Monday, April 23, 2018

Mughal Dhaka and its river fortification system

Hajiganj Fort. Photographer: Siplu Sinha/Wikimedia

When the Mughals tried to establish their stronghold in this part of Bengal the worst enemy they faced, besides the indomitable Baro Bhuiyans (twelve landlords), were the calamitous nature and the riverine landscape. The streams of constantly shifting water pierced the land into parcels of various sizes and shapes. Another alarming fact for them were the continuous raids by the Magh (Arakanese) and Portuguese (along with a few Dutch) pirates, who came from the Bay of Bengal through large rivers (namely Meghna and Brahmaputra). The horse-riding Mughals understood that in order to lay down their empire in Bengal they had to secure the waterways first. 
Subedar (governor) Islam Khan, who in popular culture is thought to be the founder of the township of Dhaka, expanded and strengthened the naval forces (Mughal Nowara or the naval fleet) and appointed a Commander in Chief or Meer-i-Bohor. It is said that within a century, the Mughals probably built three forts along the rivers around the city at strategic locations with a view to securing the capital. Though there is a persisting controversy about whether it was Mir Jumla or Islam Khan who actually built them, there is no doubt about their purpose. The three forts are sometimes referred to as the "Triangle of Waterforts" and consists of the Idrakpur, Sonakanda and Hajiganj forts.
IDRAKPUR FORT
The Idrakpur Fort was the first fort to be constructed among the "Triangle of Waterforts". It is located about 25 km south-east of Dhaka, at the Munshiganj town, on the west bank of the river Ichamoti. At the time, the river ran along the side of the fort, but subsequently dried up in the twentieth century—a portion of the present Munshiganj town is actually built on top of that area. 
Idrakpur Fort. Poster by Department of Archaeology. Photographer: Touhidun Nabi
The fort was probably built by Mir Jumla in the 1660s as a defence against the Magh (Arakanese) and Portuguese pirates. As stone was unavailable and expensive, the principal building material was burnt brick. Use of this local material can be seen in the joineries on the doors. The same technique prevails in the Hajiganj and Sonakanda forts too.
The fort is rectangular in shape and divided into two sections. Among them, the polygonal western portion is larger and elongated towards the north-south. The quadrangular eastern part is much smaller. The walls and plinth of this fort is much lower than the other forts. There is no significant void in the wall except a small hole on the merlon (the solid upright section of a battlement) and another hole between the merlons. The four open bastions at the four corners were the most effective in attacking the enemies. There were sixteen merlons on each of the bastions. All the gateways resemble the Mughal architectural style of large vaulted openings. The fort also has a water reservoir which provided fresh supply of water for the inhabitants inside.
It was not a siege fort, and because of that it only had a weak defensive wall. Like most other forts in this region it provided shelter, for the soldiers who encamped here, in the rainy season when the raids were frequent. Another significant feature of the fort is a big circular drum in the south, which is further defended by a wall. This area must have been provided for mounting a cannon, to keep raiders away, with long range bombardment capabilities.
As the Ichamoti River silted, the southern side of the fort became buried up to the parapet. Moreover, for a while, a portion of the compound was being used as a residence of the District Commissioner (DC) of Munshiganj and the rest serves as a jail. Although the fort is not exactly preserved in its original condition, it has survived negligence and destruction because of being reused for that spell of time.
SONAKANDA FORT
The fort is situated at the Bandar area of Narayanganj and is on the eastern side of the Shitalakkhya river. It is just south of the present-day Rupshi residential area (once the Rupshi Jute Mill area) which is also about a  distance of 25 km from Dhaka city.
Sonakanda Fort. From Mughal Monuments of Bangladesh (2006) by Nazly Chowdhury and Babu Ahmed. Photographer: Babu Ahmed

