‘The history and architecture of the forts in Bangladesh speak a lot about the country’s past.’
Bangladesh was a country occupied by many before it became its own mistress. And all occupations left behind their own marks on the slate of this country, giving it a variety of colours and flavours and sights to call its own. Some of the most beautiful forts, in fact, were gifts to this land by Mughal emperors.
Bangladesh has its fair share of architectural personality in the form of forts such as the Hajiganj Fort in Narayanganj. Also known as Khizrpur Fort and located at the western banks of the Shitalakkha river, the Hajiganj Fort has all the characteristics of being a water fort. It was estimated to have been built in the period of Islam Khan who established the Mughal capital in Dhaka city. The quadrangular fort was built with a machicolated curtain wall and a walkway inside the wall, complete with musketry piercings. In one corner of the quadrangle is a tall square brick column, which may have been used as a watch tower in those days. Water forts in those times usually had these tall columns used to fire cannons. There is only one small gateway of the fort towards the river, which hints to the fact that the only means of transport or communication with the outside world was through the waterway. As there is no other structure built inside the fort, it may be an educated assumption that the fort was used in the monsoon season for protection from pirates and the occupants used other means of shade and roof, for instance, perhaps, tents. The fort is currently being used as the headquarters of Fire Brigade, Narayanganj.
Hajiganj Fort, also known as Khizirpur fort,
is situated at Hajiganj locality of Narayanganj.
Another river fort in the same locality of Narayanganj, this time on the eastern banks of the Shitalakkha river, Sonakanda Fort is built with somewhat more structure than the one we discussed above. While the fort is difficult to date back for certain, it may be a safe assumption that this too was built in the Mughal times and to safeguard Dhaka and Narayanganj from pirates. With thick walls and a massive artillery platform with a gateway to the north, it seemed to have served the purpose well. One can see thick, massive walls to hold or defend the fort with loopholes to fire at the enemy. A major attraction of this fort is its artillery platform. A smaller, spherical platform leads to the main platform where cannons of higher strength were kept aimed at intruders coming from the Shitalakkha river. This is one of the most distinctive features of almost all the river forts built during this era.
Situated in Munshiganj, the Idrakpur river fort was built in the 1660s and lives on till now. Bengal, under the Mughals was a very wealthy location and was frequently the target for pirates. Built by Mir Jumla II, the fort was part of a triangular defensive strategy in order to defend the vulnerable Ichamoti and Meghna waters from pirates. The pirates used this waterway to make their way through the Shitalakkha rivers into Dhaka, looting important cities like Bikrampur and Sonargaon on the way. The other two forts completing the triangle were Sonakanda and Hajiganj, in Narayanganj.
The Idrakpur river fort was built
in the 1660s and lives on till now
A notable part of the fort is a circular drum in the eastern portion, used for mounting ammunition. Legend states that there was a set of stairs at the foot of this drum which led to a room where more ammunition was kept in store. It is also said that this room was linked to a secret tunnel which led to the Lalbagh Fort.
A 17th century Mughal fort, facing the Buriganga river, the construction of this fort was started by Subahdar Muhammad Azam Shah, third son of Emperor Aurangzeb. His successor, Shaista Khan, however, abandoned the structure in an incomplete state, deeming it unlucky, when his daughter Pari Bibi passed away in it; it remains unfinished to this date. Three architectural monuments within the complex were finished: the Mausoleum of Pari Bibi, the Diwan, or Hall of Audience and the three-domed Quilla Mosque. There are other myths surrounding the fort as well.
Lalbagh Fort is 17th century Mughal fort
complex that stands before the Buriganga river
There are passages below the fort leading to Fort Zinzira, another structure, not too far from this one. It was mentioned that soldiers that tried to escape the British army through this route never returned, and neither did the search parties sent after them. The passages are now sealed. The fort is worth a tour and many guided tours are available at the venue.