Old Dhaka (in Bengali, পুরান ঢাকা ) is a term used to refer to the historic old city of Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh. It was founded in 1608 as Jahangir Nagar, the capital of Mughal Bengal. It is located on the banks of the Buriganga River. It was one of the largest and most prosperous cities of South Asia and the center of the worldwide muslin trade. The Nawab of Bengal shifted the capital from Dhaka to Murshidabad in the early-18th century. With the rise of Calcutta (now Kolkata) during the British rule, Dhaka began to decline and came to be known as the "City of Magnificent Ruins". The British however began to develop the modern city from the mid-19th century.
Old Dhaka is famous for its variety of foods and amicable living of people of all religion in harmony.The main Muslims festivals celebrated with funfair here are Eid-ul-Fitr, Eid-ul-Adha and Muharram, Hindu festivals are Durga Puja, Kali Puja, Saraswati Puja, Holi and Janmashtami, Christian festival Christmas and Easter Sunday, and Buddhist Festival is Vesak. The secular festival here are "Shakrain"(পৌষ সংক্রান্তি), Pohela Falgun, and "Halkhata"(হালখাতা) with much splendor and devotion in this part of Dhaka. Religion wise, the old Dhaka is predominantly Muslim, while a significant number of Hindus also reside here. Christians and Buddhists are also inhabitants here in small numbers.
The existence of a settlement in the area that is now Dhaka dates from the 7th century. The city area was ruled by the Buddhist kingdom of Kamarupa and the Pala Empire before passing to the control of the Hindu Sena dynasty in the 9th century. The name of the town may have derived after the establishment of the Goddess Dhakeshvari's temple by Ballal Sena in the 12th century.
After the Sena Empire, Dhaka was successively ruled by the Sultanate of Bengal as well as interruption[clarification needed] of governors from the Delhi Sultanate before being taken over by the Mughals in 1608. Dhaka started to grow from 1610 under the Mughal Subedhars. The oldest standing mosque was built in 1454 by Bakht Binat during the rule of Nasiruddin Mahmud Shah.
The development of townships and housing has resulted in a significant growth in population came as the city was proclaimed the capital (Rajmahal) of Subah Bangalah under Mughal rule in 1608. Mughal Subahdar Islam Khan was the first administrator of the city. Khan named the town "Jahangir Nagar" (জাহাঙ্গীর নগর; City of Jahangir) in honour of the Mughal Emperor Jahangir, although this name was dropped soon after Jahangir's death. Farashganj (French town) was settled by the French 1780, then known as French Market. The area is known for its 19th and early 20th century mansions. Farashganj also had the presence of French East India Company. The 18th and 19th century saw significant number of Armenians settle down in Armanitola, then a predominantly Armenian neighborhood. There is an Armenian Church in Armanitola. The British converted an old Afghan fort into a Central Jail in 1820. Das Babu, prominent merchant had a daughter Indira, whose tomb is present here. Indira road is named after her and not after Indira Gandhi as some mistakenly believe it to be. Pogose School, was founded by Armenian businessman Nicholas Pogose, as the first private school in Dhaka. The national political party, Bangladesh Awami League, was founded in Rose Garden Palace in 23 June 1949.
The area saw rise in drug abuse, especially Ya Ba and Phensedyl. Old Dhaka has a large number of chemical, plastic, electrical goods factories, and printing presses. The government of Bangladesh is trying to relocate them out of Old Dhaka. In 2010 a fire that was flamed by chemical warehouse killed more than hundred people and increased the calls for chemical factories and warehouse to be moved from the area. The narrow lanes make it difficult for fire trucks to reach fires in the area and many of them are narrow to even fit a fire truck. Dhaka's Third Special Judge's Court is located in Bakshibazar, Old Dhaka. Ansarullah Bangla Team attacked a police check post, leaving two cops injured and the capture of one terrorist on 1 February 2017. It fell under the jurisdiction of Dhaka South City Corportation after the administrative division of Dhaka.
Many of the British and Mughal era buildings of old Dhaka face the risk of being knocked down to be replaced with modern apartment buildings. Conservationist are trying to preserve them but the government of Bangladesh has shown little interest in preserving them. The government declared Shakhari Bazar a heritage site in 2013, which met resistance from the residents who wanted to expand the buildings. In 2014 a mosque built in 1707 was demolished leading to controversy and criticism. Government run schools are in a depleted condition in Old Dhaka as of 2015. In 2016 the three hundred-year-old Gorostan Shahi Mosque was demolished to build a new structure. Many of the buildings are demolished because RAJUK and the Archaeological Department of the government did not list them as historical buildings which would have protected them.
