Saturday, March 17, 2007

Azimpur Colony, Dhaka


Bird's eye view of Azimpur colony - year 2002

Azimpur road near Eden Girl's college

This building on Azimpur graveyard road was formally opened in 1950-51 by the then PM

Central part of the colony near bldg no.11,12,13

Blocks north of Azimpur graveyard road. In 1952, one of these buildings were allotted to the Italian nationals of Pak-Italian Dev Corporation engaged in the construction of Dhaka-Tongi-Joydevpur road.

Dormitory type north of 'China building', Azimpur

East west road through the middle of colony towards Skeikh Shaheb Bazar road

'Chapra Masjid' on right (near Daira Sharif)

'Chapra' Masjid

Community Centre for wedding parties etc.

New buildings of 1970-80's near Azimpur graveyard

The semi permanent MLA 'Party Centre' (Sadashyya bhavan) once stood around

Agrani Girls' High School

decrepit bldg of Sir Salimullah Orphanage - south of Azimpur colony

Once a maternity center, now Family Planning Directorate on the east of Orphanage

Extn. block of Azimpur Girls' school built in 1980-90's. This space once used by the boys and girls of Azimpur and Polashi colony for games.

new academic block for BUET in Polashi north of Azimpur Girls' School.

Dhaka landmark- Salimullah Muslim Hall

Fuller road, between Salimullah Muslim Hall (left) and BUET, Dept. of Architecture (right)


After partition in 1947,
the arrival of large numbers of migrants from India led to a huge increase of Dhaka population. Dhaka was then a small urban area of 6-7 sq. miles only what is now known as Old Dhaka.

In 1947 Dhaka could at best be described as a quiet provincial town with a university centre. Unlike most colonial major cities, Dhaka did not even boast of a cantonment. It had 1-2 commercial banks and few industries within its urban limits. Its population did not possess cosmopolitan characteristics. The first transformation that Dhaka experienced as a result of partition related to its demography. The city's population grew by 53.3% between 1947-51 and in the decade by a staggering 168.6%. With the responsibility of making arrangements for establishing the capital at Dhaka, the new rulers had little choice but to make use of the rudimentary physical infrastructure that existed in the city. It was initially decided to take over the buildings of several educational institutions to house the civil secretariat. Some of these buildings were expanded were expanded and various semi-permanent shelters constructed to house govt departments. For residential accommodation the Plassey Barracks in the Azimpur and Nilkhet areas left out by the British troops after WWII were used. These provided emergency accommodation to the 300 officers and 2000 clerks who converged on Dhaka in July-August 1947 to establish Pakistan in its eastern wing. In February 1948 a special committee headed by Coleman Hicks, a reputed architect, began to make detail plans. The first priority lay in securing the capital from the ravages of floods from which it suffered seasonally. Although the city's infrastructure was grossly inadequate to cater to the Capital function somehow it functioned. The official needs of Govt. were initially fulfilled by appropriating the buildings in the Ramna area built for the provincial capital of East Bengal and Assam in 1905 (subsequently annulled in 1912). Yet there was huge shortage of accommodation.

To tide over residential crisis, Govt. took up construction of colony in the year 1948-49 in the open space of Azimpur. 42 numbers of 3-storey apartment blocks were taken up in the first phase, each with 12 flats. For want of steel rods, the roof slabs of Azimpur buildings were built using the perforated steel plates (PSP) left over by the British army for building temporary landing strip of light aircraft and fencing. Work also began to built another colony in the marshy area of Motijheel.

Azimpur
reckoned by the historians as the place of the nobles during Mughal rule was almost vacant during British rule. The colony area encompassed the land from north of West End High School to Azimpur graveyard road, leaving the space of Chapra Masjid and 'Daira Sharif' on the west and Plassey barracks on the east. Chapra masjid in 1950 was a dilapidated shed with 'tarja' walls and tin roof and hence the name. The area on the north of graveyard road was totally vacant. New market was under construction. It was marked for superior flats.

Government officials - civil, military and Anglo-British staffs working with Police, Fire Service and Railways were given allotment in the Azimpur colony. Two building blocks near pond were given to the staff and engineers of Pak-Italian Dev Corsortium engaged in the construction of Dhaka-Tongi-Joydevpur-Mirzapur road. A semi-permanent building named 'Party House' (Sadashyya bhavan) was built for the then Member of Legislative Assembly on the north-west the colony near new market. Agrani Girls' school came up much later. The colony area was expanded after independence, additional floor was added over the existing buildings.

It won’t be out of place to mention that most bureaucrats and intellectuals of the then East Pakistan lived in Azimpur colony. It was a nurturing place of first generation of Bengali talents in the political, administrative and cultural fields. The 'Community Centre' of the colony was considered a prestigious venue for holding wedding ceremonies and cultural functions.

10 comments:

Anonymous said...

nostalgic experience indeed!..not much of change seen exept the community centre and old tinshed mosque. In 50's - 60's the playing fields between the blocks would remain occupied with young boys and girls engaged in games,cultural activities and picnic, but now it seems vacant.. Well done Ershad..thanks!

Chris said...

I've been looking at your photos every day and my seeing has changed. You are helping me to see dhaka in a new, elegant way and think about things differently..great!

Anonymous said...

My family has lived in the Azimpur area since partition. I still go back to my father's SK. Saheb Bazar house for my yearly vacation. The area has changed so much over the years! Thank you for posting these wonderful nostalgic photos. They evoked much joy and satisfaction. I will be visiting your site often.

Anonymous said...

Dear Sir,
Thanks you very much to know about azimpur coloney.could you pls infrom me when Azimpur Chapra Masjid was build and when it was become building.

Tks & b/rgds

Rommel said...

I firstly honour the person who arranged a voyage for us(Those who lived in Azimpur colony) without any price. The pictures permit us to travel through the past, where I was born, my childhood, my juvenile to where I stand now. It was much more than money.

shakik(Upol) said...

Mr.Ershad
I came to know you through my father who was a dentist renowned by the name "mastana" whi died in 2006 april. We spent most of our childhood, adolescence period in azimpur. We used to stay in 51-B Apartment. I am now a Radiologist working in Canada. I am very greatful to you that you had spent so much time to create our nostalgic background. Thanks
Dr.Shakik

Ershad Ahmed said...

@ Dr. Shakik. Thanks a lot..In the 50's, your late father Dr. A.H.S. Rahman (mastana), may Almighty rests his soul in peace in heaven, was very popular in Dhaka's literary and cultural field. Apart from writing detective novels, he organised and hold several musical soiree in the open fields of Azimpur colony. I fondly remember his friendship and brotherly affection. Which city of Canada you are settled now? Best wishes,

Mohiuddin said...

Mohiuddin said......

Nostalgia: remembering 1971 to 1996.. a long journey with colony...5C and 49H.....my father was joint secretary..... we met so many people....passed so many sweet days....were so many friends and families....still...we have connection some ones..... what charming days of my childhood, youth were passed there... long live Azimpur....

Anonymous said...

I still herish my golden childhood days at 63/D Azimpur Estate. also have fond memories of my schooling (Nursery to Standard-2)at Azimpur Kindergarten. Now I am settled in Karachi- Pakistan

Best,
Arshad Wali

Gabriella said...

I was in 63/H , born in a hospital in Dhanmondi. Raised in 63/H for the first eleven years of life. Googled Azimpur for the first time in life. A big WOW. Thanks to the bloggers who posted this.

Well done.
Gabby
Sydney, NSW
Australia