Like the Idrakpur Fort, this was also used for protecting the nearby settlements and Dhaka from the raids. Back then, the area was a very important strategic location for Mughal defences, as the Shitalakkhya, the Dhaleshwari and the Brahmaputra rivers met at this point. Nowadays, the three rivers have shifted towards the west, south and east respectively. At the same time, the Brahmaputra has mostly dried up, and the flow of the Dhaleshwari has decreased significantly, which undermines the utility of the fort at the present.
It is assumed that the fort was built in the Mughal period, but it is not known whether it was commissioned by Mir Jumla or someone before him. It is rumoured that the fort was a Magh or Portuguese fort, and was then captured by the Mughals. This statement, though, cannot be backed up or verified with proper sources and is most probably just gossip.
The fort is a rectangular shaped structure with a circular section on the west where there is an elevated platform. This base was used for bombardment by long-range heavy cannon. It also has other spaces for placing cannons at different sides. The premises most likely did not have any other buildings inside, as no ruins can be found. It was common practice for the Mughal army to establish army camps with tents and temporary settlements with mainly wooden structures when necessary within the fort. The fort was in ruins, before the Department of Archaeology took up the work of restoration and maintenance—it is today a well maintained remnant of Mughal Dhaka.
HAJIGANJ FORT
This fort is very close to Dhaka (about 20 km), located at the outskirts of Narayanganj city. It falls to the western side of the Narayanganj-Demra Road while moving outwards from the town. It is evident from old maps and records that the fort was built along the river side, but here too the channel over time shifted quite a bit towards the east.

Hajiganj Fort
The pentagonal shaped fort is the most elevated one among the three. It is located on the western bank of the Shitalakhya River (opposite of the Sonakanda fort) at a place where it meets the river Buriganga. Measuring approximately 250 by 200 feet; the fort is elongated along the east to the west. The walls are about twenty-feet-wide and the five segments of the fort are not equal. The corner of the walls are curved and there used to be bastions for cannons. There are several battlements on the wall along with  some platforms connected to the walls to operate the cannon. There is a large square platform on a corner. The interior space was likely used as the premises for troops to stay, retreat and move forward during a battle. It is known that the famous Subedar Mir Jumla stayed here quite often and from here, started some of his conquests.
After the British period, the fort was abandoned and it started to fall apart. The Department of Archaeology has taken it under their jurisdiction and repaired it. Today, it can be seen at its original state.

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Monday, March 19, 2018

Birds of Bangladesh

Birds of Bangladesh

The bird is one of the most beautiful creatures of a country. Their sound, color, appearance and behavior are so amazing that none can stop loving them. The Kingfisher, dove, finches, robin birds etc. are the most exotic birds. They have friends, family and human community to take care and save them.
Oriental Magpie Robin (Copsychus saularis): Magpie Robin is a beautiful and mild natured common bird of Bangladesh, locally known as Doyel. They are largely found in rural and urban areas of the region. Mainly it lives on insects. It is the National Bird of Bangladesh.
House Sparrow (Passer domesticus): The house sparrow is a common bird of Bangladesh. It is abundantly found in rural areas. It lives on insects and food grains. It makes nests in straw made houses for breeding.
Common Myna (Acridotheres tristis): Myna is one of the most popular bird in Bangladesh. It is widely known as a talking bird. It can copy the voice of a man. It lives on insects, ripe fruits and food grains. It is mostly found in the domestic areas, field and on the bank of rivers.
Tailorbird (Orthotomus sutorius):  Tailorbirds are small birds widely found in Bangladesh, commonly known as songbird, found in the forest and gardens.  They are usually brightly colored with green, gray and yellow-white. They have short rounded wings, short tails and strong legs and long curved bills.
Black Drongo (Dicrurus macrocercus): The black drongo is a small black bird with a distinctive forked tail. It has aggressive behavior towards larger birds. It mostly lives on insects and found sitting on the trees, cows, goats and buffaloes.
Bulbul (Pycnonotus jocosus): This is a very common bird in Bangladesh, largely found in the hilly areas, forests, domestic areas also on the small trees around the ponds. It lives on fruits and small insects.
Jungle Babbler (Turdoides striata): The babblers are gray colored bird live in a small group of six to twelve in numbers. They are also known as seven brothers, found everywhere in Bangladesh.
White-Breasted Kingfisher (Halcyon smyrensis): The kingfisher is commonly found sitting on the tree by the side of the river or pond. It lives on tiny fish. It has a white throat and red bleak.
Purple-Rumped Sunbird (Nectarinia zeylonica):  They are tiny at less than 10 cm long. The purple-rumped sunbirds are a common resident breeder in Bangladesh. They are found in a variety of habitats with trees, including scrub and cultivated lands and are usually absent from dense forest. They are active in flitting around and making a quiet chirping noise.
Rufous Tree-pie (Dendrocitta vagabunda): The rufous Tree-pie: It is a member of the crow family. The bird has a brown & gray body and a long tail. The bird is commonly found in agricultural areas, gardens and bamboo forests.
Golden Oriole (Oriolus oriolus): The golden oriole is also one of the most popular birds in Bangladesh. It has yellowtail and is well known for her sweet melodious voice. It is found over the big trees near the human habitation. It sings in different voices in different seasons.
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Friday, March 9, 2018