Bahadur Shah Park is a 19th-century park that serves as an exercise ground for the residents. Sadarghat is the river terminal of Dhaka City. Shakhari Bazar is a historically Hindu neighborhood known for its Shakhari (conch musical instrument) makers. The Shakhari also make bangles from the shells. The shops are in decline as many prefer to buy cheaper bangles made from artificial shell. Northbrook Hall auditorium is was founded in 1881; it holds art exhibitions. Old Dhaka is famous for its Morog (Chicken) Pulao, its different from traditional biriyani by using both tumeric and malai or cream of milk together. Pohela Falgun is celebrated in old Dhaka. Bulbul Academy of Fine Arts is a historic art school in Old Dhaka. The Dhaka Central Jail, which has been closed down now houses a museum. The jail was founded in 1788 as a criminal ward. when it closed in 2016 it housed over 8 thousand prisoners. Shakrain is a festival of kite in Old Dhaka. It marks the end of Poush, the first month of winter in Bangladesh. It also involves rooftop parties, fire-breathing, and fireworks. Bongshal Pond is Tanti Bazaar is a community pool and gathering spot. Chaand Raat (the night before eid) is celebrated here with fireworks and Adda (hangout). Taazia processions are held by Shia Muslims on the occasion of Muharram near Hossaaini and Barha Katra. There are 12 musical schools in Old Dhaka. Old Dhaka has a sense of community where neighbors know each other and that differentiat it from new Dhaka. During Durge Puja some parts of Old Dhaka are brightly decorated and people play drums in the streets.
The area has well known schools like Pogos High School, St Gregory's School, K. L. Jubilee High School & College and St Xavier's School. Jagannath University is a public university in Old Dhaka. Sir Salimullah Medical College was founded in 1875 in Old Dhaka, its hospital wing is Mitford Hospital.
Dholaikhal in old Dhaka has large number of light engineering firms. The government is also trying to remove chemical factories from Old Dhaka. The area has a large number of informal factories, incluidng garments, that mostly make products for the local market. Counterfeit cosmetics for Dhaka are made in neighborhoods in Old Dhaka.
Old Dhaka consists of 8 metropolitan thanas- Hazaribagh, Lalbagh, Chowkbazar, Bangsal, Kotwali (Dhaka Sadar), Wari, Sutrapur and Gendaria. Old Dhaka is under the administration of Dhaka South City Corporation. Old Dhaka is bounded by the areas of Mohammadpur on the west, Dhanmondi, New Market, Shahbagh, Ramna, Motijheel and Sabujbagh on the north, Jatrabari and Shyampur on the east, adding also Kamrangir Char Thana and Keraniganj Upazila on the south.
List of landmarks in this region:
- Northbrook Hall (Lal kuthi) built during the British Raj period to host the reception of the Viceroy of India Lord Northbrook. It has both Mughal and European architectural elements in its design.
- Lalbagh Fort
- Chowk Bazaar Shai Mosque
- Dhakeshwari Temple is the national temple of Bangladesh, it was built in the 12th century.
- Hussaini Dalan
- Armenian Church the Church was built in 1798 by the Armenian community in Dhaka.
- Mitford Hospital was built in the mid 1800s on land donated by Robert Mitford, who was a Tax collector of Dhaka. Before the establishment of the hospital, this land was the site of the Dutch settlement and trading post.
- Tara mosque (the Star Mosque)- The mosque was built in 1711 by Mirza Gulam Pir, a Mughal landlord. The domes of the mosque were made with imported marbles from India.In 1926 Ali Jaan Bepari, a merchant, important China clay to renovate the mosque. The mosque has a star shaped fountain and the china clay with star shaped patterns. The china clay is unique among mosques in Bangladesh.
- Ahsan Manzil was the former residence of the Nawab of Dhaka. It was nationalized in 1952 and turned into museum.
- Bara Katra was built by Prince Shah Shuja, son of Mughal emperor Shah Jahan in 1644. He was the Mughal Governor of Bengal. He never lived in the palace which functioned as a guesthouse.
- Choto Katra was built by another Mughal governor Shaista Khan in 1663. The interior houses the tomb of Chompa bibi after home the locality Champatoli is named.
- Rose Garden Palace- The palace was built by Hrishikesh Das. He was lower caste Hindu Zamidar, who built this palace after being insulted by a higher caste Hindu in a party. He sold the mansion in 1936 to Khan Bahadur Kazi Abdur Rashid, whose family still owns it.
Local customs and food
Old Dhaka is famous for its biriyani, morog polau, and kebabs. A specialty is bakarkhani with ‘kata moshlar mangsho is meat cocked with whole spices not powder or paste. Farukul er muri (puffed rice) a venture that started in the 1980s. Other well knows dishes include "glassy beef" which is beef with a thick layer of oil on top giving it a glassy appearance. Sheer khorma is a desert item that uses a variety of nuts. Nehari and kacchi biryani are Mughal dishes famous in old Dhaka. Kazi Alauddin Road and Chawkbazar are known for their road side stalls selling traditional iftar items during Ramadan. Boro baper polay khai made with minced meat, chick peas, eggs, potatoes and 13 different spices is a Ramadan specialty. Faluda is a traditional iftar desert and lassi is a specialty drink. Shab-e-Barat is celebrated with roti with Halwa, ornate breads, and breads shaped liked fish. Kala Bhuna, beef dish, was created in Old Dhaka and is a speciality of the area.
Local famous foods are :
- Haji Biriyani
- Prince of Wales bakery was established in 1850s in Lakshmi Bazaar of Old Dhaka by a man from Wales. The bakery is owned by three generations of the same family.
- Beauty Lachchi
- Royel Nehari
- Nawab Kachchi
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