HISTORICAL DHAKA

HISTORICAL DHAKA

HISTORICAL DHAKA:
A MARKET FOR TOURISM

The importance of tourism was formally acknowledged at the XXI United Nations General Assembly meeting when the year 1967 was designated as the International Tourist Year by a unanimous resolution recognising that “tourism is a basic and most desirable human activity deserving the praise and encouragement of all peoples and all Governments”. Tourism creates goodwill and friendship among the nations and their people, tourism contributes to nations’ economies in the way of invisible export earnings; and fosters development by employing people in tourism industry.

Development of tourism infrastructure depends on understanding and identifying the reasons why people travel when some necessity does not compel them to do so. Apart from so many obvious socio- economic factors responsible for shaping the tourism demand curve in general, two basic motivations have been identified by tourism marketologists and leisure scientists who in fact determine the tourist destinations. These motivations are:1

Wanderlust: desire to exchange the known for the unknown, to go and see different places, people and cultures or relics of the past in places famous for their historical monuments and activities.

Sunlust: generates a type of travel which depends on the existence elsewhere of better amenities for specific purpose; It is prominent with particular activities such as sports; and literally with the search for sun.

Beside these two motivations we find another which is more concerned with specific missions, jobs, objectives and less with pleasure and relaxation. The visits are business or official.

Therefore, it is clear that the tourist destinations also vary according to motivational reasons.

Accordingly, it is hypothesised that a region rich in culture and history will attract the wanderlust people while the region with good climate, natural beauties and recreational facilities will attract the sunlust people. The business or official visit in particular, does not encompass any lust.

However, how important is a geographical area as a tourist destination or how much is its potential is determined by three main, factors: attractions, accessibility and amenities. These three factors are considered as the tourist qualities of a destination. The attractions may include climatic, scenic, or historical sites or like sports, exhibitions, festivals, religious congregessions and the like. Accessibility means the developed transport infrastructure and the various media to reach the destination and finally amenities comprise accommodation, catering, entertainment and internal transport and other facilities.

Among the above three factors, the attractions of a particular geographical unit are most important to make it a destination and we call these attractions as the “tourist products”. These products, which can be developed and promoted, are innumerable in number and may vary from one region to other. However, in different studies, it has been seen that along with scenery and landscape, wildlife, natural vegetation, tribal life, sun and beaches, the historical monuments and ruins arc greatly preferred as tourist products by the visitors.
Analysis of Attractions

Dhaka as a Tourist Centre: In the past Sonargaon and later Dhaka were visited by a number of famous travelers like Ibn Battuta (1345), Nicholus Pisento, Lewis Vertomannus (1503), Caesar Frederick (1565), Ralph Fitch, Methold (16th Century), Mandelslo (16th Century), Francois Berneir (1666), Sebastion Manrich (1640).

All the visitors gave vivid descriptions of Dhaka’s society, economy, government, administration, buildings and architecture. However, our intention, in this paper, is not to present and analyse their descriptions but to point out the fact that Dhaka was a place worth-visiting even in the remote past. The people used to visit Dhaka at a time when it was an arduous task roaming around due to lack of transport and communication. What was the motivation to visit Dhaka at that time? We do not know exactly but we can guess that the motivation behind the visits was definitely not the sunlust but the wanderlust. In our opinion, Dhaka still a1tricts the tourists because ii is, as was in the past, the administrative and commercial centre of a region; and it has a rich historical and cultural heritage.

Therefore, in designing the tourism planning of Dhaka city, we should take note of resources of the city which comprise the image of an area in the tourist markets. In other words, except its commercial / and official indispensability, it is rather imperative to study what the city of Dhaka has to sell to the tourists and what needs to be done to develop salability.

We can unequivocally say that the historical remains are the only attractions which can turn Dhaka city into a destination for the wanderlust people. In the following paragraphs we would like to describe briefly the prominent and prospective resources in and around Dhaka that we have inherited from our ancestors.

(1)   The Lalbagh Fort and its Monuments:  The Lalbagh Fort or Fort Aurangabad was started by Prince Muhammad Azam, Viceroy of Bengal and the third son of Mughal emperor Aurangzeb in 1678. His successor Shaista Khan owing to sudden death of his daughter Pari Bibi stopped the further construction of the fort. The Lalbagh Fort is situated in the south-west corner of the city. Besides the decorative walls and gates, a tine masonry tank, an audience hall, a mosque, the tomb of Pan Bib arc important tourist attractions inside the fort.

(2)   Husaini Dalan: Husaini Dalan, the famous Imambara of the Shiah community, a sect of the Muslims is located behind the Dhaka Medical College and Hospital. It was probably built around 1642.

