him, but many of his relations, his staff and his tenants were able to identify him. The case instituted in the court of the Additional District Judge, Dhaka was protracted for over a decade but finally in August 1936 he won his identity and it was decreed that one-third share of the estate, should be restored to him.

Teota Palace, Sivalaya, Manikganj. Perilously located on the eroding left bank of the Jamuna river, the derelict palace ruins of Teota is approached by a winding strip of two kilometres of dirt road, heavily shaded by overhanging trees on either side, which branches off the Aricha Ferry Ghat to the north. The ruins consist of two palaces in a


row between two tanks on the east and west, an elegant two-storeyed kutchery house with sloping tile roofs and a fairly preserved nava-ratna dol-mancha temple.

The kutchery building, adjacent to the road on north, was owned by the Jai Sankar

estate and was erected, according to an inscription, in 1914 CE. It is an east-west oriented oblong structure of about 21.35m 15.25m with a receding upper floor, placed at right angles to the older palace on it’s southern end. The four sloping roofs of this fairly preserved elegant building on both storeys are entirely covered with brick-red Raniganj tiles. To it’s immediate west and overlooking the southeast bank of the tank, a small square pavilion with a porch on the south, similarly covered with Raniganj tiles, stands picturesquely in the ruins.

The dol-mancha located also on the eastern bank of the tank between the two palaces, is still in a fairly good state of preservation and bears close resemblance to the one at Puthia and many others of the surviving series in West Bengal, illustrated by McCutchion. It is a picturesque square edifice of 15.45m sides which rises in three receding stages and is crowned by nine decorated pida type miniature ratnas. This nava-ratna shrine is liberally provided with semi-circular arched openings on all sides and on each stage. According to an inscription fixed on it’s body it was built in 1858, badly damaged in an earthquake in 1897 and was repaired in 1906 CE.

Set back about 30.75m from the tank on the east and flanked on either side by the kutchery and the dol-mancha this west-facing older palace is about 61.50m north- south by 30.75m east-west, excluding the two, two-storeyed back annexes on either side. It is a two-storeyed oblong block of buildings, enclosing an inner courtyard about 15.45m 9.45m, which appears to have been originally covered by a corrugated sloping tin roof fixed on iron struts. A projected semi-circular porch in the middle of the block (now collapsed), originally carried on twelve pairs of round columns on either side of a covered narrow passageway, gives access to the inner courtyard. The series of paired round columns, supporting an 2.45m wide verandah in front of the block, have also now disappeared with the porch. The row of apartments behind the verandah on either side of the porch are provided with a series of semi-circular arched openings, each flanked by slender semi-Corinthian pilasters.

The inner court is overlooked on three sides by two-storeyed blocks of ten apartments of different dimensions while the fourth side on north accommodates the single­ storeyed family shrine. A strip of 2.45m wide verandah, resting on a series of heavy Ionic columns, runs the entire length of these blocks in front of the apartments. The family shrine on north, said to have been dedicated to goddess Durga, is entered through a 3.5m wide verandah which is carried on four pairs of Ionic columns, above which runs a highly embellished floral frieze, interspersed with female stucco heads. The parapet above has narrow arched openings. The verandah leads to a 12.20m 3.65m wide cella which is entered through three semi-.circular arched entrances. The entrances are flanked by three heavy brick pillars, each relieved with five slender stylized Ionic columns.


A passage through the north-east corner of the inner block leads to another two blocks of two-storeyed buildings at the back on either side. Beyond and further east is a tank and the entire palace area is enclosed by a dilapidated boundary wall.


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