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Another small palace on north beyond the dol-mancha about 30.75m long, faces west and is entered through a porch in the middle of the block. The porch has three pointed arched opening in front which are plastered all over with cement. It leads to an oblong inner court through a covered passage surrounded on all sides with single-storeyed blocks of buildings except the south which accommodates a two-storeyed structure. A 2.45m wide strip of verandah runs the entire front of about fifteen apartments which is carried on plain brick pillars on the ground floor, while the balcony of the upper floor rests on a series of semi-Corinthian columns with octagonal shafts. Both semi­ circular and two-centred pointed arches have been used to cover the short openings in various parts of the buildings.

The small family shrine is located on the north wing. A 3.5m wide verandah, resting on six semi-Corinthian, cast-iron slender columns with floral spandrels, gives access to the sanctuary, measuring about 9.45m 3.5m. The sanctuary is entered through five semi­ circular arched entrances, the spandrels of which are very attractively embellished with floral plaster scrolls. Above this a large floral plaster scroll decorates the temple wall beneath the parallel bands of foliated friezes. The facade of the shrine with a series of semi-circular arches above the openings, daintily decorated with floral scrolls and the supporting pillars relieved with rows of slender semi-Corinthian or semi-Ionic pilasters, are closely comparable to the family shrine of Joydevpur Palace.

These palace complexes were built in the middle of the last century by the zamindars of the Joy Sankar estate the older southern block being owned by Charu Sankar, Kiron Sankar and Deva Sankar, while the northern block, built later, was owned by Hema Sankar. They were enlightened landlords of Sivalaya in Manikganj District who were well known for their public spirit and for the patronization of various educational and social institutions in the area.

3.1.3 Shankhanidhi Houses in Dhaka

Rise of Bourgeoisie in Dhaka in the Middle of the 19th century gave ways to many opportunists for their luck to be tried. Such one being the Shaho-Banik family which settled in the Nababpur area of the city. Shaho-Banik means a class of businessmen who trade in spices and herbs. It is said that shankha or conch-shell once found in dream by one of the family members brought great fortune to their business. The days of prosperity began sometime at the beginning of 20th century when the family business was looked after by three brothers– Lal Mohon Shaho- Banik, Bhajo Hari Shaho- Banik and Gouro Netai Shaho- Banik. From then on, they used Shankhanidhi or the bearer of shankha as family title and symbol of Shankha as family and business logo to show respect to the talisman of their wealth.

The group of buildings came into being during this time (1920-26). The three brothers with their overpowering success in business made huge real-estate properties in and around the city. They also indulged themselves in local policies and humanitarian works.

Shankhanidhi group of buildings comprises several structures along the northern side of Tipu Sultan road stretching from the Nawabpur Road corner to Rankin Street corner at the old part of Dhaka city. Of these, four structures are chosen for this article. They are a. Shankhanidhi Lodge b. Nat Mandir c. Bhajohori Lodge and d. Radha-Vinod Mandir. These were erected during a time when the Gothic-Indian or Indo-Saracenic style had set a firm grip on the Indian Architecture where Classicism became obvious and tradition revived. Dhaka being an important outpost of British Empire could not defy the force, which found it’s place boldly in these buildings. They show traditional grouping around courtyards and treatment in fenestration within the Classical framework of proportion, features and methods of construction.

a. Shankhanidhi Lodge. The eldest brother Lal Mohon Shaho-Banik erected this two-storeyed multi-court building in 1921. It followed traditional courtyard organisation with delicately ornate street elevation. The front facade bears the testimony of Greco-Indian influences. The central bay is hexta-style with double height Corinthian columns providing grandeur and image of a high status. Side bays with three openings on each floor and pilasters in between were treated with foliage bringing drama to the composition like the Baroque-Rococo predecessors.

b. Nat Mandir. Situated to the east of Shankhanidhi Lodge, this temple like structure was erected by the youngest brother Gouro Nitai Shaho-Banik for his relaxation and entertainment. It is an enclosed type structure elevated on a five feet high platform, symmetrically composed and having a central hall preceded by a veranda. The style adopted in it’s fenestration shows high resemblance to the Gothic-Indian approach. Exterior openings with multi-foil arch, group columns, kalasa base to the columns, high platform showed much to it’s pre-European attachments. Use of foliage pattern is treatment of the crowning pediment to bring motions to the composition along with tendency to lift upward, the two point octagonal domes, owed much to the Indian interpretation of the Gothic.

c. Bhajohori Lodge (Now Graduate School). Built sometime around 1925, this two storeyed building is a symmetrical enclosed structure having three rooms arranged centrally side by side and run by corridors all along the periphery. It is supposed to be built for residential purpose although frequently staging of Bengali Dramas was reported. Stylistically, it belonged to something between Greco- Indian and Gothic Indian. The parapets have been delicately treated with triangular pediments incorporating traditional jali creating a rhythm of verticality along the skyline. The projecting semi-circular balconies in the central bay with half-dome


capping in the side reminds of treatments in the Mughal architecture soaked with Hindu influences. Columns in the upper storey derived inspiration from pre-Islamic Hindu temples.

d. Radha-Vinod Mandir. Of all the buildings in this group, the most successful attempt of fusion between Indian and the Western styles was evident in this structure built as the Shankhanidhi family temple. Organised along a central courtyard the main sanctuary is placed centrally as the northern termination. In it’s elevation facing the street, the central bay, except the third level is grafted with the Indian skin borrowed from various chapters of Indian architecture. The entry columns, owed much to the North Indian temple columns supporting a balcony above with multi-foil arch and projected eaves, remind of the Mughal pavilions. Above this, a projection is held by Hindu brackets. The parapets are crowned with chouchala kiosk providing a glorifying example of Gothic influence in Dhaka’s architecture. Arches used in the ground floor openings clearly show Gothic approach, while at the upper storey of the

Dhaka: Bhajahari Lodge, Tipu Sultan Road (c. 1925)

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