Armenians in Dhaka


Armenians in Dhaka
Pogose School
The Armenians most probably came to Bengal before any other European merchants and played an important part in the export-import business of not only Bengal but also the whole of India. But, it was in Bengal where they were most active. They reached Bengal-Bihar in the early 17th century if not earlier, as there are inscriptions (now preserved in Kolkata Museum) which were found in Bihar dating from the 1630–1640s.

The Armenians settled in present day Armanitola—the name of the locality still bearing reminiscences of their presence. They were at first a small community but were unmatched in textile trading, and in some cases had monopoly in the saltpetre, betel nut, opium and salt trades. According to John Taylor (who was the Commercial Resident of Dhaka in 1800), in 1747, Armenians were the largest exporters of cloth from Dhaka, far ahead of English, Dutch or French. With their profits and huge resources, they became very influential and rich; their affluence resulted in the construction of a church of their own and other private mansions.

©Sakib Ahmed

The Armenians were famous as merchants from ancient times and their guiding philosophy was to get involved with any business which brought profit. They brought the jute business here in the second half of the 19th century and were pioneers in the jute trade. Names of 12 eminent merchants of Bengal engaged in jute trading in Dhaka and Narayanganj in the late 19th and early 20th century can be found. Some of the most prominent were Abraham Pogose, Margar David, J C Sarkies, M Catchatoor, A Thomas, J G N Pogose, Michael Sarkies and P Aratoon. Among them, M David & Co sometimes bypassed Kolkata to export jute directly to London through Chittagong. They owned 12 motor launches for carrying goods. Other than the jute trade, Armenians were also involved in internal trading and local logistical support because of their huge trade network.

 ©Dhrubo Alam

The Armenians were always in competition with the English so they had to explore many businesses and at one time they even started to buy Zamidaris, unlike in other places in India. There were only three Armenian zamindars between 1836–38, paying more than 1,000 rupees a year, but their number grew rapidly in the latter half of that century. Families of Michael, Sarkies, Aratoon, Stephens, Lazarus among others became zamindars. Khoja Michael, Aratoon and Lucas were the zamindars of South Shahbazpur (Bhola), Pargana Hussain Shahi and Doulat Khan respectively.


The Armenian community contributed a lot to the civil society and the life of the city. Nicholas Pogose in the early 19th century established the Pogose School, which was one of the only three English schools in Dhaka back then. He was also a founding member of the Dhaka Municipality (established in 1864) and served as one of the nine commissioners between 1874–75. Furthermore, they had a big impact not only in Dhaka but also neighbouring towns including Narayanganj and Mymensingh. 

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Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Bangladesh’s northernmost museum displays ancient rocks


Bangladesh’s northernmost museum displays ancient rocks
Bangladesh’s northernmost museum displays ancient rocks
A private collection started by Prof Md Nazmul Haque, lead to the birth of a local museum that now contains an assortment of ancient stones and other antiquities. Within two years he collected a number of antiquities, old stones and objects of archaeological value which have been on display at the ‘Rocks Museum’ at the Panchagarh Govt. Women’s College premises.Nazmul Haque, who is also an ex-principal of the college where the antiques are on display, collected them in the years of 1997 and 1998, mainly focusing on stones.

