Monday, July 16, 2007

Ramna Race Course, Suhrawardy Uddyan and Swadhinata Stambho

Architect's model

Entry gate at south - near Kalibari mandir

South-north periphery road on west - Suhrawardy Udyan

Circular Promenade inside

Monument with names of Shaheeds

South lawn

South east space

View north of complex from south west

Pool - south east view

Pool - north view

Mural plaza overlooking pool

View from north west of complex

North west corner - hurriedly done, looks misfit within the complex

Bird's eye view of Swadhinata Stambho - pic taken from north (top of BIRDEM) during construction in May 2007

'Mir Jumla Gate' (Dhaka north gate) on the south of Race Course field (Suhrawardy Udyan) - pic taken in late 19th century. The gateway was widened during Queen's visit to Dhaka.

VIP Gallery of Ramna Race Course on north west - pic 1890

Horse Racing - pic late 19th century

White ladies watching polo games at Ramna race course - pic 1899 taken from book of Prof M. Mamun, earth mound seen in the background.

M.A. Jinnah, Governor General of Pakistan addressing public gathering at Ramna Race course in 1948

“Swadhinata Stambha”, the independence monument, in memory of the people who sacrificed their lives for the country between 1948 and 1971, has been constructed in ‘Suhrawardy Uddyan’. The project began in February 1997 as ‘Bijoy Stambha’ involving Tk 76 crore and it included an open stage with a capacity of 2,000 people, mural work depicting historical events from 1947 to 1971, liberation war museum, 157-seat underground audio visual auditorium, and an artificial water body with fountain and plaza.

Suhrawardy Uddyan, formerly known as Ramna Race Course ground of the Colonial era occupies the central part of Ramna. History of “Ramna” dates back to 1610 AD, when Mughal Subehdar Islam Khan Chistia founded Dhaka as the Capital of Subeh Bengal and developed Ramna for the place for 'nobles and Amirs'. They created many gardens there as thus the place was referred as Bagh-e-Badshahi also Muhallah Sujatpur. But the name ‘Ramna’ chosen by them stood the test of time.

The causes why and how this elegant lush green area lost all its glory and turned into filthy jungles with abode for wild animals in later centuries, after power changed hands, are still unknown. Although Dhaka was founded as capital much before Kolkata and many other Indian cities, very little of its past and historical records are available.

During Company Rule in 1825, British Collector Mr. Dowes, a workaholic person, cleared a large area of the jungles from Ramna area to bring back its lost glory engaging the jail convicts. Magistrate Waltears recorded 595 structures in Muhallah Shujatpur of which 53 were masonry.

After intense drive and clearing of jungles for several months, Dowes demolished the ruins, tombs and monuments that stood there, except the Greek tomb structure (now inside TSC), Kali Mandir on the south and Mosque of Haji Khwaja Shahbaz Khan that stands by the western side of Old High Court building behind ‘Tin Netar Mausoleum’. Finally a big oval shaped area was recovered and its periphery was protected by wooden fence for horse racing and other games. Further north west, he built a huge earthen mound with a structure on top for his retreat. It became a place for promenade for the Europeans living in the city. The mound is still present inside the National Children’s Park. Dowes also built a road for access from the town.

After Dowes' departure, the area was once again neglected and herbs and shrubs grew everywhere in abundance. Horse racing stopped. Around 1840 and onwards, the Zamindars and newly rich of Dhaka began acquiring large tract of land on the north for making 'Bangan bari' (pleasure houses). The Maharaja of Bardwan built a mansion Bardwan House (CM's house in 1948, now Bangla Academy) on the west fringe of Race course. Nawab Abdul Ghani acquired land in Shahbagh and Paribagh, took lease of race course from the British to patronize horse racing which became very popular. A club was built (Gymkhana club) on the north edge which was opened in 1911 by Lord Lanslott, the club was out of bounds to the non-whites. This is now ‘Dhaka Club’.

Ramna became the focal point for growth of town when Dhaka became the capital of the newly created province of East Bengal and Assam in 1905. Mansions for Governor, Ministers and institutions were built in that area.

Ramna Race Course ground witnessed many important events of the history. After partition of 1947, the first ever public meeting of Md. Ali Jinnah was held here on 23rd March 1948. The civic reception to Sheikh Mujibur Rahman in 1969 and his historical public meeting of 7th March 1971 were held here. It became the setting for the surrender of Pakistan Army on 16 December 1971.


Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

Horse racing stopped after the independence of Bangladesh as ordered by Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the father of the nation. I have seen horse racing during my schools days, in the late 1950s, as we used go past by the race course.

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