From one of the most prosperous cities in South Asia to the “City of Magnificent Ruins”, Old Dhaka, or Puran Dhaka as it is more popularly known locally, has seen dramatic ups and downs throughout history. Once the capital of Mughal Bengal, it was founded around the beginning of the 17th century and was known as Jahangir Nagar. This is to say, Puran Dhaka has more than 400 years of history with rich cultural diversity, value, and historic landmarks.
Here, almost every day is festive because of the amicable living of its residents and the culture, like Dhaka hasn’t changed a bit throughout time. Old Dhaka is a huge area and there is so much to explore and experience in this part of the city. So where do you start? Let’s find out the things that are famous in Puran Dhaka, shall we?
The Iconic Ahsan Manzil
Ahsan Manzil, aka the Pink Palace, tops the ‘Things to do in Dhaka’ list from Tripadvisor and very famous in Puran Dhaka. It is one of the most eye-catching architectures of the capital, located at the bank of the Buriganga River. Mainly the landmark is famous for its long history and the occupancy of the property. Originally, it was built in 1872 for the landlords of Dhaka. After a few hand changes, descendants couldn’t take proper care of the palace. That’s why in 1952, the Bangladesh government acquired the property and handed it over to the National Museum. After the intensive renovation, the architecture stands as it is seen today.
You can visit the palace for a ticket of BDT 50, every day except for Thursday; from 10 am to 5 pm. On Friday, it is open from 3 pm to 7:30 pm.
17th Century’s Lalbagh Fort
Lalbagh Fort is another historical landmark of Puran Dhaka. It was originally built by Mughal emperor Subahdar Muhammad Azam Shah in 1678 AD. He didn’t complete the construction and passed it on to Shaista Khan, the new Subahdar of Dhaka at that time. However, Shaista Khan did not complete the work either perceiving the fort as bad luck, as his daughter, Pari Bibi died there. The 3 part complex is still left undone and later became government property.
One of these complexes is the tomb of Pari Bibi, who was engaged to Azam Shah. This tomb, however, is the main attraction for tourists while visiting the fort. Interestingly, myths and stories revolve around the Lalbagh area about the fort, and that is one of the reasons why you should visit the complex to find out the actual history firsthand! For locals, the ticket price is BDT 20 only, and unlike the previous one, Lalbagh is closed on Sundays. This is one of the places that are very famous in Puran Dhaka.
Dhaka is known as the city of mosques as these sacred prayer halls are spread across the capital. One such is the Star Mosque, and it is very famous in Puran Dhaka for its unique design and history. The entire architecture is ornate with motifs of blue stars, and that’s why it is called the Tara (Star) Mosque. It is one of the Mirza Golam Pir built the complex back in the 19th century, and later it was remodeled by a wealthy enthusiast.
You will hardly find any other mosques in Dhaka as beautiful and antique as this one. Since Tara Mosque is a prayer hall and operational, it is always open during prayer times.
The Mouth-Watering Biryani of Puran Dhaka
A part of being Bengali is associated with Biryani and Puran Dhaka is the core of this cuisine. Usually, Biryani is a rice-based dish prepared with meats like mutton, beef, and chicken. The one that comes with mutton is called ‘Kacchi’ and is by far the most popular amongst the three. You will find other varieties as well, but nothing can beat the richness of a well-cooked Kacchi.
Originally, biryani came from the Mughals, and as they used to rule the subcontinent, it became a traditional food for Bengalis as well. Roam around the alleys of old Dhaka, and you are sure to find many biryani shops here and there. If you genuinely want to experience the best of Puran Dhaka, biryani is undoubtedly the one dish you can’t afford to miss.
Who would ever think a toasted bread would become this delicious and famous one day! Yes, it is the renowned Bakorkhani of Puran Dhaka. Coupled with a hot cup of tea, you will not be able to resist a bite. The best part is, it comes in two flavors, plain and sweet, and both of them are equally good. Honestly, if you want to taste the true flavor of Puran Dhaka, Bakorkhani is everything that you need. Try it, and you will understand yourself.
Kebabs are mainly a Middle Eastern cuisine which was first introduced in the Mughal period and since then, this delicious dish has never seen a decline in popularity. Kebabs are very famous in Puran Dhaka and one of those foods that just the thought of instantly brings water to your mouth and rightfully so. The spice and the aromatic flavor of this dish not only enchants, it subdues and soothes. Just the food to please your appetite. Most kebabs are very succulent and melt in your mouth when made right. You will feel the flavor immediately kick in. But don’t take just my word for it; visit Puran Dhaka and try it for yourself.
There are a lot of places to visit in It is hard to encapsulate every bit of old Dhaka in one article. On top of that, you have umpteen places to visit, ample foods to taste and more importantly plenty to observe and absorb. These are just to give you a head start if you want to experience the essence of the old town first. For more, don’t just sit there, visit the place yourself!