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Names have meanings, and when it comes to names of areas, the meanings are more prominent. You can sometimes even get a basic idea about the area just from its name. That is why today’s article is about the history behind the names of areas in Dhaka city.

Dhaka is a city with hundreds of years’ worth of history. It has witnessed the emergence and downfall of the Sena dynasty, the Turks, the Mughals, and the British. So if you try to uncover the history behind the names of areas in Dhaka city, you’ll undoubtedly discover some amazing stories. And that’s what we’ll try to do today. Join us, as we uncover how the names of the areas in Dhaka city came to be.

Shahbag

The 17th Century Bag-E-Badshahi is
today’s Shahbag

Shahbag
Shahbag once had the Badshahi Garden

The Shahbag we know today is a central hub of the city that’s kept busy by thousands of people every day. However, this Shahbag used to be the edge of Dhaka. Dhaka was established as the capital of Mughal Bangla in the 17th century. That was also when Shahbag came into being. The sudden rise in importance of the area signaled the construction of many new beautiful structures. A large flower garden, named ‘Bag-E-Badshahi’, was also created in the area under the direct supervision of the Mughal rulers. The name means ‘King’s Garden’ in the Persian language.

And that’s where today’s Shahbag got its name from. After the Mughals, the British and local administrators were able to maintain the garden for a little while. But eventually, the garden ceased to exist, leaving behind only its name. Who knows, maybe the great flower market of Shahbag we have now was created in memory of that.

Sat Masjid Road

Not seven mosques,
but seven domes!

Sat masjid road
Sat Masjid Road got its name from the seven domed mosque

The Sat Masjid Road connects Mohammadpur with Dhanmondi. The name makes it seem as if there are seven mosques on the road, doesn’t it? But that’s not the case. The road is actually named after a mosque with seven domes. Yes, we are talking about the historic Seven Domed Mosque of Mohammadpur. The mosque was built in 1680 during Shaista Khan’s time. And according to the people, that’s where the adjacent road got its name.

Gandaria

Gandaria
What a GRAND AREA!

Gandaria
The history of Gandaria’s naming is very wonderful

If someone is asked to name the first residential area of Dhaka, they’ll have a hard time answering the question. Dhanmondi, Gulshan, Banani, and Uttara are some of the more popular residential areas of Dhaka today. Looking at the old town’s Gandaria, no one could have guessed it was the very first residential area of Dhaka!

Under the British administration, Gandaria became the first residential area of Dhaka. It was transformed into a residential area for the middle-class during the early 19th century. Being this old, Gandaria has been a witness to many historical events. But how did its name come about? There are two prevailing opinions about it.

First, many people tell the story of an English traveler who came to Gandaria’s Loharpul on horse while on his journey. He was so mesmerized by the beauty of the surroundings that he exclaimed ‘Wow! What a grand area! And that’s how the area came to be known as ‘Gandaria’.

The other story is also similarly interesting. Sugarcane is sometimes referred to as ‘Gendari’ in some regions. In those days, people of Dayaganj and Mir Hazaribagh used to grow gendari in vast quantities. The area was famous for selling sugarcane, and that’s where the area got the name ‘Gandaria’.

Dhanmondi

Dhanmondi
Ornamentation of ripe rice or Farsi bazaar!

Dhanmondi
Who would believe that Dhanmondi used to be a vast empty area only a few decades ago?

‘রাজায় রাজায় যুদ্ধ, উলুখাগড়ার প্রাণান্ত!’, the closest English translation of this proverb would be, ‘while king’s wage wars against each other, it is the peasants and people who suffer’. While many are familiar with this proverb, hardly anyone would believe that just a century ago, Dhanmondi used to be a kingdom of straw and tall grass full of paddy fields as far as the eye can see and only one or two people far and in between. It’s difficult to believe, but a great big rice market used to be organized during the British era.

However, as far as we know, all of it is true. The development of Dhanmondi as a locality began only after the partition in 1947. Before that, it used to be a vast area full of greenery and nature. Even in the forties, people used to cultivate rice and the entire area was filled with tall grass and straw.

In Bengali, the word ‘Mondon’ means decoration or ornament. When the golden color of ripe paddy used to fill the entire area, it is said to have looked astounding; as if someone covered the area with a golden blanket. Many speculate that’s where the name ‘Dhanmondi’ came from.

‘Mondi’ in Persian means hut or bazaar. Since vast quantities of rice grew during the British era, a large rice market used to sit in the area. And that is how the area came to be known as Dhanmondi.

Do you have other stories to tell about the names of areas in Dhaka city? Let us know in the comments section below.

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