History and Tradition in Puran Dhaka
Puran Dhaka, more commonly referred to as Old Dhaka, is the original part of the bustling Dhaka Metropolitan City which serves as the capital of Bangladesh. Old Dhaka dates back to the 7th century, when the area was under the control of the Buddhist kingdom of Kamarupa which ruled for almost 800 years between 350 and 1140 CE. Age-old traditions and a sense of community among the residents of Puran Dhaka have remained particularly strong as the rest of the city continues to modernize. Many agree that the customs of the residents of this ancient settlement are different from general Bengali culture and to explore the streets of Old Dhaka is to take a journey back in time.
Control of Old Dhaka passed to the Hindu Sena dynasty in the 9th century and it is likely that the name of the town was taken from the 12th century temple dedicated to the Goddess Dhakeshvari by Ballal Sena. The Sultanate of Bengal succeeded the Sena Empire, with a succession of governors from the Delhi Sultanate controlling the city before the Mughals took power in 1608. It was at this time that the city was proclaimed as the capital of the province (subah) Bangalah, and the population grew significantly resulting in housing developments and townships.
Consisting of eight metropolitan districts – Lalbagh, Hazaribagh, Chowkbazar, Bangsal, Gendaria, Kotwali, Wari and Sutrapur – Old Dhaka has a number of vibrant market centers well worth exploring. These include Shankhari Bazar, Lakshmi Bazar, Tanti Bazar, Kumartuli, Patuatuli, Goal Nagar and Bania Nagar. The historic center is also the venue for many of the colorful festivals celebrated by Bengalis, with arguably the most famous being Poush Sankranti and the annual kite flying festival.
Many of the houses along the narrow roads and alleyways of Old Dhaka include workshops where men and woman work at various crafts to make a living, and visiting tourists may want to consider supporting local trade at the local markets. Attractions in Old Dhaka include Lalbagh Fort, the Pink Palace, Khan Mohammed Mridha’s mosque, Ruplal House, the Armenian Church, and Tara Masjid in Bangsal. While not necessarily seen as a tourist attraction, Sadarghat ferry terminal in Old Dhaka offers an interesting view of daily life as more than 30,000 passengers use the terminal each day and the ebb and flow of people, bicycles and rickshaws is endless. Whether you are there to delve into history, or enjoy a cultural festival, a visit to Old Dhaka is sure to be a memorable experience.