Nishat Manjil, built as the princely stable and clubhouse for the Nawabs, served as a venue of receptions for the statesmen of the day, including Lord Dufferin (Viceroy of India), Lord Carmichael (Governor of Bengal), Sir Steuart Bayley (Lt. Governor of Bengal), Sir Charles Elliott (Lt. Governor of Bengal), and John Woodburn (Lt. Governor of Bengal).

Khwaja Salimullah built the Nawab's Paribag House in the memory of his sister, Pari Banu. Later, with the downturn in the family's fortunes, his son, Nawab Khwaja Habibullah, lived here for many years. The hammam (bath) and the hawakhana (green house) were regarded as marvels of design in early twentieth century.10

Sujatpur Palace, the oldest Nawab mansion in the area, later became the residence for the Governor of East Bengal during the Pakistani Regime, and subsequently the Bangla Academy, the Supreme Bengali Language Authority in Bangladesh. The TSC (Teacher Student Center) of Dhaka University took over some of the palace grounds20, becoming a major cultural and political meeting place in 1970s.


Sri Anandamoyi Ma, early twentieth century Hindu religious figure

Teachers and students make up most the population of Shahbag, and the activities of its academic institutions dominated its civic life. Its commercial life, too, reflects its occupants' intellectual and cultural pursuits. Among its best known markets is the country's largest second-hand, rare, and antiquarian book-market,21 comprising of Nilkhet-Babupura Hawkers Market, a street market, and Aziz Supermarket, an indoor bazaar.22 Shahbag is also home to the largest flower market (a street side open air bazaar) in the country, located at Shahbag Intersection,23 as well as the largest pet market in the country, the Katabon Market.24 In addition, Elephant Road features a large shoe market and, Nilkhet-Babupura, a large market for bedding accessories.

Shahbag's numerous ponds, palaces and gardens have inspired the work of artists, including poet Buddhadeva Bose, singer Protiva Bose, writer-chronicler Hakim Habibur Rahman, and two Urdu poets of nineteenth century Dhaka, Obaidullah Suhrawardy and Abdul Gafoor Nassakh.25 Shahbag stood at the center of the cultural and political activities associated with the Language movement of 1952, resulting in the founding of the Bangla Academy, a national academy for promoting the Bengali language. Zainul Abedin founded the first formal art school in Dhaka-the Dhaka Art College (now Institute of Fine Arts)-in Shahbag in 1948. Later, Mazharul Islam, the pioneer of modern architecture in Bangladesh, designed the Art College as one of his early projects. In the 1970s, Jiraz Art Gallery opened as the first commercial art wing in the Shahbag area. Other cultural landmarks in the area include the Bangladesh National Museum,26 the National Public Library, and the Dhaka University Mosque and Cemetery, containing the graves of Kazi Nazrul Islam, the national poet, of painters Zainul Abedin and Quamrul Hassan, and of the teachers killed by Pakistani forces during the Bangladesh Liberation War of 1971.

The Shahbag area has a rich religious history. In the late 1920s, Sri Anandamoyi Ma, the noted Hindu ascetic, also known as the Mother of Shahbag, built her ashram near Ramna Kali Mandir, or the Temple of Kali, at Ramna. Her presence in Dhaka owed directly to Shahbag, for her husband, Ramani Mohan Chakrabarti, had accepted the position of caretaker of Shahbag gardens a few years earlier. In 1971, the Pakistani Army destroyed the "Temple of Kali" in the Liberation War of Bangladesh.27 A well-known local Muslim saint of the early twentieth century was Syed Abdur Rahim, supervisor of the dairy farm established by Khwaja Salimullah, the Nawab of Dhaka, at Paribag. Known as the Shah Shahib of Paribag, Abdur Rahim had his khanqah (Persian: خانگاه, spiritual retreat) here; his tomb lies at the same location today.28 Katabon Mosque, an important center for Muslim missionaries in Bangladesh, is located in Shahbag as well. In addition, the only Sikh Gurdwara in Dhaka stands next to the Institute of Modern Languages in Shahbag.29

Rally on Pohela Baishakh

Since 1875, the Shahbag gardens have hosted a famous fair celebrating the Gregorian New Year and containing exhibits of agricultural and industrial items, as well as those of animals and birds. In the late nineteenth century and early twentieth century, the gardens were the private property of the Nawab of Dhaka, and, although a portion of the gardens had been donated to Dhaka University in 1918, ordinary citizens could enter the main gardens only during the fair. In 1921, at the request of the Nawab's daughter, Paribanu, the organizers of the fair set aside one day during which only women were admitted to the fair, a tradition that has continued down to the present. Today, the fair features dance recitals by girls, Jatra (a native form of folk theater), putul naach (puppet shows), magic shows and Bioscope shows.12 Historically, Shahbag served also the main venue in Dhaka for other recreational sports like Boli Khela (wrestling) and horse racing.

