Bara Katra – Architectural and Historical Monument in Dhaka

Built between 1644 and 1646 as the official residence of the second son of Mughal emperor Shah Jahan – Shah Shuja – the palatial building known as Bara Katra is located near the north bank of the Buriganga River in the Bangladeshi city of Dhaka. Today it is considered to be a significant architectural and historical monument from the era of the Mughal dynasty in the Bengal region.

Following the traditional architectural style of the caravanserai found in Central Asia, the building originally consisted of an enclosed courtyard with shops and living cells surrounding it. Caravanserais were built as roadside inns to support the trade routes across Asia, southeastern Europe and North Africa, and were particularly prominent along the Silk Route, which included Bangladesh. They were most typically built with a rectangular or square walled exterior with a single gateway large enough to accommodate heavily laden camels to enter. Surrounding the courtyard would be a number of similar sized stalls used by traveling merchants, their servants, merchandise and animals. In addition to trading with the traveling merchants, permanent shops in a caravanserai would provide travelers with fodder for animals and fresh supplies.

Bara Katra features an elaborate three-story gate with an octagonal central chamber on the southern side facing the river, as well as a gateway in the northern wing. Square and rectangular panels decorate the surface of the gate walls, while the third storey windows open above the apex of the alcove. The main arched entrance under the alcove leads to the guardroom. Two more archways lead through to an octagonal hall with a domed ceiling intricately decorated with designs of foliage. Five vaulted rooms are located in a row on the ground floor and the hollow corner towers are three storeys high.

Unfortunately, time and the elements have taken their toll on Bara Katra, and urban developments have encroached upon its surroundings, but visitors are nonetheless able to get an idea of the majesty it once had during the era of the Mughal dynasty in Bangladesh.