The old city of Mymensingh by the alluvial banks of the once mighty Brahmaputra still holds the charm of yesteryears. The quintessential ancient buildings and the road running parallel to the river revives the feel of its opulent past. So does, the town of Muktagacha which preserves the palace of the erstwhile zamindars.
Muktagacha is a small town within the Mymensingh division of Bangladesh. The ruins of the magnificent Rajbari is being renovated to convert it into a museum. There is a story behind the name of this place. During the early years, this place was known as Binodbari.
When Srikanta Acharya the Zamindar who was the inhabitant of Natore arrived here he was presented a huge lamp stand as a welcome gift by Muktaram Karmakar. The Zamindar was pleased and to recognize the effort of Muktaram he named the place Muktagacha (such lampstand used to be known as ‘gacha’ in those times).
It shows the broad-mindedness and the harmony of the inhabitants of the place. Which may have started during the times of the Zamindar or maybe it was there much before. Thus Muktagacha or Mymensingh as a whole is the place where the residents live in harmony keeping aside their religious, cultural and financial vanity and differences.
Speaking to the locals we came to know that this place is the haven for communal peace and harmony. The Hindus participate in the Eid celebration wholeheartedly and the Muslims participate in Durga Puja (the biggest of the Hindu festival in the region) with much enthusiasm.
To celebrate this joy of coexistence and love between communities we entered the famous Monda shop. (We already had the Monda factor in our mind celebration is just an excuse. 🙂 ) Monda is a renowned sweetmeat of Muktagacha and this shop is the one and only selling these since ages. Having a little chit-chat with the owner we came to know that for many years their family is in this business and they only prepare this single variety of sweet since then till day.
The palace gateway is just near the Monda shop. There were a few houses of commoners within the gateway and then there is the main palace gate. The board by the Department of Archeology (DOA) has placed a brief history and description of the palace near the entrance.
It says: “The Muktagacha Palatial Complex is located at Muktagacha Upazila headquarter of Mymensingh District. The Atani palace stands on the west side of the central arched gateway of this palatial complex. This property came under the possession of Srikanta Acharya Chaudhury the founder of the Mymensingh Zamindari in 1727 AD, as a grant from Nawab Alivardi Khan. Then all buildings of this complex were built by different members of the local Zamindar family in several phases of the late 19th to early 20th centuries AD. There are a Durga Temple, Raj-Rajeshwari Temple, Toshakhana, Iron made two storied Hawakhana and many other buildings. There was a revolving stage for cultural performances on the western side of the ‘Nat-Mandap’. Outside the palace there are the Hararameshwar temple and stone made Siva temple that still reflecting the archaeological trends of that period/time. The Department of Archeology (DOA) declared the Atani palace with four other surrounding temples as protected monuments in 1993 AD.”
The entrance and few buildings have been renovated and are in good shape now. While the rest is in its utter ruins. Restoration and renovation work is in process. Once complete this monument will be converted to a museum.
Even in its ruins, the pure white restored portions of the palace mark its grandness. The architecture of the palace is simple yet elegant. The bright white colour was increasing its aesthetic beauty. We did see the above mentioned ‘iron made two storied Hawakhana’ the ‘Nat-Mandap’. What intrigued me the most was huge pillars and the brightly coloured locked door with the beautiful designs and painted carvings of the tigers above it.
Peeking through the slit of the dook I could not make out what is inside the dark room. There must be something precious behind the locked and tiger protected doors. Somebody pointed towards the platform within an arched building saying it was the Durga Temple.
After loitering within the ruins of this beautiful monument we moved to on to explore the other parts of Mymensingh. Waterbodies are so common in every part of Bangladesh. Large calm and clean ponds, canals, rivers and all other natural waterbodies which I do not know by name are present in every district and every corner.
With the pleasing sights of these vast ponds, we entered the town of Mymensingh. The landscape and the buildings are reminiscent of its rich past. Along with the buildings some large and aged trees seemed to be the witness of the bygone era.
The mighty Brahmaputra which once used to be broad and fearsome, now gently flows weak and lean by its vast silted shores. These banks are now home to many who braves the annual disaster that floods their home every year.
As we wandered by the banks of the river turned into a canal now, there were many kites flying high in search of prey. There were a few Brahminy Kites and a few Black Kites. While on the bank a flock of duck were actively swimming around.
I had a feeling of peace and contentment in this small town of Mymensingh. On my way back to Dhaka I was thinking how beautifully and cordially the people of different sect and religion are living together as a family.
We could have evaded much bloodshed and partition, if we could maintain such strong bond of love and togetherness, ignoring the then divide and rule policy. It would definitely be a better place and a wonderful world.