The Basanta Utsab (Festival of Spring) takes place every February 14-the first day of spring, according to the reformed Bangladeshi Calendar. Originating in Shahbag in the late 1960s, Basanta Utsab has now become a major festival in Dhaka.30 Face painting, wearing yellow clothes (signifying Spring), music, and local fairs are typical of the many activities associated with the festival, which often also includes themes associated with Valentine's Day. Shahbag is also the focal point of the Pohela Baishakh (the Bengali New Year) festival in Dhaka, celebrated every April 14 following the revised Bengali Calendar, and now the biggest carnival in Dhaka.31 From 1965 to 1971 the citizens of Dhaka observed the festival as a day of protest against the Pakistani regime. Other local traditions associated with the festival include the Boishakhi Rally and the Boishakhi Mela begun by the Institute of Fine Arts and the Bangla Academy respectively. In addition, Chayanaut Music School began the tradition of singing at dawn under the Ramna Batamul (Ramna Banyan tree).

Books and movies figure prominently in the cultural life of Shahbag. The biggest book fair in Bangladesh is held every February on the premises of the Bangla Academy in Shahbag. The only internationally recognized film festival in Bangladesh-the Short and Independent Film Festival, Bangladesh-takes place every year at the National Public Library premises. The organizers of the film festival, the Bangladesh Short Film Forum, have their offices in Aziz Market.

In 2001, a suicide bomber killed ten people and injured 50 others during the Pohela Baishakh festivals. The Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami, an Islamic militant group, allegedly carried out the terrorist act.3233

See Also

  • Dhaka
  • Bangladesh War of Independence
  • A.K. Fazlul Huq
  • Bangladesh
  • Partition of Bengal (1905)


  1. ↑ Jatindramohan Rai quotes Rajtarangini by Kalhan in Dhakar Itihas, 1913
  2. ↑ Abdullah Juberee, New Age, 2006-03-11, Dhaka Gate at DU stands unnoticed. accessdate 2008-09-09
  3. ↑ Banglapedia, Mariam Saleha Mosque. accessdate 2008-09-09
  4. Banglapedia, Musa Khan Mosque accessdate 2008-09-09
  5. Banglapedia, Khwaja Shahbaz's Mosque-Tomb. accessdate 2008-09-09
  6. ↑ Hasan Syed Aulad. Notes on the Antiquities of Dacca. (Dhaka: 1912), 40-41
  7. ↑ Sharif Uddin Ahmed. Dacca. (London: 1986), 131
  8. ↑ Munshi Rahman Ali Taesh, trans. by AMM Sharfuddin, Tawarikhey Dhaka. (1985), 158-159
  9. ↑ Dhaka under the East India Company. Dhaka City Corporation. accessdate 2008-09-09
  10. 10.0 10.1 Banglapedia, Paribagh. accessdate 2007-04-05
  11. Banglapedia Ramna Race course. accessdate 2008-09-09
  12. 12.0 12.1 12.2 "Shahbag" Banglapedia 1. accessdate 2007-04-05
  13. ↑ Bangladesh Betar. Bangladesh Ministry of Information. accessdate 2008-09-09
  14. ↑ Khalid Hasan, Observer Magazine, PostCard USA: Arnold Zeitlin's Pakistan. accessdate 2006-11-12
  15. 15.0 15.1 Md. Asadullah Khan, "My Experience on the First Victory Day." Observer Magazine, 2004-12-16, 2.| accessdate 2006-11-12
  16. ↑ S.A.T.M. Aminul Hoque, Disaster Management Committee, Dhaka City Corporation. Dhaka. PDF. accessdate 2007-04-17
  17. ↑ Dhaka Sheraton 3. accessdate 2006-09-28
  18. ↑ Shahnaz Parveen, Daily Star, 2003-07-01Commuting in Dhaka city and its changing phases. accessdate 2007-04-17
  19. ↑ Mubin S. Khan, New Age, 2005-11-04 Glory days. accessdate 2007-04-11
  20. ↑ The Place Where Bangladesh Is Alive. accessdate 2007-04-14
  21. New Age, 2006-01-21, Hawkers on Gausia, Nilkhet footpath. accessdate 2006-04-11
  22. ↑ Staff Reporter, Daily Independent, 2006-09-30, A Favourite Haunt of Book Lovers. accessdate 2006-04-11
  23. ↑ Shahnaz Parveen, Daily Star, 2006-04-12, Shop talk: Beli, Rajanigandha and more. accessdate 2006-04-11
  24. ↑ Marchel Khan, Weekly Holiday, 2002-06-28, Endangered species being sold. accessdate 2006-04-11
  25. ↑ Syed Muhammed Taifoor. Glimpses of Old Dhaka. (Dacca: SM Perwez, 1952. ASIN B0007K0SFK), 257-258.
  26. ↑ Bangladesh National Museum. homepage. accessdate 2006-09-28
  27. ↑ SD Khan, The Race Course Maidan that once was, The Daily Star, Bangladesh, 2005-11-01, accessdate 2007-04-13
  28. ↑ Amulyakumar Duttagupta. Shree Shree Ma Anandamayi Prosonge (vol 1). (Dhaka: 1938), 2-3 (in Bengali).
  29. The Tribune India, 2005-09-25, SGPC to repair Bangladesh gurdwaras. accessdate 2006-04-11
  30. ↑ Cultural Correspondent, Weekly Holiday, 2003-03-07, Basanta Utsab observed in city. accessdate 2006-04-11
  31. ↑ Novera Deepita, Daily Star, 2006-04-10. Preparation on in full swing. accessdate 2006-11-17}}
  32. ↑ Court Correspondent, Daily Star, 2006-10-07 Mufti Hannan placed on fresh remand. accessdate 2006-11-17
  33. ↑ // Mufti Hannan details his blueprints of militancy', November 22, 2006, Bangladesh News. Retrieved February 7, 2009.