His collection includes clay pots from around 700 AD, stones which contain Chinese inscriptions that have similarity with Nepalese and old Bangla letters, a decorated bamboo hedge from 1922, ancient iron clamps, decorated bricks of Mughal dynasty and old coins.

“People here did not know the history behind the antiques. Most of the collected items were found by the locals either by digging soil or from under the river beds,” said the professor, now working at Begum Rokeya University in Rangpur.

The ancient boats


In the ancient times, ethnic people in islands in the Pacific Ocean used boats made out of single tree trunks. They selected a log and removed sufficient wood to make the vessel light in weight, gave the boats sharp ends to maximize drag while making it strong enough to carry the crew and cargo. Such two ancient boats presumed to have been built 500-1000 years back, were found while digging in the Chawain River near Amtala village and Karatoa River near Amorkhana village in Panchagarh district in the late 90’s.

The bigger wooden boat is 35-feet long and was found under the Chawain River by some villagers. They sold it to another family at Amtola village.“I heard that someone has an antique boat in his house and rushed to see it with a staff from the college,” said Nazmul Haque. He bought the boat for for Tk1,300.

The smaller one is 25-feet long and was found under the riverbed of Karotoa, in Amorkhana village. It was handed over to the collector as a gift by one Nurul Haque. Nazmul Haque sent samples from the boats to Dhaka University’s Chemistry Department, Bangladesh Atomic Energy Commission and a lab in London but they failed to ascertain the exact age as the boats had been lying in the open sky after being discovered.

Rocks and other antiques


The stones preserved at the ‘Rocks Museum’ allegedly originated in Darjeeling and Jalpaiguri districts of India.Displays include granite, twelve types of sands, fossilized rocks, petrified woods, quartzite shell, lime stones clay-rocks–some has old letters—including Biahmmi and Kharsty written on those. Some Chinese inscriptions have similarity with Nepalese and old Bangla letters.

The other antiques include old structural designs, ancient iron lamps, drawings, arrows which showcases the ethnic traits of Panchagarh and adjacent areas.The museum has stone monuments that have similarity with stones at Buddhist Vihara at Paharpur. It also has hand-made stone axe of Neolithic era. Locals used to call those “Bajrakuthar.”

The Rocks Museum was formally inaugurated on March 1, 1997 with the collected rocks and antiques.

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Monday, March 5, 2018

A Trekker's Guide To Bangladesh



A Trekker's Guide To Bangladesh
©Sayam U. Chowdhury

One feels more profoundly connected to the earth and the environment when one is exploring on feet, rather than on a motorised vehicle. Your senses heightened, as you take in the sights and sounds, and the brain receives the stimuli that it craves from new experiences and exploration. And this is what treks are; a long walk that has a lot more to offer.

Sometimes the trek is adventurous, strenuous and even dangerous, going through difficult terrains, but any trek always has the ability to surprise you. Treks give a chance to immerse yourself completely in the moment, where the only thing that's important is where you place your next step. And an opportunity to test yourself, both physically and mentally.
It is no wonder then that trekking is now a very popular outdoor activity all over the world. Bangladesh, being one of the densely populated countries, does have some wonderfully scenic and spectacular trails that can take the trekkers through some diverse landscapes and experiences.

A WALK THROUGH SINGRA NATIONAL PARK

©Sakib Ahmed

The National Park in the northern district of Dinajpur is a wonderful sal forest that offers a pleasant trek through the sylvan coolness. There is a small stream that has to be crossed to enter the forest. The forest itself is magical, with large sal tress filtering the forest trails in a mosaic of light and shade. Walking through the forest offers a calmness as one can listen to calls of a plethora of birds, including orioles and drongos.

You will encounter members of the indigenous Santal community deep in the forest paths. A Santal village is just on the other side of the forest. Following the forest trails will lead you to the village. The quaint surrounding will offer you a glimpse into the simple lives of the community.


