The name of Maharajah Sashi Kanta Acharya Chaudhury is the penultimate in a 55 year history of the administration of Mymensingh, and a large swather of other lands in
. It is also the name given originally to the Oriental Edwardian masterpiece, Sashi Lodge, now known as Mymensingh Rajbari. Bangladesh
In the case, Rajbari, which implies some royal connection, may be a more correct description than most for what are more properly known as Zaminderbari.
The history of this remarkable progression goes back to the early 16th Century, when even Mughal domination of the area was tenuous , at best, in view if the resitance of the Afghan originated rulers of the area whose base was in
, Sonargaon. Panam City
Known at that time as Nazirabad, the name deriving from Sultan Nusrat Shah, who won the territory from the Kamprup Kings, and ruled from 1519 to 1532, Mymensingh has along and distinguished history, much of which is associated with , first the Mughal Zaminders, who were area rulers with a tradition of nobility, and after 1757, when the East India Company took control of the lands of Bengal, the Zaminders who were more tax farmers than feudal lords.
This appear to be one of the families who made a smooth transition, presumably having disagreed with the succession of the last of the independent Nawabs, and either remained aloof from his assembly of forces to confront Colonel Clive and his allies at Plassey, or perhaps even joining the British forces.
The original, Mughal period seat of the great family was Muktagacha Palace about 10 miles to the west of Mymensingh (of which more in another piece), but it is reasonable to suppose that, despite having at least 8 other palaces, many perhaps intended as resting places along the river journey to Calcutta or Dhaka, he saw the need for a residence closer to the railhead of Mymensingh, which had certainly become a major administrative centre under the Raj.
This residence on the river bank in Mymensingh is surrounded by evidence of the commitment to education and innovation that is equally in evidence at Muktagacha.
Apart from the ‘Iron House’, a garden pavilion (of which more in another blog piece), and various outbuildings, the palace itself is surrounded by academic buildings which were very evidently educational establishments, that they remain to this day.
Evidence of the commitment to education may also be found on the road from Mymensingh to Muktagacha, where a college built in 1897 is still in use as a school today.
Lavishly ornamented, the palace buildings themselves, secured behind an intact gateway, the wrought iron gates of which still have the Maharajah’s cipher, and a lengthy, well decorated wall, is in reasonably sound condition, and it is not hard to imagine the carriages, garries and even Rolls Royce motors that undoubtedly regularly rolled around the fine fountain in the approach.
Another touch of a lifestyle that vanished abruptly in 1947, when the last Maharajah’s adopted son fled his properties for an unidentified exile, leaving behind a wealth of architectural splendours.