(3)  Bara Katra: Bara Katra, one of the most important remains of the Mughal period, is situated on the north bunk of the Buriganga in Chawk Bazar. Built in 1644 by Abdul Qasim Diwan of Shah Shuja – then Subahdar of Bengal the Katra was so magnificent in its beauty that the inscription states that it puts “High Heaven” to shame. But unfortunately, Bara Katra as now in ruins and the old glory has been lost. Professor A.H. Dani in his hook Dhaka A record of its changing fortunes laments that, “Man, in his neglect, has forgotten the value of magnificence that is his heritage”.

(4)   Choto Katra:  Choto Katra is situated about 200 yards cast of Bara Katra. It was built in 1633 by Shaista Khan.

Both the Bara Katra and Choto Katra are at present unfortunately overcrowded with slums and huts, small factories and merchants’ godowns so that its original grandeur could hardly be seen.

(5)  Hajiganj Fort:  Hajiganj Fort (also called Fort of Khizirpur) is situated at Hajiganj in Narayanganj; then forming the Western Bank of the Sitalakhya.

(6)   Sonakanda Fort: Sonakanda Fort is situated on the eastern bank of the Sitalakhya about a mile further downstream.

Both the foils arc existing in an excellent state of preservation and still bear the memories of the famous Isha Khan and Mir Jumla. The Sonakanda Fort bears the sad memories of Sona Bibi, wife of Isha Khan, who after her husband’s death, heroically carried on the struggle and did not surrender to the enemies of her husband till she ordered the tort of Sonakanda to be burnt to ashes along with herself.

(7)   Zinjira Palace: The Successor of Shaista Khan, Nawab Ibrahim Khan II built the Zinjira palace around 1689-97. It stood on the other side the Buriganga and opposite of Bara Katra which was said to have been connected by a wooden bridge across the river. The palace was surrounded by a moat. Tradition says that it was in this building that the mother (Amina Begum), the aunt (Ghaseti Begum) and the wife (Lutfunnessa) of Sirajuddaula were kept as prisoners and it was from here that they were taken out and drowned at the meeting point of the Buriganga and the Dhaleswari.5

Unfortunately only the ruins of the palace can be seen today.

(8)   Historic Sonargaon:  Sonargaon is about 16 miles north-east from Dhaka. On the south of the Dhaka-Chittagong Highway, about a mile from the turning is the village of Mograpara which contains many old ruins of Sonargaon. Sonargaon, the capital of ancient Hindu Kings, has survived with little of its glorious past. The very name Sonargaon, fading with its ruins, has been so completely forgotten that there is no longer even a village in the neighborhood bearing the name of Sonargaon. The present Painam village has only a few waggling remains of ancient earthworks, bridges, moats and monuments. Today the attractive Painam Township is visited by the tourists on the mistaken assumption that these are the remains of the ancient capital. Painam in fact, was built by wealthy Hindu merchants only at the beginning of the 20th century.

(9)   Ahsan Manzil:  Ahsan Manzil or the Nawab Ban is situated on the northern bank of the Buriganga. The palace was originally built in 1872 by Nawab Abdul Ghani. ‘The old building was reconstructed alter it was heavily damaged by a tornado in 1888. Recently the building has been taken over by the government and extensive renovation work has started. A museum is also planned to he established inside the palace. This palace can be turned into a beautiful tourist spot if a good riverside restaurant is established and a small river cruise programme is introduced.

(10)   Other important buildings:  Among other important buildings of Dhaka the Rose garden, Sutrapur Zamindar Mansion. Sankhanidhi House (especially the Dance Hall), Bhajahari Lodge, Ruplal House are worth noting for their elegance and architectural beauty. However, it is a pity that these elegant buildings are now on the verge of demolition due to settlements of unauthorised squatters, traders; officials mostly lower category staffs, and educational institutions.

These buildings, although not very old to make them historical, should not be allowed to decay due to negligence. It is our responsibility to preserve these buildings for our future generations who would be proud to know of their glorious past by visiting them. After 100 years from now, there would probably be many sky- scrapers in Dhaka city, but not a single enchanting building like Rose garden or Ruplal House.

Beside the above mentioned sites and spots, there are many historical tombs, mausolea, monuments, mosques, and temples in and around Dhaka. We do not underscore their historical value but for our present study we have left them out on the presumption that to the tourists, belonging to different religions, tastes and motivation, these remains may not create equal interest and appeals.
Analysis of Infrastructure

(a)   Transportation:  Of all the necessary infrastructures, transportation requires considerable attention. Without good transport facilities there is simply no tourism. Facilities to move comfortably and at a cheaper rate are essentials for successful tourism.

