The Enigma in the Architecture Of Bengal

The Enigma in the Architecture Of Bengal- An Architectural Tour Experience by

Shafique Rahman


It was 27th of January, 2011, we 28 students along with our professors from the architecture discipline of Khulna University moved out for a trip, which we call The Bengal Tour. Our destination was a bunch of archaeological and resent projects in the northern part of Bangladesh. The tour considered as a part of the course titled Bengal, studied in the 4th year of BArch program at the Discipline of Architecture in KU.

In the early morning we got down on the platform of Phulbari station. Then we started for Dinajpur city to catch our accommodation in a training centre of BRAC, in a suburb of Dinajpur city. Crossing the wonderful garden we reached in our building where we were accommodated. One of my friends, Shila, with her trademark voice, shouted, “Wow! I want to stay here eternally”.  Truly the rooms arranged around the green courtyard were exquisite enough to say “wow”. Mr. Apurbo, one of our guide teachers’ fixed up 30 minutes to get ready for our first destination.


METI-The Handmade School in Rudrapur

The METI School is 40 km away from the accommodation. Half of the journey our driver moved forward breaking tree branches through the curved narrow streets. Thanks to our driver Topon for the safe journey around the whole trip. We got the first vista of the administrative building of METI School. It looks like a known building as we see any vernacular the rural areas of Bangladesh. Use of local materials like bamboo, mud, wood and cloth have created an unique identity of the building.

The joyous and elegant two-storied primary school was just beside of it. METI School comes in light when Anna Heringer (Architect) received the Aga Khan Award for Architecture in 2007. METI School has emerged from a deep understanding of local materials and a heart-felt connection to the local community. Its innovation lies in the adaptation of traditional methods and materials of construction to create light-filled celebratory spaces as well as informal spaces for children. The natural lighting quality and cool ventilation through the perforated bamboo screen wall are the remarkable achievements regarding energy efficiency and indoor environmental quality in the building.

Kantajew Temple the Glory of Dinajpur

The next morning I was really excited. The destination dates back to the 1752 C.E. and it was an old Hindu Temple of 258 years. The bus leaved us aside the grimy street. We had to cross a bamboo bridge and walked about 15 minute in the village. We entered through a narrow entrance and suddenly got the temple in front of us. It was breathtaking to see its grandness at the first glimpse. The 52 ft square temple with a height of 50 ft exposed with various band of terracotta works. Those terracotta were floral and human figurative. The guide took us around the temple and described the ancient history which were depicted with those terracotta works. The figurative terracotta is a sequence of the story from Ramayana and Mahabharata. We walked around the temple several times but the variety of terracotta and its detailing made up the temple every time a new one.

Somapura Mahavihara the Ancient University

On the same day we reached paharpur of Naogaon district, where the best known Buddhist monastery where the Somapura Mahavihara is located. The Buddhist Stupa (Space for Meditation and Education) is sprawled over an area of 27 acres! The excavation at Paharpur, and the finding of seals bearing the inscription, had identified the Somapura Mahavihara as built by the second Pala king Dharmapala (circa 781-821) of Pala Dynasty. We had visited the museum and the central Stupa of numerous heights. The sun had already finished its diurnal round and literally we finished our visit. The ending session was a discussion among the teachers and students. We went Bogra and got our accommodation in the Rural Development Centre (RDA) on that night.

Bogra- The juxtapose of Ancient and Contemporary Architecture

Next day we started for Mohasthangarh, Vashu vihara, Govinda Bhita and two recent projects to visit. This ancient archeological spots had a continuous flux of people. Most of them were there for a picnic trip. Mahasthangarh, the ancient capital of Pundravardhana is located 11 km north of Bogra. It was the most dilapidated structure we visited in this tour. The other two Vashu Vihara and Govinda Bhita were nearby. In the second half of that day we visited SOS school and TARC building of BRAC. These two projects are contemporary but listed as the finest in the practice of contemporary architecture of Bangladesh. The wonderful inner court in TARC building was full of flowers and pupil used to sit on the plinth aside. Having a short trip in Bogra city we came back to our guest house again.

Natore and Puthia- The land of Castel

We had to start for Rajshahi early in the morning of 31th January. On the way we knockd 6 spots in different locations. Rani Vabani Palace and Natore Jomidarbari has been locked for its ruined condition, we experienced the heritage from the outside. One of us, Smilly showed her interest to test the famous “Kuccha Golla”, a local sweet cake. We had our lunch and tested Kuccha Golla. Then we moved for puthia. Puthia Rajbari Complex is now using as a college building. We got Mr.Azizul, who is an employee of archaeology department in Puthia. He took us to the grand Gabindow Temple. In the same location we visited more 5 ancient temples. He briefed us the history of every building in a very short time. Bagha Mosque was the last spot of that day.

Rajshahi the Borendraw Vumi

This was our last destination to visit 4 ancient mosques in Rajshahi. On 1st February morning we started for the Shibganj, 86 km away from Rajshahi city. What we saw on both side of the road was unending stretches of Mango Trees. But everyone was tired and slept on the bus. This time our bus supervisor knocked us and said, “Choto Shona Mosque, here it is”. Spreading my eyes I saw the black stone made Mosque which dates back to the 1493 C.E. The other sites were in a short distance. We had visited Tohakhana Mosque Complex, Darashbari Mosque and the Khania Dighi Mosque at last.

Visiting the Khania Dighi Mosque was an amazing experience. Rezwan who used to take thousand photographs in the tour also closed his camera and sprawled inside the mosque. Actually the scale and mysterious lighting makes the interior space spiritual that could not be captured through a lens. Not only this mosque, in the whole Bengal tour we took thousand snaps. But no photograph is well enough to frame the aesthetics of Bengal Architecture. It is beyond our imagination! One must visit at least once in his life to feel the real beauty and mystery of Bengal Architecture.