Saturday, December 02, 2006

Bangabhaban - Presidential Palace Dhaka

Bangabhaban (pic of Govt. house in 1938)
Site map (top)

Governor Gen Azam Khan (hat on) and architect M. Chisty on his left during construction in 1962-63.

Bangabhaban - President's House Front view at present

Durbar hall- damaged view in air attack during 1971 war

Bangabhaban, the official residence and office of the President of the People's Republic of Bangladesh, is located in the middle of approximately 23.5 hectares of land to the south of Dilkhusha Commercial Area and to the south-west of Motijheel Commercial Area, Dhaka.

In 1905, Bengal was partitioned and the new government of East Bengal and Assam bought a portion of this place from the Nawabs of Dhaka to construct a building for the Viceroy of India. The Viceroy used to stay here during his visits in East Bengal up to 1911. Until 1947, the place was known as Governor House. The building was severely damaged by a storm in 1961 and old roof blown away. Architect Moinuddin Chisty from Karachi was engaged to prepare a plan for the reconstruction work by PWD. The Bangabhaban is largely based on Victorian architecture that typify many buildings of the British-era in Dhaka. With the reconstruction between 1961 and 1964, many elements of Islamic architecture and Bengali styles were incorporated. In 1971 liberation war, the Governors' House was badly damaged during air attack on the 14th December. The Governor House was renamed as Bangabhaban on 12 January 1972, when Justice Abu Sayeed Choudhury became the first constitutional President of the country. It is still the official residence of the President of Bangladesh. The main building is a three-storeyed palatial complex. The floor-space of the ground floor is 6,700 sqm. The President's residence is on the north-east corner, comprising two storeys. The President's office, the office of the civil and military secretaries, rooms for audience with local and foreign visitors are also located in the ground floor. In addition, there is a cabinet room, banquet hall, durbar hall, state dining hall, mini auditorium and a lounge for local visitors. In the second floor, there are suites for foreign heads of state and government. Besides, there are two bungalows for the military secretaries, staff quarters and barracks for Presidential Guards etc. The Bangabhaban has an open compound of 47 acres of land.

The present site of Bangabhaban has a long history. During the Sultanate period in 15th century, a sufi saint called Hazrat Shahjalal Dakhini used to reside in the area. His tomb along with the graves of his disciples are there. The single domed tomb building (having two sarcophagi inside) lies to the north-east of the main gateway of Bangabhaban is ascribed to Shah Jalal Dakhini. During the Mughal rule, Mirza Mukim took control of the area and became the official-in-charge. There was 'Nawara Mahal', two big hillocks, one of them still lies within the boundary of Bangabhaban. The large water body/tank inside came to be known as Motijheel (lake of pearls) because of the legend that Mirza Mukim's daughter used to throw her ornaments there. The area was probably abandoned towards the end of the Mughal period. During british rule the area went to an Armenian zamindar Manuk who built a house. Nawab Khawaja Abdul Ghani bought the place and house from Manuk and built Dilkusha (heart's pleasure) Garden there.

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