Historical places are indeed significant owing to the fact that they depict our culture, history and most importantly they talk about our past. All the big cities in the world usually feature lots of monumental beauties somehow relatable to historical events. Dhaka is no exception in this regard. Surrounded by architectural and historical places (some of which were built during the Mughal era and some are even older than Dhaka itself), Dhaka is one of those cities where travelers are sure to have busy time as they will have so many places to pay a visit to at their disposal. Without stretching the introduction further here is a list of some important historical places located in Dhaka that are worth visiting:
Lalbagh Fort, also known as Fort Aurangabad, is an unfinished 17th-century Mughal fort. Situated in front of the Buriganga river in the southwestern part of Dhaka, Lalbagh Fort is one of the crown jewels of Mughal architecture in our country. The work of building the castle was started in 1678 AD by Mughal Subahdar Muhammad Azam Shah, son of Emperor Aurangzeb. However, his successor, Shaista Khan, did not complete the work, although he lived in Dhaka up to 1688. Shaista Khan’s daughter Bibi Pari (Lady Fairy) died in 1684. This led Khan to consider that this fort was ominous. Another interesting fact about this amazing family is that another daughter of Shaista Khan, Bibi Morium also died in Dhaka. Both the sisters have tombs in their names. Although the construction work of the entire fort was never completely finished, it still served as a Mughal fortress. Besides residence facilities for the royal family, it could accommodate many soldiers. Lavish gardens, lakes and extraordinary craftsmanship of the building structures still awe the visitors. That’s why Lalbagh fort has always been a centre of attraction for all kinds of tourists.
For a long time, the fort was considered to be a combination of the mosque, the tomb of Bibi Pari, Diwan-i-Aam, two gateways and a portion of the partly damaged fortification wall. Of course, latest excavations of the places have disclosed a less-complicated map. However, though the fort has a rich museum where many people go to do their research, at present it doesn’t have any tour guide.
Ahsan Manzil was the residential palace and workplace of the Nawabs of Dhaka. It’s situated at Kumartoli in Dhaka, along the banks of Buriganga river. Today it serves as one of the beautiful museums of Bangladesh. It is said that it was the Rang Mahal of Sheikh Enayetullah, a zamindar of Jamalpur pargana (Barishal) during the time of the Mughals. Having purchased it from his son Matiullah, the French made it their trading center. Khwaja Alimullah bought it from the French in 1830 and converted it into his residence, doing necessary reconstruction and renovations. Nawab Khwaja Abdul Ghani engaged Martin and Company, a European construction and engineering firm, to make a master plan for their residence. The construction of the palace started in 1859 and was completed in 1872. Abdul Ghani named it Ahsan Manzil after his son Khwaja Ahsanullah. At that time the newly-built palace was known as Rang Mahal and the earlier one was called Andar Mahal. Ahsan Manzil was partly damaged (particularly the Andar Mahal of the palace) by a terrible tornado on April 7, 1888. Nawab Ahsanullah rebuilt the Andar Mahal. The exquisite dome of the present Rang Mahal was interposed. Ahsan Manzil was badly damaged again by the earthquake of 12 June 1897. However, Nawab Ahsanullah had it repaired again. Today a glimpse of how the Nawabs in Dhaka lived can be understood by visiting the place.
Located in between Mohammadpur and the outskirts of Dhanmondi the mosque shows off seven domes- three over the prayer chamber and four over the corner towers. Due to its seven domes, it came to be known as Sat Gambuj (seven domed) Mosque. It is mentionable that Sat Gambuj Masjid and Shatgumbad Mosque are two different historical establishments. On the internet one might find some confusing information as the names are almost similar. However, it’s a structure of the Mughal period and one can find a photo of the mosque taken in the late 60s at the Bangladesh National Museum. Umid Khan, son of Shaista Khan, the legendary Mughal governor of Bengal, built it in 1680 AD. The mosque stands on a 15-feet high platform that can accommodate hundreds of people. The mosque is surrounded by a large beautiful rectangular-shaped garden. Of course, it should be mentioned that the official signboard near this tomb says it’s an anonymous tomb. However, it won’t be a bad idea to visit this place in your spare time.
