The Development of Bengali Architecture

As you look around you, be aware of a variety of influences ancient Buddhist sites and Hindu temples, distinctive Bengali mosques from the sultanate period, small-scale imitations of grand Mughal monuments, the majestic British colonial buildings and landmarks of Bangladeshi independence. Development of Bengali architecture can be divide periodically, they are:

Development of Bengali architecture

  • Ancient Period
  • Sultanate period
  • Mughal period
  • The colonial and post-colonial period


Ancient Period

Bangladesh is a land of rivers, some of which have changed their courses over time and in that process destroyed many ancient buildings and relics. However, from the evidence which has survived it is clear that Bangladesh as West Bengal of India is rich in architectural heritage.

The most famous architectural site of ancient Bengal can be found in Mahasthangarh, which represents the earliest and the largest archaeological site in Bangladesh. Mohasthangarh consists of the ruins of the ancient city of Pundranagara, situated in Bogra district.

Mahasthangarh was important from the fourth century BC during the Mauryan Empire and continued to be so throughout the medieval period. A wide range of architectural relics and sites including Buddhist monasteries, Hindu temples, and mosques, can be found there.

Hiuen Tsang, the famous Chinese traveler, visited the city in the middle of the 7th century and expressed his admiration. The royal palaces, mansions, state secretariat, luxurious villas, ornamental temples, assembly halls, etc. portrayed in the old literature reflects a glowing picture of life at Pundranagara, and the writings of Sudhyakara Nandi in the twelfth century gives a brilliant account of its architecture.

Sultanate period

The architecture of the early Muslim period was most characterized by mosques and tombs. The conquerors built mosques to arrange for praying and to gain popularity. The Sufis or the preachers of Islam also built mosques wherever they went to preach.

During the Hussain Shahi dynasty, Bengali architecture developed a style of its own, distinct from the various regional styles of India. Though Bengali architecture was influenced by the architecture of the Middle East in the beginning, by the middle of the fifteenth century, it showed independence from external influence and more close to local forms.

The mosques built during the Sultanate period were divided into several categories, such as square single, multi-domed, or rectangular multi-domed. Some of the vaults were in the form of typical Bengali huts with quadrilateral sloping roofs.

Some of the single or multi-domed structures had verandahs in the front. The roofs were almost always curved, with the four corner towers rising only up to the roof level. There were examples of Arabic calligraphy inserted in the wall facing the west called the Qibla wall, which faces the direction of the Holy Kaaba. Hanging chandeliers were distinct features found in the mosques. The monuments were ornamented with intricate designs and terra cotta plaques.

Some of the famous and architecturally significant mosques include Adina Mosque at Hazrat Pandua (1375), Khalifatabad Mosque (mid-15th century), Gunmant Mosque (mid 15th century), Tantipara Mosque (c 1480), Darbari Mosque (1479), Chhota Sona Mosque (1493-1519) and Bara Sona Mosque (1526) at Gaur-Lakhnauti, Bagha (1522) and Kushumba Mosque (1558) in Rajshahi, and the recently excavated Jami’s at Satghachhia and Monohar Dighi (late 15th/early 16th century) in Bara Bazar (Jessore).

Mughal period

In Bengal, the architecture under the Mughals was mostly the work of the subahdars under Shahjahan and Aurangzeb. During the rule of Shaista Khan, many monuments were built in the region, particularly around Dhaka. Monuments were built as small-scale imitations of the Mughal imperial monuments in northern India.

The material used in the construction was plastered brick, and plaster paneling was used for ornamentation of the mosque.

Hindus created temples at the same time across the region. These also used plaster to cover the surface and incorporated the features of the earlier Sultanate style such as curvilinear forms of a cornice, terracotta ornamentation and the do Chala and Chau-Chala features.

Some of the famous mosques, tombs, temples, and secular buildings built during the Mughal period are:

Mosques Mosque of Shah NIamatullah Wali, Satmasjid, Dhanmondi Eidgah
Tombs Dara Begum’s tomb, Tomb of Haji Khwaja Shahbaz
Temples Jor-Bangla Temple, Raja Ram Temple, Kantanagar Temple
Secular buildings Lalbagh Fort, Pagla Bridge, Sonargaon Bridge, Sonakanda Fort, Zinjira Fort

The colonial and post-colonial period

Colonial architecture in India has been a combination of Indian and British elements. The British created a mixed style with the intention of satisfying the local people as well as upholding their own imperial style. The colonial architecture reflects majestic buildings built for residential and official purposes with lofty domes, classical pillars, semi-circular arches, and pediments.

The Indian elements used in such structures created a new look, easily distinguishable from the architecture of the past. The British colonial architecture in Bengal flaunts elegance and sophistication today, and buildings built during this period are still used as important government offices and university campuses, such as Ahsan Manzil, The High Court Building, and Curzon Hall of Dhaka University.

During the Pakistan period, there was initially no new, significant architectural achievement, mainly due to the absence of experienced architects and engineers. However, in the 1960s, a number of buildings of architectural importance were created, such as Kamalapur Railway Station, the Baitual Mukarram Mosque, and Shilpakala Academy.

The independence of Bangladesh led to the creation of beautiful landmarks all over the country e.g. the Shahid Minar in Dhaka and the National Mausoleum in Savar, which are proof of the ingenuity and skill of Bangladeshi architects.

With the spirit of nationalism and freedom after independence, the most attractive monuments of Bangladesh were built. Bangladeshi architecture utilizes new techniques and modern design according to time and space, and the major cities of the country are adorned with skyscrapers, steel-glass structures, and various other ultra-modern institutions.

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1 thought on “The Development of Bengali Architecture”

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