  • Ahmed, Sharif Uddin 1986. Dacca: A Study in Urban History and Development. London: Riverdale Co Pub. ISBN 0913215147.
  • Ahmed, Sharif Uddin 2001. Dhaka: Itihasa o Nagarjiban: 1840-1921. Ḍhākā: Ekāḍemika Presa eṇḍa Pābaliśārsa. ISBN 9789840801626.

Old files and documents preserved at Ahsan Manzil Museum and Nawab State's Office

  • Ahsanullah, Nawab, "Personal Diary" (Urdu) preserved at Ahsan Manzil.
  • Dani, Ahmad Hasan 1962. Dacca: A Record of its Changing Fortunes, revised ed. Dhaka: Crescent Book Centre. OCLC 5168488.
  • Geddes, Patrick (1911). Report on Town Planning-Dacca. Calcutta: Bengal Secretariat Book Depot. OCLC 30658945.
  • Haider, Azimusshan 1966. A City and its Civic Body. Dhaka: Dacca Municipality. OCLC 77584510.
  • Haider, Azimusshan 1967. Dacca: History and Romance in Place Names. Dhaka: Dacca Municipality. OCLC 474494.
  • Hardinge of Penshurst, Lord Charles (1948). My Indian Years: 1910-1916. London: John Murray. ASIN B0007IW7V0.
  • Hasan, Sayid Aulad (1912). Notes on the Antiquities of Dacca. Dacca: University Press Limited. ASIN B0000CQXW3.
  • Islam, Nazrul 1996. Dhaka: From city to megacity. (Perspectives on people, places, planning, and development issues: Bangladesh urban studies series No. 1.) Urban Studies Programme, Department of Geography, University of Dhaka. ISBN 984 510 004 X.
  • Mamoon, Muntasir 2004. Dhaka: Smrti Bismrtir Nagari. Dhaka: Ananya Publishers. ISBN 9844121043.
  • Maniruzzaman, K.M. Dhaka City: A sketch of its development. ASIN B000720FH0.
  • Rabbani, Golam 1997. Dhaka: from Mughal Outpost to Metropolis. Dhaka: University Press Limited. ISBN 9840513745.
  • Taifoor, Syed Muhammed (1952). Glimpses of Old Dhaka. Dacca: SM Perwez. ASIN B0007K0SFK.
  • Taylor, James (1840). A Sketch of the Topography and Statistics of Dacca. Calcutta: G. H. Huttman, Military Orphan Press. OCLC 250332935.
  • Dhaka City under the Mughals. Dhaka City Corporation. Retrieved April 5, 2007.
  • Khan, Mubin S., "Eight days that shook the campus", Weekly Holiday Bangladesh, August 2, 2002. Retrieved September 9, 2008.