Khwaja Ambar’s Mosque
Bangladesh is a country of mosques while Dhaka is widely known as the ‘city of mosques’. So many historical mosques are located in Dhaka but it is shocking that many of us have little idea about the historical significance of these mosques. One such mosque is the Khwaja Ambar’s Mosque located in the Karwan Bazar area of Dhaka city. The road that it’s situated by is known as Kazi Nazrul Islam Avenue, which was formerly known as the Mughal Trunk Road built by Subahdar Mir Jumla, through which Mughal cavalry travelled towards the northeastern frontier. The building has undergone a series of extension and repair works. In the 1960s the mosque was thoroughly repaired and a three-domed verandah was added to the east side. Multi-storied extensions in the east have been built in the early 1980s, giving the building a modern look. The mosque has retained two inscriptions – one over the central mihrab contains a verse from the Holy Quran and the other over the central doorway records the erection of a mosque, a well, and a bridge in 1680 by Khwaja Ambar, the head eunuch of Subahdar Shaista Khan. However, there is no clear information as of when this mosque was built.
Do you know how old is Dhaka? Well, some years back we celebrated the 400 years of Dhaka city. There are some experts who like to debate on this matter. They say Dhaka is older than Kolkata. The proof is the Dhakeshwari temple itself. It is believed that this temple is 800 years old. This temple is surrounded by a not-too-high boundary wall on the northern side of the Dhakeshwari Road, less than half a mile to the southwest of the Salimullah Hall of Dhaka University. There is a monumental gateway at its entrance, known as the ‘nahabatkhana gateway’. According to Banglapedia, popular legend connects the name of one king, Ballalsena, as its builder, but it is not certain whether he is identical with Sena king of that name from the 12th century. The style of architecture of the temple cannot be assigned to that period. Furthermore, sand and lime, and the mortar used in the building came into use in Bengal after the Muslim conquest. Moreover, Abul Fazl, in his ain-i-akbari, has not mentioned anything about this temple, though he has given a vivid description of each and every notable object in his chapter on the survey of ten subahs. Meanwhile, the three-domed roof and three arched entrances and the plastered walls of the temple, strongly suggest that it was built in the Mughal style.
Shahbaz Khan Mosque
A merchant of the prince of Dhaka built the mosque as well as his own Dargah Sharif during his lifetime in 1086 (h). Now its present condition is good. Shahbaz Khan Mosque is situated in the old high court area. In 1950 the Eastern circle of the Pakistan Directorate of Archaeology (DOA) took over both the Haji Khwaja Shahbaj Masjid and the adjacent square mazar. Shahbaz Khan built the mazar. This mosque, constructed in 1679 by Haji Khwaja Shahbaz, a rich merchant of Dhaka, is one of the city’s most refined mosques.
Dhaka University Walking Museum
Dhaka University itself is a magnificent historical place. This is because this was the first university to be built in this part of Bengal. However, with a view to teaching the new generation about the genocide that took place during our Liberation War, Dhaka University’s Centre for Genocide Studies (CGS) has recently launched a ‘walking museum’ on the campus. The centre has marked several spots on the campus where the killings took place, including the historic Bot Tola premises, martyred intellectuals’ memorial beside the Arts Building, Shahid Sergeant Jahurul Haque Hall, Jagannath Hall, Central Shaheed Minar, Suhrawardy Udyan, Ramna Kali Mandir and Madhur Canteen. At the moment, only Dhaka University students are permitted to take part in tours of the walking museum. Two hours are allocated (from 10 am to 12 pm and from 3 pm to 5 pm) on Fridays and Saturdays for the tour. However, there has been no official decision as to when this facility will be declared open for the commoners as well.