Monday, June 20, 2011


Balihar Palace

This fascinating palace reveals at least three generations of construction, making it one of the most interesting sites in Bangladesh.

The Mughal influence is quite clear in the fairly well preserved remains of what is clearly the most ancient part of the palace, which suggests that, like Natore Rajbari not so far away, its origins lie in the earliest Zaminder developments of the late 16th Century.

Outstanding Mughal period features lie behind a late 19th Century entrance in the neo classical style. The Temple, which lies beside this older part of the palace, appears to be of the same period.  This structure confirms that the Mughals too found Hindu Zaminders as acceptable as the later East India Company seems to have found them desirable, presumably the latter based on the tried and tested British Imperialism tradition of ‘divide and rule’.

The fascia of the temple has, as is often the case, been defaced with a corrugated iron canopy, but both on the temple, and within the courtyard of the palaces, fine terracotta panels show scenes of life and faith.

'Staircase to Nowhere', Balihar Palace

Intriguing is the broad, tall stairway to nowhere that lies facing the temple, and at right angles to the palace. It might be assumed it was once the grand entrance, as at Tajhat Palace in Rangpur, to another palace building. One, perhaps, that collapsed, like so many, in the Great India Earthquake of 1897.
The greater, more contemporary, neoclassical palace lies behind the original Mughal structure.  This may support the theory of a disappeared building since the earlier extant palace obviously survived the earthquake and the newer construction dates from the late 19th century or early twentieth century.

Part of this building has been used, most recently, as a school building, though it is impossible to judge whether that meant it was better maintained, or more abused. The great building is certainly in a semi ruinous state.

There is more to see here than at most estates, and perhaps more for the architectural historian to consider. Altogether, even in an area with so many palaces and an extraordinary number of remains of ancient Buddhist Vihara, visitors will find it is worth the time and trouble to find and explore Balihar Palace.

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