LAWACHARA TREK

©Fuad Hassan

Lawachara National Park, in Srimangal of Moulvibazar district, is probably one of my most visited forests in the country, and one that offers a glimpse of the grandeur of the olden days where the forests were truly impenetrable. These days, one can hire a guide and go on treks inside the forest.
Two treks are available, one is a 30-minute walk and the other is 3-hours long. You can take eco-guides who work closely with the local Forest Department and you can contact a guide from the local forest office. For a small fee, one can take assistance from these guides.
The forest itself is incredibly diverse and the trek will take you through a range of micro-habitats. The three-hour trail winds through deep inside the forest, through bamboo groves, and large chapalish trees, down hilly charas or forest streams.

HUM HUM WATERFALL TREK
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This breath-taking waterfall lies deep in the remote Rajkandi Reserve Forest and offers a unique opportunity to walk through mystical hilly boulder strewn jhirior stream with crystal clear water trickling through.
The Rajkandi forest is in Moulvibazar district. To reach the waterfall, one has to undertake a tough 3-hour trek, that takes the trekker up and down forested hills and valleys down to the stream that would eventually lead to the waterfall.
The stream is narrow and peaceful with large mossy rocks, trees and bamboo groves reaching high on both sides. The sunlight filters through the greenery, reflecting off the high green walls and clear water, is finally absorbed by the large mossy rocks.
The trek through the stream is in an emerald world inside a fairy-tale. The sound of water flowing over rocks is soothing and offers the trekker a chance to reflect and inhale the beauty of the place.

BOGA LAKE AND KEOKRADONG PEAK

©Sayam U. Chowdhury

This is probably one of the most famous treks in Bangladesh that take you up steep hills, through tribal villages, to a magical lake, passing incredible landscapes and all the way up to one of the highest peaks of Bangladesh. The Boga Lake-Keokradong trek, in Bandarban, is most certainly one of the most exciting and picturesque treks with expansive vistas and layers of green hills extending all the way to the horizon.
The trek will let you experience some breath-taking views, especially the beautifully blue Boga Lake nestled among the deep green hills. You can even take a dip in the clear water of the lake, go fishing using traditional methods or just take a calm walk along its bank, absorbing the beauty of the place.
The walk through the narrow hilly streams or jhiri will allow you to spend some intimate moments with nature and be lost in your thought. The trek is adventurous and uphill but one that has the ability to provide some amazing moments.

THE BREATHTAKING NAFAKHUM AND AMIAKHUM TREK

©Sakib Ahmed

This takes you through some of the most pristine natural landscapes of the country, across hills and rivers and streams, climaxing into the cascading waterfalls of Nafakhum and Amiakhum. The magic of the place is indescribable and best to find out for oneself.
At Thanchi, you will have to find yourself a guide, who will get a boat ready for you which can take you through some of the most beautiful sections of the hilly river Sangu, filled with massive boulders and sheer rock faces on both sides.  The river will take you all the way to Remakri Bazar passing Tindu Bazar, where you will have to stay the night. From Remakri, the trek finally begins.
From there a short 2-hour trek will take you to Nafakhum waterfall, an epitome of calmness and reflective beauty of nature. The water, coming down in steps from the rock is mesmerising and one can really spend hours and hours just imbibing the beauty of the place.
All across Bangladesh, there are places hidden, waiting to be explored and blazed a trail through. These are just a handful of them, all of which are stunning in their diversity and the experience they provide. A community of trekkers has been established in Bangladesh and are active on social media, arranging treks regularly. One can easily look them up and tag along.
To read the full article written by Sakib Ahmed click here
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Saturday, February 17, 2018

EKUSHEY BOI MELA : The National book fair of Bangladesh



Ekushey Boi Mela is the national book fair of Bangladesh. It is arranged each year by Bangla Academy and takes place for the whole month of February in Dhaka. This event is dedicated to the martyrs who died on 21st February 1952 in a demonstration calling for the establishment of Bengali as one of the state languages of former East Pakistan.



Muktodhara Publishing House under the initiative of Chittaranjan Saha had started a little sale in front of Bangla Academy on 21 February 1972. Later, other book publishers joined there. Bangla Academy took over charge of the Fair in 1978. In 1984, it was named Amar Ekushey Book Fair. Apart from book selling, the literary and cultural events are also organized there. The visitors gather at Nazrul Manch, a corner dedicated to Poet Kazi Nazrul Islam. Besides, many go to Lekhok Kunjo, a dedicated place for writers. In fact, this book fair is the cultural reunion of Bangladesh which is attended by every person who is related to book publishing and writing. In 2014, the authorities extended the territory of the Fair up to Suhrawardy Udyan to accommodate a huge number of visitors.



