Ahsan Manzil, Dhaka
Ahsan Manzil, also called the Pink Palace, is an architectural reminder of the elite Nawab family of Dhaka. It has a great historical and architectural significance. The palace still stands today bearing hundred-years of history of Dhaka. Located on the banks of the river Buriganga in the Kumartuli area of Islampur in old Dhaka, Ahsan Manzil was once the residence of the Nawabs of Dhaka and their zamindar office. Nawab Abdul Ghani started the construction of Ahsan Manzil in 1859 and completed it in 1872. He named it after his son Khwaja Ahsanullah (1846–1901). It is currently being used as a museum run by the Bangladesh National Museum Authority.
The decision to establish the Muslim League, one of the oldest political party in the subcontinent, was taken at a meeting held at Ahsan Manzil in 1906.
In this article we’ve covered a brief history of Ahsan Manzil, its infrastructure, architectural features, importance as a museum and tourist spot, ticket price, visiting schedule, how to go and some nice pictures of Ahsan Manzil.
Ahsan Manzil attracts a large number of visitors throughout the year. If you want to get a closer look at the western-influenced architecture of the Mughal period and the lavish lifestyle of the Nawabs of Dhaka at that time, you can visit this ancient palace. The luxurious Ahsan Manzil Palace of the then zamindars is now the Ahsan Manzil Museum. More than four thousand historical objects are preserved here for public viewing. The Buriganga River flows south to the palace. As you enter through the gate, you will see flower gardens on both sides of the road. You will be fascinated by the colorful flower arrangements. There is a huge green field in front of Ahsan Manzil. A large staircase descended from the middle of the tall pink palace to the ground.
Out of the total 31 houses in Ahsan Manzil, 23 houses have been opened with various exhibitions. 9 houses are decorated with photographs found in the India Office Library in London and with photos taken by the Fritz Cup in 1904. The utensils in the Toshakhana and crockery room of Ahsan Manzil and various specimens collected from the old office ‘Edward House’ of the Nawab’s estate have been preserved and made open to all.
The Ahsan Manzil Museum exhibits Nawab’s dining room, large mirrors, cupboards, chests, glass and porcelain utensils used by them, Nawab’s favorite elephant’s head skeleton with teeth, nawab’s inlaid silver and crystal chair-table, various Oil painting, vase, perfume pot, betel plate, nawabs’ drawing room, a model of Ahsan Manzil made of gold and silver etc. The total number of artefacts collected in Ahsan Manzil Museum is 4,077.
History of Ahsan Manzil
In the middle of the 18th century, Sheikh Inayetullah Ahsan, zamindar of Jamalpur Pargana, built a recreation building called Rangmahal on the present site of Ahsan Manzil. Later, his son Sheikh Matiullah sold it to merchants from France. Then Rangmahal became a trading house. In 1830, Khwaja Alimullah, the father of Nawab Abdul Ghani, bought it and started living there. With his residence at the center, Khwaja Abdul Gani developed a master-plan by a European construction and engineering firm, the main building of which to be the Ahsan Manzil. In 1859, Nawab Abdul Ghani started the construction of the present Ahsan Manzil Palace which was completed in 1872. At that time the newly built palace building was known as Rangmahal and the old building as Andarmahal.
A strong earthquake in 1888 caused extensive damage to the entire Ahsan Manzil. The existing high dome was added during the reconstruction of the damaged Ahsan Manzil. High quality bricks were brought from Raniganj for reconstruction and repair. Engineer Gobinda Chandra Roy conducted the repair work. At that time there was no such magnificent building in Dhaka city as Ahsan Manzil. The dome above Ahsan Manzil palace was one of the highest peaks in the city, attracting attention from afar.
When another earthquake struck Dhaka in 1897, the Nahabat Khana adjacent to Islampur Road along the south veranda of Ahsan Manzil completely collapsed. Later, Nawab Ahsanullah rebuilt it. In 1952, the Dhaka Nawab Estate was acquired by the government under the Zamindari Eviction Act. But the residential buildings of the Nawabs, the Ahsan Manzil and the garden houses were out of acquisition. However, The maintenance of Ahsan Manzil became difficult for the Nawab family due to lack of funds and influence.
