Panam Nagar : A silent history of an affluent township

Saleem Samad 1 Oct, 2018  |    -      +
DHAKA : One wonders why an abandoned ancient city - Panam Nagar attracts tens of thousands of visitors.

Visitors take time-off from the hustle and bustle from the urban busy life, but enjoy walking through the lane of the ancient city adorned with dilapidated, vandalised and illegally occupied derelict red brick buildings in Panam Nagar.

Panam Nagar, lies 30 miles southeast of the capital Dhaka at Sonargaon. The rich Hindu traders laid the foundation of Panam Nagar, is standing on the both sides of a road that stretches from east to south and measures 600 meters in length and five meters in width.

Panam Nagar, ancient Painam was one of the major townships of the historic administrative, commercial and maritime centre in eastern Bengal. With the influence of many trading companies from Europe, the architecture of Panam Nagar demonstrates native and western styles. It was the centre for trading Muslin and later Neel (indigo) produce.

Most of the buildings are rectangular, north-south stret-ched up and one to three storied. As for the architectural design of these buildings, European artistic skills have been blended with those of the Mughals. Fifty-two houses exist in dilapidated and disused condition having 31 in the north side of the street and 21 on the south.

The buildings have been made up with bricks of various sizes and plastered with lime and brick-dust, mosaic, colourful glasses, chinitikri and wooden beams for roofs. The stucco-designed beautiful buildings have trenches on two sides, ponds and ghats, and many wells. Kashinath Bhaban (build in Bangla Year 1305), Niharika Bhaban have been named after the tablets found inside the buildings.

In all probability, Panam Nagar grew as a by-product of the commercial activities of the English East India Company and of the Permanent Settlement. The East India Company established their trading offices in Panam for the purchase of Muslin and other cotton fabrics.

A group of Hindu traders, who came in the nineteenth century, choose this site for their settlement. The existing brick buildings of Panam Nagar, obviously the residence of the Hindu merchants, can be dated back to early nineteenth, and the later ones to late nineteenth and early twentieth century, continued to flourish till the end of the Second World War.

The urban residential area was abandoned after series of racial riots, sparked during Bengal Divide in 1947. After 1965 India-Pakistan war, the neighbourhood of the Hindu merchant was finally deserted.

The abandonment of Panam Nagar was later exposed to threats of flooding, vandalism, unauthorised occupation, litigation by illegal occupants, illegal development, poor maintenance and earthquakes. Presently the Department of Archaeology has declared the area a heritage site. Unfortunately, budgets for maintenance and development as an tourist site is absent.

Panam Nagar appears to be well protected by artificial canals all around. Two fairly wide canals run parallel to the street on its either side and joined by a narrow canal on the western side over which is the entrance bridge (Panam Nagar Bridge). On the eastern side, the canal on the south serves rightward and goes eastward crossing the north-south road that passes through the Panam bazar.

How to go

You can rich that place using bus from Dhaka (Gulistan). This will take you around one hour to reach at the place. You have to get down from the bus at Mograpara crossing. From the crossing, you have to take a battery-driven auto-rickshaw, and have to tell the puller to drop you at Panam Nagar.

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