Friday, November 03, 2006

Dhaka: Moghul town to Metropolis

Dhaka city view

Dhanmandi Res Area

Sheraton hotel

Shahbagh crossing view

Dhaka (Dacca), the capital of Bangladesh is situated on the bank of Buriganga River, a channel of Dhaleswari at 23°7 N, 90°375 E. With a population exceeding 12 million, Dhaka is the largest city in Bangladesh and amongst the largest in the world.

Dhaka's history dates back beyond 1000 AD. The Buddhist kingdom of Kamarupa ruled the city area. In mid-12th century when the Buddhist Pala dynasty of Bengal was overthrown by the Sena kings, who were orthodox Hindu Brahmins. Sena kings followed a policy of persecution of Buddhists, the dominant population, and drove them towards east.

During 11th to 13th centuries Islamic Sufi spiritualism attracted the Buddhist and the persecuted masses of Bengal to embrace Islam in greater number.

After the fall of the Sena dynasty by the invading Turks from west in the early 13th century and later by the Afghans, various parts of Bengal were consolidated and brought under a semi-independent Sultanate with the capital first at Gaur and then at Sonargaon 15 miles east of Dhaka. From this period the region received a continuous flow of Muslim immigrants from various parts of India. These immigrants led great land reclamation schemes of southern Bengal and a few other non-settled areas, which continued for several centuries.

Dhaka was successively ruled by the Turkish and Afghan governors descending from the Delhi Sultanate before the arrival of the Mughals in 1608. At that time Dhaka consisted of a few markets and localities of craftsmen and businessmen. The Afghan Fort in Dhaka was located at the present Central Jail near Chawkbazar.

The city achieved its glory of as capital of Bengal Province under Mughal rule in 1608. With the growth in population, public works and township began to expand. Subedar Islam Khan became the first viceroy administrator and the city was named "Jahangir Nagar" (City of Jahangir) after the Mughal emperor Jahangir. The greatest expansion of the city took place under Mughal general Shaista Khan (1662-1677 and 1679-1689). The city then stretched for 12 miles in length and 8 miles in breadth along the river and is believed to have had a population of nearly a million people.

The British East India Company took control of Bengal in 1765 after the Battle of Plassey. Owing to the war, Dhaka’s population shrank dramatically in a short period of time and its importance declined. Dhaka had a strategic link to the frontier of the northeast Indian states of Tripura and Assam. The British rulers began its development in the late 19th century. They built public works, educational buildings and a cantonment on north of the town. During World War II, the city served as important strategic military and supply base for the British Army to engage in the defense of Burma from Japanese attack..

After the independence gained by India and Pakistan through partition in 1947, Dhaka became the capital of Eastern part of Pakistan. In 1971 following a bloody civil war, East Pakistan became an independent State- Bangladesh with Dhaka as its capital.

Bangladesh with population over 140 million has the third largest and most homogeneous population in south and Southeast Asia, and the eighth largest population in the world. About three-fourths of its population are rural, two-thirds agricultural, and more than 85% are Muslims. About 99% of the population speak in Bangla.

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