Ahsan Manzil Dhaka
The Ahsan Manzil is situated on the bank of the river Buriganga just near Wiseghat, and can be approached from Islampur Road. On this site formerly stood the French Factory. It was purchased in about 1838 by Khwaja Alimullah, great-grandfather of Nawab Salimullah. The palace was originally built in 1872 by Nawab Sir Abdul Ghani, who called it Ahsan Manzil after the name of his son. Nawab Sir Ahsanullah Bahadur. The present Building is a reconstruction after the great tornado of 1888. The models of the old and new Ahsan Manzil in silver filigree work are now kept inside the palace.
It was at this very palace that Lord Curzon stayed as the guest of Nawab Sir Salimullah Bahadur and witnessed the rise of the new capital of Dhaka after the first partition of Bengal. It was here that the important decisions regarding the future of the Muslims were taken after the annulment of the first partition, and in this very palace were born the ideas, which later on culminated in the foundation of All India Muslim League.
The most important building in the Ahsan Manzil is the grand palace. Occupying the centre of a large quadrangle, it stands on a high plinth, two storeys high with a crowning dome above, which is the highest point in the old city. The building has a broad front facing the river and commanding a view, grandiose and picturesque. From the river side it stands out most prominently above the cluster of little houses around. From this side a wide flight of steps takes us direct to the second storey, and we are face to face with the grand triple-arched portals, prominently projected from the main wall and enlivened with fluted pilasters, cornice mouldings, crenellations and kiosks on the top. Similarly decorated projections mark the two ends on the east and west. Behind the central crenellations rises the dome supported on octagonal drum, and covering a square room below, which served as the visitor’s sitting room. This is the central part, dividing the whole building into two symmetrical halves – the eastern and the western. The eastern wing consists of a drawing room, a library and three guest rooms, while the western has a ball room and other residential rooms. All along the north and south sides run vaulted verandahs with an open terrace projected in the middle. The central part of the back verandah is converted into a room containing steps leading down to the ground floor, where similar arrangement of rooms is kept. Here we have the famous darbar hall on the western wing and the dining hall on the eastern. The terrace of the upper storey here gives place to a porch. In front of the porch extend lawns now lying vacant. On the river side an attempt was made to build a fountain.
On requesting the manager, Court of Wards, Nawab of Dhaka estate, a visitor can see the collection of museum specimens, kept in the Ahsan Manzil. These specimens include paintings and photographs, arms and weapons, coats of mail complete from head to foot, dressing table, in beautiful wood—work, Italian round table, models of Husaini Dalan and Ahsan Manzil in silver filigree work, beautiful ivory mat made in Sylhet, animal heads and skeletons.
The Ahsan Manzil has been closely connected with the rejuvenation of the Muslims of this subcontinent in 20th century. It has served the cause of the Muslim Nation, and deserves to be protected as a National Monument. Today the building is in a very deplorable condition. The rooms have been partitioned by share holders and let out to several persons who have spoiled the whole building.