Once well detached from the bustling city of Dhaka, Murapara stands on the fringes of the urban sprawl that only the Shitaloka River holds at bay, for now!
Completed in 1909, this fine palace, the ‘zaminderbari’ of Jagadish Chabndra Banerjee, the grandson of the man who probably acquired the zamindari in about 1889.
Zaminder, of course, a Persian word, meaning Landholder, literally translated, came to Bangladesh at the time of the Mughal rulers, who originated in Central Asia, but for whom Persia had been home for some time, in the mid 16th Century. The British, initially in the form of the East India Company, who acquired, in 1765, the rights of revenue collecting in Bengal, Behar and Orissa, from the crumbling Mughal regime in Delhi, following their triumph at Plassey in 1757, saw no reason to change the title of their own local administrators..
The auctioned the local revenue collecting, and the highest bidder became Zaminder, forfeiting the role on failing to pay the levy required.
Palaces such as that at Murapara, of which there are about 120 in Bangladesh, are evidence of the conspicuous wealth, and lifestyle, of these local born administrators. Whilst so many of the great palaces, which range in age from about 400 years to about 80 or 90 years, are crumbling into an even more ruinous state that the Pakistan Army’s ‘scorched earth’ policies during the 1971 Liberation War, left them, a few, such as Pink Palace, on the banks of Buriganga in Dhaka, and Tajhat Palace in Rangpur, survive in reasonable condition because of the use to which they are put..in this case, a College.
A fine example of the late 19th century use of brick and concrete, the native building materials of this virtually rockless country, it faces to Sitaloka river, like so many such buildings of the age in which the , more than, 700 rivers, branches and tributaries of these verdant deltaic lands, were the great highways.
Scattered in the land around are other palatial buildings, as well as fine temple buildings.
Within the palace, maintaining the integrity of all the buildings has proved too much, but noble efforts are clearly being made in that direction. A well worthwhile visit, within about a 90 minute drive from Gulshan, that would also take in villages, farmlands, and a great, short crossing of the Shitaloka River by ferry.