How it came into being
The story goes like this, in this place where Ahsan Manzil now stands, was a summer house of Sheikh Enayet Ullah. After purchasing a bigger area near Kumartuli, he incorporated it into this summer house. A beautiful palace was built which he named Rang Mahal. His Son sold this property to the French traders later on after his father’s death. The French traders became affluent after they bought this property. They did tax-free business at that time and were doing better in comparison to the English and other European countries.
They constructed a grand palace and dug a pond called “Les Jalla” in the compound of the building. The pond still exists. But with the increasing power of the English, the French were defeated. They sold the property to the established landlord of Dhaka Khwaja Alimullah. A stable and a family mosque were added to the palace as well as some renovation work was done. The trading house became the house of Khwaja Alimullah. It was his son, Khwaja Abdul Ghani who brought major changes to the place.
The 19th century Ahsan Manzil (or Ahsan Manjil) was the official residential palace and accommodate of the Dhaka Nawab Family. Nawab family were the elite society of the city. Nawab Sir “Abdul Ghani” named it Ahsan Manzil after his son Nawab Sir “Khwaja Ahsanullah Bahadur.” Pink Palace, it’s another name because of the color of the walls, stands witness to many historical events in Bangladesh. On 1992, the palace was turned into a museum to preserve the rich culture and history related to this iconic building. Now, this museum has become a popular tourist spot in Dhaka city.
Historical importance of Ahsan Manzil
During the later period of the 19th century, the Nawab Family played an important role of the independence movement and politics of the India. Many important decisions regarding the future of the Muslim movements in India were made in this very palace. The result was the formation of the All-India Muslim League. Ahsan Manzil was the high point of the old city, and it dominated the riverfront. We were surprised to find out that Lord Curzon, Governor General of British India, visited here in 1904. He stayed as the Guest of Nawab Sir Salimullah Bahadur and at that time witnessed as Dhaka emerged as the new capital of Eastern Bengal after the first partition in 1905.
The construction history of the building
The palace’s construction started in 1859 and ended in 1872. This site formerly stood the French Factory. The subsequent restoration led to further enlargements. Inside the palace, I saw the models of the old and new Ahsan Manzil in silver filigree.
In 1888, the building was hit by a tornado, and then an earthquake damaged the place. Almost all part of the palace was reconstructed after suffering the damage. At that time, the doom was made which turned the palace even more beautiful. Because of this dome atop you can detect the palace from miles away.
The glory of Ahsan Manzil ended with the death of Nawab Khwaja Ahsanullah. Due to financial difficulties, the successors of the Nawabs became incapable of further maintaining the property. The condition of the palace was deteriorating. The government took the initiative to repair and renovate it to its original shape. Thus, the historical and architectural significance was restored. It was an important step in the preservation of our country’s history.
Inside the building
If you want a flashback to the attractive life of the high society of Dhaka, do take a long look at this Pink neo-classical. The ground floor is 5 m high, and the first floor is 5.8 m in height. The octagonal metal dome is octagonal shaped and is 27.13 m high from the ground. From the southern porch down comes a spacious stairway onto the bank of the river through the front garden.
Ahsan Manzil is brought together in Indo-Saracenic Reform architecture. In simpler terms blend of both the subcontinental and Islamic style of construction. The most important building in it is the grand palace. Occupying the center of a large quadrangle it has a crowning dome above, which is the highest point in the old city.
Internally, the building has two symmetrical halves and a total of 31 rooms. The eastern wing, known as the Rang Mahal, consists of a drawing room, a library, and three guest rooms. Both the drawing room and the Jalshaghar are decorated with a beautiful vaulted artificial ceiling made of wood. It is quite striking. The western part, known as the Andarmahal, has a ballroom and other residential rooms. It displays a wide variety of styles. Two floors have gallery rooms spread over them. Green, yellow and white -very colorful ceramic tiles are garnishing the Darbar Halls. Interestingly, all of the building’s railings, lamp stands, pipes- all the iron came from England!
Round arches characterize large verandas on the north and south, and the rooms are covered with marble. From the middle of back verandah, a room containing steps leads down to the ground floor, where the similar arrangement of rooms is kept. At the verandah on the second floor, you can feel the breeze and admire the sight of boats wandering in and out of the river port. It is no wonder that all the governors and chiefs of British India who visited Dhaka spent their stay at this very palace.
The spacious front of the monument faces the river commanding a magnificent and scenic view. Upon request and special permission, visitors are allowed to see the collection of museum specimens. Among them are paintings, photographs, arms, and weapons, coats of mail complete from head to foot. There is furniture like beautiful wooden dressing tables, Italian panel discussion, ivory mat, animal head, and skeletons. If you want, you can take a look at the silver filigree work of the Husaini Dalan and Ahsan Manzil.