Notable members of the Nawab’s family migrated abroad after the independence of Bangladesh. Those who remained in Dhaka, since they were not capable to maintain Ahsan Manzil, it continues to deteriorate. In 1974, the successors of the Nawab family planned to sell Ahsan Manzil at auction. But the then president of Bangladesh, realizing the political and historical significance of the building, canceled the decision to sell it at auction, rather renovated it and ordered to convert the Manzil as a museum and tourist center. So, on November 3, 1985, the government acquired Ahsan Manzil Palace with its adjoining premises and started to set up a museum there. The Ahsan Manzil Museum was officially inaugurated on September 20, 1992 and opened to the public.
Infrastructure of Ahsan Manzil
The whole Ahsan Manzil is divided into two parts. The domed part on the east side is called Prasad Bhobon or Rangmahal, and the building consisting of residential chambers on the west side is called Andarmahal. Prasad Bhobon is again divided into two parts. A round room in the middle, with an octagonal high dome at the top. To the east is a meeting room on the second floor, a library, a guard-room and three guest rooms; And to the west there is a dance hall, a Hindustani room and a few residential rooms. The notable feature of Ahsan Manzil is the wide staircase leading directly from the second floor to the courtyard of the palace, which faces the river Buriganga. To the east of the ground floor is a dining hall, to the west a billiard room, a court hall and a treasury. On both floors of the palace building, there is a spacious verandah to the north and south.
Architecture of Ahsan Manzil
In terms of architecture, Ahsan Manzil is more European than Mughal architecture. The recessed verandas of the palace and the high dome are of Mughal architecture. But its triple-arched portal, triangular pediment, Roman-style column capitals, pilaster structure, and arched windows suggest that it is primarily a European-style building with some Mughal features.
Why did the Nawab adopt a European style of architecture for the Ahsan Manzil, since the rich and aristocratic people of the time followed the Mughal style when building their houses? In response, analysts say the Ahsan Manzil was being built during the growing influence of colonial British rule in India. Due to this political influence, the zamindars and wealthy people of that time gradually shifted to the western style of architecture instead of Mughal architecture to show their dignity and modernity.
Ahsan Manzil Ticket Price
The ticket prices applicable for visitors of different levels to enter Ahsan Manzil Museum are mentioned below (per capita):
Adult Bangladeshi visitor = 5 taka,
Bangladeshi child visitor (under 12 years) = 2 taka,
visitor from SAARC countries = 5 taka,
other foreign visitor = 75 taka.
No tickets are required for visitors with disabilities and students are allowed to visit the museum free of charge upon prior application.
Ahsan Manzil Timetable
The table below shows the opening and closing schedule of Ahsan Manzil Museum:
|From October to March|
|Friday||03:00 PM to 07:00 PM|
|Saturday—Wednesday:||09:00 AM—04:30 PM|
|From April to September|
|Friday||03:00 PM to 07:00 PM|
|Saturday—Wednesday:||10:00 AM—05:00 PM|
Besides, Ahsan Manzil is closed on public holidays. The phone number of Ahsan Manzil Museum Authority is: 7391122, 7393866.
How to go to Ahsan Manzil
If you come to Gulistan from anywhere in Dhaka and go a little farther along North South Road, you will come to Nayabazar junction. From here you will continue to go towards Babubazar. If you go down to the left side of Babubazar Bridge, you will come across another turn. Islampur is on the left side of it. If you come here and ask anyone, they will show you the way to Ahsan Manzil. Or you have to go to Sadarghat in old Dhaka first. From there you can reach Ahsan Manzil on foot or by rickshaw.
How to go Ahsan Manzil from Mirpur
You can go to Sadarghat by a bus of ETC Poribohon, Mirpur United Service or Bihongo Poribohon from Mirpur area of Dhaka city. The rent will be around 25 taka. Then you can reach Ahsan Manzil on foot or by a rickshaw from Sadarghat in a few minutes.