But unfortunately, we do not have a good transport network for the tourists of Dhaka city who may intend to visit various historical places. If we look into the map (Map I), we see that the main historical monuments and remains of Dhaka city are situated in old Dhaka by the kink of the Buriganga. The roads, lanes and by-lanes of old Dhaka area arc so crowded with traffic that even the residents of other parts of Dhaka city usually avoid a journey through old Dhaka. However, ways should be found out to make the lanes easily accessible by turning them one-way for the traffic. (Many of the ancient cities e.g. Rome and Athens have retained their narrow lanes without causing traffic chaos by developing effective one-way system). A micro-bus service can be developed which will have a route originating from Gulistan, to go to Sadarghat via Nawabpur Road, from there to Lalbagh Fort by touching Ahsan Manjil. Choto Katra and Bara Katra, from Lalbagh fort to Husaini Dalan via Khan Muhammad Mirdha’s Mosque, Dhakeswari temple and from there to terminal point Gulistan. This will help developing domestic tourism.

(b)   Sanitary facilities:  From experience it is seen that the most dreadful job of a tourism manager is to handle hundreds of people arriving at spots and attempting to use eating and sanitary facilities which are inadequate, unhealthy and unhygienic. Therefore, proper sanitary facilities should be made available at all the destinations. A token fee could be charged from the users of such facilities to keep the lavatories clean and fresh. Safe drinking water facilities should also be made available.

For providing eating facilities, beautifully decorated restaurants depicting the same historical architectural style of the monuments where it is located could be built and rented out to private management. Inside the Ahsan Manjil and Lalbagh fort, two such eating places could he easily established.

(c)   Parks and recreation:  Parks are essential part of the total beautification process which provides a breath of fresh air. Steps should be taken up to erect parks in and around the monuments by demolishing the adjacent shabby looking slum houses, godowns, small factories and kutcha markets. Recreation facilities for children could be provided by erecting various sports structures. A river cruise by country boats with safety could be introduced from Ahsan Manjil to Bara Katra covering a sightseeing of Zinjira palace.

 

Dhaka City Monuments

(d)   Security: Security of the tourists is of great importance. Well-disciplined police forces if necessary supported by arms should be posted in all key tourist spots. As a long term tourism development plan, steps should be taken to form tourist police battalion who will he trained up with basic tourism courses, security and safety techniques.

(e)   Education: Mere sight of the monuments does not create any appeal or attraction. There must be trained guides who will describe the history of the monuments and ruins. It is through their description that the history and the structures of monuments would come to life. The Parjatan Corporation (tourist organisation) can develop a course in this regard to produce well-trained guides.

Small Museums, with beautifully arranged exhibits of respective historical places/buildings/monuments, could effectively add more to the interest of the tourists. We find one such museum at Lalbagh fort and the other one is under development inside the Ahsan Manjil. In all such forts and buildings small museums could be useful additions.

(f)   Shopping: Shopping is an important pastime of a visitor. In some countries like Hong Kong, U.A.E., Singapore, shopping is often the single most important activity of a visitor. In India, shopping occupies third in order of preference among the different activities of the visitors.

Many of the traditional home-made consumer products of Bangladesh appeal to the tastes of the visitors. Therefore, small shops of handicrafts could be opened in the spots where space is available (Ahsan Manjil and Lalbagh Fort may be suitable for this purpose).

The infrastructural requirements of a particular historical spot in order to be a successful tourism attraction, as discussed above, are unfortunately absent in Dhaka, Not only do we lack these facilities; we have deplorably failed to protect the historical places due to many reasons. It is surprising that the famous tiara Katra and Chota Katra could not yet be taken over by the Department of Archaeology. Consequently, they are on the verge of ruin having their existence only in printed lines of historical books. Immediate measures under government control can save the historical buildings and be brought to their original shape and architecture. The famous Zinjira Palace has virtually been ruined but the archaeologists say it is still possible to renovate and conserve it if immediately taken over by government. In the same way, the famous Idrakpur fort, which presently being used as official residence of government employees and jail compound, should be preserved in its original form.

The Lalbagh fort has been preserved by the Department of Archaeology. In the same way, the present government has taken steps to renovate and protect the Ahsan Manjil. We feel the government should immediately declare all the historical buildings and monuments as protected properties and the Department of Archaeology should draw up a master plan to renovate and conserve these spots. Only then, we can think of turning these historical spots into tourist resorts, In this process we do not have any alternative choice because we cannot allow these existing historical remains La sink into oblivion.

We have already emphasised that historical remains are the major attractions for the tourists. It is tourism which brings history out of printed pages of books. Tourism gives lire to history. History and tourism go side by side. Preservation of historical remains in Bangladesh is of much importance; because except our glorious historical past, we have in fact nothing to sell to the wanderlust people, keeping these in mind we have some suggestions to capitalise history for the tourist trade:

(a)  Immediate steps should be taken to protect the historical monuments, buildings and spots, and renovate and conserve those.