Opening and Closing times
Ahsan Manzil is open to tourists every day except for Thursday and Government holidays. At Friday, its open from 3:00- 7:30 pm, and any other days its open from 10:30-5:30 during summer time. April to September is summer season in Bangladesh. From October till March, winter season in Bangladesh it opens from 9:30-4:30.
During Eid, the biggest religious festival observed in the country, Ahsan Manzil remains closed the day before, on the day of the occasion and opens the next day. Also, during the month of Ramadan, when Muslims fast for a month, the place closes early on 4:00 pm every day. It is important to collect the necessary right information before visiting this magnificent monument in Dhaka, Bangladesh.
Entry fees and useful information
Tourists visiting from countries excluding SAARC countries need to pay USD 1 (equivalent to BDT 100). Tourists from SAARC countries
needs to pay BDT 75 whereas it will cost BDT 20 for locals to visit. If you are interested in visiting the museum, no problem.
You can use the same ticket for that too. So, it’s cheap. There are phone numbers you can use; these telephone numbers are +88 02 739 1122, +88 02 739 3866. Also emailing to firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com may work. You can check out the place online at www.bangladeshmuseum.gov.bd.
How to reach Ahsan Manzil
It depends on where you are staying. Visitors from abroad can reach the place directly from the airport within an hour. Hotels are very helpful to find useful touring companies. If you are feeling adventurous, hire a C.N. G or taxi cab and ask the driver to take you to this address- Ahsanullah Road, Nawab Bari in Old Dhaka. I remember visiting the place with a couple of my friends.
Getting around in Dhaka, Bangladesh
Though there is an exhaustive traffic jam, there are various means of transportation available in the city. Among them, Rickshaw remains the popular means for short distance. But a foreigner needs to settle the fare before getting on board. Usually, a 15 minutes ride will cost around 30-50 BDT. It is not wise to get around in it late at night.
For long distances, Auto-rickshaws are ideal. Locally they are called ‘CNGs’ (named after compressed natural gas, their fuel source) and plentiful and have meters. To travel 8 km from Gulshan to old Dhaka it will cost BDT 150- 200. But start the journey with time in hand keeping in mind the traffic.
From the hotel, you can book a Taxi because it is very hard to hire one from the busy street. A black cab will cost around BDT 250 -350 for a ride between Old Dhaka and Gulshan. But Yellow taxis, which are air-conditioned, are more expensive and will probably cost you BDT 500.
Where to stay in Dhaka, Bangladesh
There are many international hotels in Dhaka. Some are near and some, far from Ahsan Manzil. To name a few- Hotel 71, The Way, Green House Guesthouse, FARS Hotel and Resorts, Hotel Purbani, Hotel Ornate. I would write few words and recommend the hotels based on ratings given by tourists.
- Hotel 71: Hotel is within 1 km of the national museum and the Old Dhaka. Besides free Wi-Fi, air-conditioning, laptop compatible in-room safe in all the rooms, the hotel has a well-equipped fitness Average cost per night is around USD 45. Airport transportation can be arranged by the hotel though they will charge you extra for that.
- The Way: There are free wifi and a restaurant that serves Continental, Italian, Full English/Irish, Vegetarian, Halal, Asian cuisine. The hotel also provides car rental for tourists planning on touring the city. The airport is only 3.1 Km away from the hotel. The hotel costs USD 110.
Green House Guesthouse:
- The address of the hotel is House 35b, Floor 5, Road 63, Gulshan 2, 1212 Dhaka, Bangladesh. From the Airport, this destination can be reached in 20 minutes via private transportation. The room décor is simple with large windows allowing ample natural light. Even the cost is conveniently low at the rate of USD 40.
- FARS Hotel and Resorts: This hotel is 7 km away from Ahsan Manzil. The international airport is 6.2 miles away from this hotel. There are roof-top swimming pool, fitness center and spa and wellness center at this hotel. Each air-conditioned room has a minibar. Guests can pamper themselves at the massage parlor. A tour desk is available to make travel arrangements. A car can be rented for sightseeing. Guests can sample a variety of Indian, Bangladeshi, Thai, Chinese and Continental cuisines at Our Feast, the in-house restaurant. Per night cost is USD 70.
- Hotel Purbani: is a hotel where you can get standard service. The location of this hotel is in the center of the city. The hospitable accommodation welcomes guests and offers a relaxing environment. You will feel quite at home here. Purbani hotel is also well known for its excellent food. It is 4 km from Ahsan Manzil.
- Hotel Ornate: Located 0.6 miles from Supreme Court of Bangladesh in Dhaka. Guests can enjoy the on-site restaurant. It costs USD 30 per night stay.
Tourists have the chance of visiting this British Raj-era historical monument while they visit Dhaka, Bangladesh.