The lavish array of riverside pavilions, a mere hour or so from Dhaka, might well be named Nawabganj since it is clear that here dwelt a pretty magnificent family of zamindari, the local ‘rulers’ of areas in Bangladesh under both the Mughals and the British.
In fact will probably take some considerable research, perhaps in the British Library in London where the papers of both the India Office from days of Empire and many of the East India Company papers are stored, to investigate the history that produced this extraordinary array of neoclassical magnificence.
That the Nawabs were Hindu there is no doubt, the ruins of Hindu shrines and temples litter the vast compound, and the area around is also rich in Hindu remains.
The large palace pavilions suggest a large family; it was customary for the incoming zaminder, having acquired at auction the rights and role, to build separate ‘pavilions’ for sons and sometimes even daughters and sons in law.
The names of Kolalopa and Bandura seem to be associated with the location, outside the main compound stands a well maintained ‘palace’ known as the ‘Judges House’ and the neighbouring, ‘Advocates House’, both of which are evidently still occupied by descendants of the original Judge.
|'Judge's House' Nawabganj, Bangladesh|
|Stately columns adorn the well maintained 'Judge's House'|
Most of the buildings are now occupied as an Ansar Training Centre, including Vocational Training, and are, inevitably, slowly decaying, although the architectural detail, especially the cement pillars and capitols are in an incredibly good condition for such fine craftsmanship of about 100 years ago.
|Architectural details adorn the inside of a room|
|Cement columns in Nawabganj|
Ceramic mosaic was obviously popular in the family, a skill we believe arrived probably in the mid-19th Century from Chinese labourers and originated in South East Asia where such work is common in shop houses in such places as Singapore and Malacca, and probably originates in Bangladesh from the East India Company period before 1857.
Such mosaic work is still common in Bangladesh, especially on the domes and minarets of mosques.
|Andhar Kotha: The Dark Palace. Nawabganj, Bangladesh|
|The Dark Palace|
Another splendid palace close to the compound is known as ‘Andhar Kotha’, ‘The Dark Place’, positively inviting stories of locked up daughters and the like, but it also fronts the river and may perhaps simply be the residence of a family member who preferred to keep their distance!
Altogether, a destination worth any day trip from the rigors of Dhaka.