Want to travel back to the Ancient times of medieval Muslim rulers & then the time of the Mughal Empire in East Bengal? Then visit Sonargaon – the once Ancient Bengal city, where you can experience the ruins and relics that date back to the Golden Era of Bengal.
Sonargaon is one of the most beautiful places of Bangladesh to visit. A great day trip from Dhaka (about 23km) is an excursion to Sonargaon (sometimes known as Old Sonargaon), the country’s first capital.
It is located in the Narayanganj district, about 27 kilometers to the southeast of Dhaka (the capital of Bangladesh). It is bounded on the east, west and south by the Meghna, the Shitalakhya and the Dhaleshwari rivers respectively and on the north by the Brahmaputra.
Sonargaon combines the countryside, culture, archaeology, adventure and friendship in one tidy bundle. Except for some mosques, a bridge, a few tombs and stupas (Buddhist monuments), and some indistinguishable mounds (most of which are found around the small modern village of Mograpara), nothing much remains of the original city of Sonargaon. For most people, enchanting Painam Nagar is the real jewel.
There are many beautiful places to see in Sonargaon such as the ‘Sardar Bari’ (the Folk Art Museum), Painam Nagar, Neel Kuthi, Tomb of Sultan Ghivasuddin Azam Shah, Panch Pir Dargah, Fateh Shah’s Mosque and the Goaldi Mosque.
When visiting Sonargaon, it’s advised that you obtain as much information to ensure you have a journey you’ll always remember. Now I’ll give you some of the highlights of Sonargaon you must not miss!
The Folk Art Museum (Sadarbari)
The Folk Art Museum was established in 1975 to fulfill the dream of the celebrated painter Shilpacharya Zainul Abedin. He is a very famous artist in our country. He has a very rich collection of folk object of different materials. This museum is a national institution which represents traditional art such as various dolls & ornaments which are made by soil and made by the Chakmas (tribal group of Bangladesh). The village lives of the Chakmas tribe is represented and revealed by the Folk Art Museum. There are two galleries in this museum. One is the Wood Cutting gallery & another is the Embroidered Quilt & Jamdani Gallery.
It’s important to note that the museum remains closed on Thursday & on all government holidays. The museum opens on Saturday to Wednesday at 10.00am to 5.00pm & on Friday at 10.00am to 12.00pm & 2.00pm to 5.00pm.
The once elegant town of Painam Nagar is busy fighting a losing battle with nature, and with every passing year the trees and vines drape themselves a little further over the decaying houses. The result is a delightful ghost-town quality where the buildings appear to hang like exotic fruits from the branches of the trees.
Constructed almost entirely between 1895 and 1905 on a small segment of the ancient capital city, this tiny settlement consists of a single narrow street, lined with around 50 (now dilapidated) mansions built by wealthy Hindu merchants. At the time of Partition, many owners fled to India, leaving their elegant homes in the care of poor tenants, who did nothing to maintain them. Most of the remaining owners pulled out during the anti-Hindu riots of 1964, which led up to the 1965 Indo-Pakistan War. Despite the rot, a few people do continue to live in some of the houses and their bright shades add a technicolour tint to the village.
Neel Kuthi is one of the most attractive places in Sonargaon. Neel kuthi was constructed by the English East India Company at Dalalpur in the vicinity of Panam of Sonargaon. It is situated in the north of Dalalpur Bridge. Neel Kuthi was used for the processing of Indigo powder. It is also famous for Muslin. There is a large pond which was used by the weavers to wash their cotton threads to produce fire Muslin fabrics that earned fame across the world.
Tomb of Sultan Ghiyasuddin Azam Shaa
A thriving village located on the Dhaka-Chittagong Hwy, Mograpara claims most of the remains of the old capital, including the Tomb of Sultan Ghiyasuddin Azam Shah. These monuments aren’t very impressive and most visitors, believing only Painam Nagar to be Old Sonargaon, don’t even know they exist.
Panch Pir Dargah
A thriving village located on the Dhaka-Chittagong Hwy, Mograpara claims most of the remains of the old capital, including the Panch Pir Dargah. These monuments aren’t very impressive and most visitors, believing only Painam Nagar to be Old Sonargaon, don’t even know they exist. Painam Nagar was a 19th Century resort refuge from the fast pace of the old Bengali captial Sonargaon. Along a single street prosperous merchants built mansions with columned facades, grand ballrooms and many rooms. Now it’s a ghost town of crumbling brick inhabited by a few Hindu families who offer to guide rare visitors through the dim musty rooms for a few taka.
Fateh Shah’s Mosque
Another single-domed mosque in the Mograpara area, Fateh Shah’s Mosque, predates Goaldi Mosque by 35 years. It has been renovated rather than restored, and is consequently not as interesting.
Built in 1519, the graceful, single-domed Goaldi Mosque is the most impressive of the few extant monuments of the old capital city, and a good example of pre-Mughal architecture.
How to Get There:
It is very easy to get there from Dhaka, Chittagong, Comilla or other districts of the country using the Dhaka-Chittagong Highway. But this highway is always very busy, thus you can expect big traffic jams on the road which can make you wait for a long time on the road.You can also go to Sonargaon by bus from Dhaka. From Gulistan, two services are available. They are: Borak Transport & Sonargaon Express. It takes 45 minutes to reach Sonargaon.
Interested tourists may avail themselves of package tours which is offered by the Bangladesh Parjatan Corporation & Private Tour Operators.
Where To Stay & Eat
Sonargaon is not so far from Dhaka. You can get good accommodation at Dhaka City or Narayanganj. There are many hotels & lodging facilities in Dhaka & Narayanganj city. There is a rest house in the Folk Art Museum area as well. You can book that by contacting with the office of curator of the museum. Bangladeshi people are very hospitable. There is a small Cafeteria in Folk Art Museum where you can eat. There also many restaurants where you can take meals.
Do not miss visiting Sonargaon
(Source: Editor’s note: Reprinted from Lonely Planet)