(b)  Good motorable roads Upto these spots should be constructed and suitable one-way traffic system be introduced to make the famous buildings and monuments of old Dhaka easily accessible.

(c)  Regular bus/minibus/micro-bus services should be introduced to these places.

(d)  Good restaurants and handicrafts shops should be opened in these spots.

(e)  Small museums in some of these important spots should be established and well-trained guides employed to explain their history to the visitors. A token fee could be taken for this purpose from the visitors.

(f)  A beautiful tourist Bus terminal should be built at a convenient place where all package tours for Dhaka will originate from.

(g)  Suitable promotional campaign to motivate our people to visit these important places has to be bunched.

(h)  A high powered committee has to be formed with experts from the Department of Archaeology, Bangladesh Parjatan Corporation, Ministries of Finance, Health, Culture, Public Works and other related agencies/departments Lo develop plan and coordinate the activities in order to have control of the historical spots, develop facilitating infrastructure and conserve those with trained manpower.

(i)  The historical remains should be tied up with tourism by developing different itineraries under separate package tour programmes (a tentative proposal is appended).

Furthermore, to project our historical events and traditional life style of Dhaka to the tourists and to our future generation, the following proposals, if materialised, could bring some positive results in this field.

Firstly, in Chawk bazar or in Sakharipatti or in any other suitable place of old Dhaka a particular area should be earmarked to build up an environment in such a way as tourists would suddenly discover something of the 17th Century Dhaka. In many countries these types of tourist villagers are created to demonstrate the kind of life might have been in the past.

If this type of tourist village is difficult to establish in old Dhaka, in our opinion, Painam village near Sonargaon would be most suitable. At Painam, whole area should be reshaped to feature the historical and contemporary artifacts in a museum, making and selling of handicrafts, eating places with the traditional food, Baizi dance in some Nach Ghar, and Hindu and Buddhist religious rites.

Secondly, a light – and – sound show could be arranged probably in Lalbagh fort to project our history in the most attractive manner to the tourists as well as to the people of our country.

In conclusion, it can be said that Dhaka possesses interesting tourist items based on its history. Therefore, there is ample scope to develop these historical sites for the visitors and the historical places, monuments and ruins in and around Dhaka must be taken over by the government and handed over to the Department of Archaeology for their renovation and protection. The infrastructural development should then be planned and executed in a proper way. “Monuments in isolation do not carry any meaning”; therefore, efforts must be made to keep alive Dhaka’s past to its present and future generations through the development of its possibilities for tourism.

 

Appendix: Package Tour Programmes for Dhaka City

INSIDE DHAKA

One day tour programme by mini/micro buses covering following spots: Originating point for all itineraries: Gulistan Bus terminal.

Itinerary: I:

Destination:

(a)  Tipusultan Road via Nawabpur Road to visit Sankhanidhi House and Bhajahari lodge.
(b)  Wiseghat and Farashganj to visit Northbrooke Hall and Ruplal House.
(c)  Sutrapur R.M. Das Road to visit Sutrapur Zamindar Mansion.
(d)   Narinda to visit the famous Rose Garden and then back to Gulistan.

Itinerary: II:

Destination:

(a)   Anglican Church, north of Victoria Park (now Bahadur Shah Park).
(b)   Ahsan Manjil.
(c)   Armenian Church near Mitford Hospital.
(d)   Sitara Mosque at Armanitola Road.
(e)   Dhakeswari Temple.
(f)   Husaini Dalan at Bakshi bazar.

Itinerary: III

Destination:

(a)   Choto Katra
(b)   Boro Katra
(c)   Ahsan Manjil.
(d)   Lalbagh Fort.

Itinerary: IV:

Destination:

(a)   Kawran Bazar Mosque.
(b)   St. Augustian Church.
(c)   Parliament Buildings and Crescent Lake.
(d)   Sat Gumbad Mosque.
(c)   Dara Begum’s Tomb at Lalmatia.

Itinerary: V :

Destination:

(a)   Lalbagh Fort.
(b)   Ahsan Manjil.

Itinerary: VI:

Destination:

(a)   Ahsan Manjil.
(b)   River crossing.
(c)   Zinjira Palace.
AROUND DHAKA CITY

One day and two-day tour programmes:

Itinerary: VII:

Destination:

(a)  Sonargaon.
(b)  Painam village.

Itinerary: VIII:

Destination:

(a)  Sonakanda Fort.
(b)  River cruise.
(c)   Haziganj Fort.

Itinerary: IX: (Two day sightseeing with river cruise)

Destination:

(a)  Sonakanda Fort (night stop-over).
(b)  River cruising to Haziganj fort by country boat.                               (c)  River cruising to Ahsan   Manjil.
(d)  Lalbagh Fort.


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