In Pabna, three and a half hours from Dhaka, two such houses, and at least one Merchant’s mansion are in a probably salvageable condition.
Sitlai Palace on the bank of the Padma River (the Ganges), is a curious mélange of Edwardiana and Oriental influence. Red brick, with fine white detailing, it stands within an 8 acre site with intact gardens, and even a herd of spotted deer.
The house seems largely intact, even inside, despite being occupied by a pharmaceutical factory. All credit is due to Edruc Pharma company for the good state of buildings and grounds!
On the town road between Sitlai, on the eastern fringes of the town, and the town centre Tarash Palace, a small, probably late 19th century Merchants mansion stands, a folorn Government office.
Tarash Palace, another zaminderbari, also once had gardens that ran down to the river.
A few hundred metres along the Natore Road from the town’s central lotus fountain, the building now stands in a worn playground. It is a small, very grand, classical revival house, now abandoned by the Government, who own it.
What a Tourist Information Centre/ Craft Working Centre , or even boutique hotel it would make!
Natore, an hour or so from Pabna, is the location of one of the largest and finest sites in the country.
Just north of the town on the Bogra Road lies Natore Rajbari, although there was nothing royal about the original builder of this many acred site. The earliest remains on the site are said to be mid 18th century, residence, guest houses, temples, all leveled in 1897. Around the ruins have been built a remarkable array of buildings, from stately classical revival to Edwardian
It would certainly require one day, and perhaps more, to do justice to all there is to been seen and enjoyed here.
A little further north on the Bogra Road aside turning.. or perhaps more accurately, where the main road diverts… a few hundred yards reach the imposing Edwardian
gatehouse of Dighapatiya Palace, built around 1900.
It is now difficult to visit as it is the high security North Bengal residence of the President of Bangladesh. The small village around the gateway, however, with palace stables amongst the clutter of stalls, merits mention for the fine tea shops whose snacks and yoghurt are excellent!
Five minutes further along the main road, further large brick buildings reveal themselves as the interesting Pooja Halls built by the Maharajah. Three halls, for three Pooja!
Largely intact, these buildings could probably be, in part restored, and in part stabilized to provide a fine example of construction of the period.
Rangpur Rajbari is an original piece of ‘wedding cake’ architecture. Once again, the product of the wealth of the jeweler who ‘somehow became rich’ as a zamindar, it has a wonderfully ornate fascia, and a rear garden somewhat reminiscent of such Queen Anne/William and Mary style palaces in UK as Hampton Court.
The interior, however, is something of a disappointment. Somewhat dull, containing a museum with some interesting Hindu artifacts, but of which photography is forbidden, and without postcards on sale.
Altogether, a Stately Home that arouses mixed emotions. And clearly it is a building, and surrounding gardens, that are passing time into gentle decay.