Dhaka, Sunday, 18 August 2019

Lalbagh Kella: Mughal sign of 17th century

2017-06-06
Lalbagh Kella: Mughal sign of 17th century

Lalbagh Fort (also Fort Aurangabad) is an incomplete 17th century Mughal fort complex that stands before the Buriganga River in the southwestern part of Dhaka, Bangladesh.

The construction was started in 1678 AD by Mughal Subahdar Muhammad Azam Shah who was son of Emperor Aurangzeb and later emperor himself. His successor, Shaista Khan, did not continue the work, though he stayed in Dhaka up to 1688.

Mughal prince Muhammad Azam, third son of Aurangzeb started the work of the fort in 1678 during his vice-royalty in Bengal. He stayed in Bengal for 15 months. The fort remained incomplete when he was called away by his father Aurangzeb.

Shaista Khan was the new subahdar of Dhaka in that time, and he did not complete the fort. In 1684, the daughter of Shaista Khan named Iran Dukht Pari Bibi died there. After her death, he started to think the fort as unlucky, and left the structure incomplete. Among the three major parts of Lalbagh Fort, one is the tomb of Pari Bibi.

After Shaista Khan left Dhaka, it lost its popularity. The main cause was that the capital was moved from Dhaka to Murshidabad. After the end of the royal Mughal period, the fort became abandoned. In 1844, the area acquired its name as Lalbagh replacing Aurangabad, and the fort became Lalbagh Fort [Lalbager Kellain Bengali].

Structures

For long the fort was considered to be a combination of three buildings (the mosque, the tomb of Bibi Pari and the Diwan-i-Aam), with two gateways and a portion of the partly damaged fortification wall. Recent excavations carried out by the Department of Archaeology of Bangladesh have revealed the existence of other structures.

The southern fortification wall has a huge bastion in the southwestern corner. On the north of the south fortification wall were the utility buildings, stable, administration block, and its western part accommodated a beautiful roof-garden with arrangements for fountains and a water reservoir. The residential part was located on the east of the west fortification wall, mainly to the southwest of the mosque.

Stories

From the time of construction till date, various myths have revolved around the fort. Among all the historical stories and debates, it is widely believed that Lalbagh Fort stands as a monument of the unfulfilled dreams of Prince Muhammad Azam, beloved son of Emperor Aurangzeb. In the mid 17th century, he was serving as the Viceroy of Bengal and began the construction of the impressive Lalbagh Fort complex.

Therefore, the popular stories about the fort begin. Before the construction was finished, Prince Azam was called back to his father, to assist in the war against the Marathas. Legend says after the Mughal prince departed, Shaista Khan continued with building the project, but upon the untimely death of his much-loved daughter Iran-Dukht, warmly known as Pari Bibi, the construction was stopped. Bibi was engaged to Prince Azam at the time of her death.

There are also legends and debates about the identity of Pari Bibi. Few researchers claim she was a nine-year-old Ahom princess. Mir Jumals Ahom's expedition brought a war adjoining the Garo hills. He took the daughter of Ahom Raja to compel him for the full execution of the previous peace treaty. Later, the emperor made her convert to Islam and married her off to prince Azam. However, overshadowing all the debates, people now believe that she was the loving daughter of Nawab Shaista Khan.

Important facts

Archeologists after a recent excavation discover continuity of the main fort walls towards east below Shaishta Khan Road and opine that the present area of Qilla only represents half portion as planned by Prince Azam Khan. The gate at south-east of Fort (adjacent to Lalbagh Shahi Masjid) as per requirement fits properly as the Central Gate in the middle of Fort, the other half on east- likely planned for administrative purpose (Girde Qilla area)- were incomplete or extinct long ago.

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