Ekushey Boi Mela started merely as a book fair; it has now evolved into a national cultural festival reflecting the cultural spirit of the modern Bengali nation. In addition to book sales, Bangla Academy organizes literary and cultural events every day.Baul and other folk songs are presented to the amusement of the gathering. Discussions on literature and culture are also held throughout the month of February. Famous writers and intellectuals deliver lectures to enlighten the audience. In one stage programme, Ekushey Padaks are handed over to recipients amid the presence of the top intellectuals of the country. There is no entry fee. Publishers of Bangladesh take year-long preparation to publish a huge number of books during this month. Around 500 publishers take part in this historical fair every year. The venue of the book festival and outside is decorated with banners, festoons and placards in conformity with the spirit of martyrs.



No other country can boast the annual tradition of a month-long book fair, held with such fervor at such an important venue in the capital -- the book fair makes Bangladesh unique, and in a good way. Visit Ekushey Boi Mela to get the taste of rich Bengali culture, history and mark the glory of a civilized & educated nation.

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Thursday, January 25, 2018



Best Cultural Attractions of Dhaka, Bangladesh’s Mega city
Dhaka’s size and density make visiting the city a hyper-real urban experience, in which the whirlwind of metropolitan life is magnified to an extreme degree. It is also a city marked by the complex cultural, religious and social history of Bangladesh, and exploring the streets of this thriving mega city offers a fascinating insight into the rich panorama of Bangladeshi culture and history.


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Jatiyo Sangsad Bhaban
Designed by American architect Louis Kahn, the Jatiyo Sangsad Bhaban or National Parliament House is one of the most impressive seats of political power in the world, and is a worthy monument to the thriving city in which it is located. It is one of the largest legislative complexes in the world and houses all of Bangladesh’s parliamentary activities. The building was planned in the early 1960s, as the seat of the federal legislature of both West Pakistan and East Pakistan but wasn’t built for another two decades as the War of Independence took its deadly toll. Kahn’s monumental design is visually stunning, both in scale and in location, as it rises from the mist of the surrounding lake, which was incorporated to evoke the place of the river in Bangladeshi and society history.


Liberation War Museum
Located in Segunbagicha, the Liberation War Museum commemorates the Bangladeshi Liberation War, which led to the formation of Bangladesh. It includes an array of artefacts, educational information and images of the conflict, as well as the ensuing refugee crisis, which saw an exodus of 10 million refugees. Whilst by no means comprehensive, the Museum’s exhibits offer a fascinating insight into what was a deeply troubled period in the subcontinent, and there are several graphic displays which are not for the faint of heart, including a large collection of mementos of those who lost their lives in the conflict. A profoundly moving experience, the Liberation War Museum is an essential memorial to the tragic loss of life which accompanied the birth of the Bangladeshi state.

Hindu Street/Shankaria Bazaar
The 300 year old centre of Dhaka’s Hindi community, this colourful and vibrant area is a slice of the commercial life of Old Dhaka, and reveals the artisanal traditions of the Hindu community in Bangladesh. The area is crisscrossed with alley ways packed with tiny workshops where artisans and craftsmen practice their age old traditional crafts; making everything from kites to jewellery. Many are descendants of the original Hindu residents of the area, and their handicraft traditions have been handed down from generation to generation. The area’s constant hum of business and craftsmanship is infectious, and visitors will not fail to be entranced by the ageless atmosphere of the bazaar.




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Bangladesh National Museum
Located in Shahbag, the Bangladesh National Museum is a monument to the history and culture of Bangladesh and the wider Bengal region. It features a mammoth array of artefacts, mementos, exhibits, photos and art works. These are organised into thematic sections which reveal the best of art and culture in Bangladesh, from pieces of classical art, to exhibits exploring the natural beauty of Bangladesh, and the variety of wildlife and sea creatures which thrive in the country. The Buddhist and Muslim periods of Bangladesh are explored and there are various handicrafts from every period of Bangladeshi history. For an introduction to the culture and history of this ancient land, the National Museum is unmissable.




