Ahsan Manzil (Bengali: আহসান মঞ্জিল) was the official residential palace and seat of the Dhaka Nawab Family. This magnificent building is situated at Kumartoli along the banks of the Buriganga River in Bangladesh. The construction of this palace was started in the year 1859 and was completed in 1869. It is constructed in the Indo-Saracenic Revival architecture. To preserve the cultural and history of the area, the palace became the Bangladesh National Museum on 20 September 1992.
File:Ahsan Manzil, Bangladesh National Museum, Dhaka, Bangladesh|Ahsan Manzil, Bangladesh National Museum, Dhaka, Bangladesh. During the Mughal Period, Sheikh Enayetullah’s the illustrious landlord of Jalapur Garden House was situated here. In about the year 1740, his son Sheikh Motiullah, sold the Graden House to the French traders who used it as their business center. Khwaja Alimullah, the father of Nawab Adul Ghani, purchased that French trading center building in 1830 and renovated it into his residence. Nawab Abdul Ghani built an enormous palace on the eastern side of the kuthi and named it Ahsan Manzil after his son, Khwaja Ahsanullah Nawab Khwaja Ahsanullah.Description and Construction
Ahsan Manzil is one of the most significant architectural monuments of Bangladesh. The building structure was established on a raised platform of 1 meter, the two-storied palace measures 125.4m by 28.75m. The height of the ground floor is 5 meters and the height of the first floor 5.8 meters. The thickness of the walls of the palace is about 0.78 meters. There are porticos of 5 meters height on the northern and southern sides of the palace. The building has a broad front-facing the Buriganga River. On the river side, an open spacious stairway leads right up to the second portal and on their stands the grand triple- arched portals. There was once a fountain in the garden in front of the stairs which does not exist today. All along the north and the south side of the building run spacious verandahs with an open terrace projected in the middle.
The palace Ahsan Manzil is divided into two parts: the eastern side and western side. The eastern building with the dome is called the Rangmahal and the western side with the living rooms is called Andarmahal. The high octagonal dome is placed on the central round room. There is a large drawing room, card room, library, state room and two other guest rooms are located on the east side of the palace. The ballroom, the Hindustani room and few residential rooms are situated on the western side. A beautiful vaulted artificial ceiling, made of wood, decorates the drawing room and the Jalsaghar. A splendid dining hall and few smaller rooms are placed on the west part. The floors of the dining and darbar halls are decorated with white, green and yellow colored ceramic tiles. The famous store room, where the valuables of the nawabs used to be stored, was in the middle of the five rooms located in the western half of the ground floor. Along with those rooms a Darbar Hall or assembly hall and a chest room is also place there.
There are attractive wooden stairs in the room that is attached to the north of the domed room. The balusters were ornamented with vine leaves made of iron along the railing of the stairs. The wooden ceiling of the room, decorated with geometric designs, is very elegant. The verandas and rooms are covered with marble. The doorways are placed within semicircular arches. The inner doors had multi-colored glasses. Wooden beams supported the roof of these rooms. The architecture and the decoration is one of a kind in whole Bangladesh.
The construction of the famous dome of the Ahsan Mazil, which is at the center of the palace, took a lot tedious planning. The square room on the ground floor was built with a round shape and brickworks were done around the corners. To give the room an octagonal shape, squinches were given around the roof corners. The eight corners of the octagon was slanted gradually to make the dome look like the bud of a lotus ( kumud kali). The peak of this dome is 27.13 m above the ground. Ahsan Manzil was severely damaged during the tornado that occurred on 7th April 1888.the western block of Andermahal was completely demolished and later it was entirely rebuilt. The present day dome, which is situated on the top, was built during the time of reconstruction. This place was also damaged during the earthquake of 1897 but Nawab Khwaja Ahsanullah repaired the whole place again.
In 1874, Lord Northbrook, Governor General of India attended an evening function in the palace when he came to lay the foundation of a water works installed by Nawab Abdul Ghani. In 1888, Lord Dufferin also accepted the hospitality offered at Ahsan Manzil. In 1904 Lord Curzon, on a visit to East Bengal, stayed in this palace on 18 and 19 February to win public support for the proposed Partition of Bengal.
Ahsan Manzil, an architectural treasure, is a witness to many historical events of Bangladesh. From the last part of the 19th century to the initial years of Pakistan, the Muslim leadership of East Bengal emerged from this palace. The nawabs of Dhaka used to conduct their court affairs here as chief of the panchayet (village council) everyday. Many anti-Congress meetings were held here under the patronization of Nawab Ahsanullah, a staunch believer in Muslim identity. Almost all the Viceroys, Governors and Lieutenant Governors of British India who visited Dhaka spent some time at the Ahsan Manzil. Almost all political activities of Nawab Khwaja Salimullah centred round this palace. Ahsan Manzil was the cradle of the All India Muslim League. With the decline of the Nawabs of Dhaka, Ahsan Manzil also started to decline.
When in 1952 the Dhaka Nawab State was acquired under the East Bengal Estate Acquisition Act, it became impossible for the successors of the Nawabs to maintain the palace due to financial constraints. Nawab Khwaja Habibullah started living at Paribag Green House soon after the acquisition of the zamindari. The palace was soon on the verge of collapse as successors rented out rooms without considering its dignity. Over the years illegal occupants turned the place into a filthy slum. After the independence of Bangladesh, most of the nawab family went to abroad in search of a better livelihood and work. On 1974, the owners of the palace decided to give it up on auction.Renovation
Recognizing the historical and architectural importance of the Ahsan Manzil, the government of Bangladesh took the initiative to renovate it. In 1985 Ahsan Manzil and its surroundings were acquired. After the completion of the renovation work in 1992 under the supervision of the Directorate of Public Works and Architecture, it was brought under the control of Bangladesh National Museum (20 September 1992). A museum has been established there. Considering the historical importance and architectural significance of Ahsan Manzil palace, the government was trying to conserve it since the later part of the Pakistani rule. The father of nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman canceled its auction proposal option. On November 2, 1974, he ordered to establish a museum and tourist center after its proper conservation.
After the implementation of the work on the museum started, most of the nawabs house area, along with the half of the portion of the Andarmahal, remained beyond acquisition. The total area of acquired land was 5.65 acres. Out of that, 0.68 acres from northern side was given to Dhaka City Corporation to establish a super market and 4.96 acres of land with the palace buildings remained for museum purpose. In 1986, the work began according to the above order keeping the original structure undisturbed and reconstructing the old environment as far as possible. After the completion of the renovation work in 1992, under the supervision of the Directorate of Public Works and Architecture, it was brought under the control of Bangladesh National Museum (20 September 1992). A museum has been established there.
Today visitors to Bangladesh have the opportunity to see the beautifully restored and preserved Ahsan Manzil. The museum reflects its grandeur and along with that the place reflects the activities that took place in the past.