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Khan Mohammad Mridha Mosque
Dhaka is often referred to as the ‘City of Mosques’ (as well as the ‘City of Rickshaws’) and the Khan Mohammad Mridha Mosque reveals why. This historic archaeological site has been reasonably well restored, unlike many other sites in the city, and reveals the religious practices and architectural style of late 17th and early 18th century Dhaka. It was constructed by Khan Muhammad Mridha in the years 1704–05 AD and is unique in that the tahkhana rooms are raised on a platform, and must be reached by a series of steps. In a city full of Mosques the Khan Mohammad Mridha Mosque is a particular highlight, and one of the more unique historical remnants of Bangladesh’s past.




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Armenian Church

Surprising in both its history and its unique architecture, the Armenian Church of Dhaka is a testament to the existence of a once thriving Armenian community in the city. Built in 1781 the church is now all that remains of this community, which found refuge in Bengal to escape Persian persecution in their homeland. They arrived in the 17th century and began trading with Bengali merchants whilst settling in an area which would come to be known as Armanitola. Whilst the Armenian community has long been dispersed, the church remains as a memento of the thriving social life which once existed in the neighbourhood, and the graveyard is a particularly poignant remnant of an all but forgotten part of Dhaka’s multicultural society.



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The Pink Palace of Ahsan Manzil
For a glimpse of aristocratic life in Bangladesh, and the chance to escape the throbbing crowds of the city streets, a visit to Ahsan Manzil is a must. This resplendent pink palace was once the home of the Dhaka Nawab Family, the rulers of Dhaka for much of the 19th and early 20th century, who were given sovereignty over the city under the British Raj. It was built in 1869 and is an example of the Indo-Saracenic Revival architecture which is evident throughout the subcontinent as one of the Raj’s enduring remnants. The palace has now been turned into a museum as a means of preserving it and commemorating its importance as a cultural and political centre of the city.



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Sadarghat Boat Ride

Sadarghat is the river port for Dhaka, and a boat ride from here is a vital introduction to the importance of the Buriganga for the social, economic and cultural life of the city. The crowds of workers, fishermen and tourists make a visit to the port a chaotic and at times challenging experience, but one which is worthwhile for the unique insight it offers into city life. Competition for tourists amongst the ferrymen is fierce but once on one of the traditional small vessels the calm of the river offers instant relief. Whilst the river is deeply polluted, and the slums either side of it are a depressing sight, this still offers a fascinating glimpse of life on one of the busiest waterways in the world.



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Curzon Hall/Dhaka University
Built by Lord Curzon in 1904, Curzon Hall is the highlight of any visit to Dhaka University. The grand Raj era building has been the centre of political intrigue and protest over the course of its century long history, and is still in use today. The building combines European and Mughal architectural touches in the typical Indo-Saracenic style and is match in its elegance and grandeur by the surrounding buildings, such as the Old High Court, The Mausoleum of Three Leaders, the Shaheedullah Hall and the Dhaka Gate. The hall and the campus are unique mementos of the Raj’s influence in Bengal, but are also monuments to the educational institutions of this country and its capacity for continual reinvention.



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Lalbagh Fort
An incomplete 17th century Mughal fort complex which was originally built in 1678 AD by Subahdar Muhammad Shah, the Lalbagh Fort remains a potent reminder of the extent of Mughal rule in Bangladesh. It lies on the Buriganga River in the south-western part of the old city of Dhaka, and its extensive grounds and gardens remain an oasis of peace amidst the tumult of the city streets. The magnificent construction is reminiscent of the Mughal temples and forts of Western India, and includes the typical minarets and domes of Mughal architecture. It is possible to visit the former Hammam within the fort, as well as the tomb of Para Bibi, the daughter of the former Mughal ruler of Bengal. In the 20th century, the Fort was the site of several attempted uprisings against the British during the final days of the Raj.


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