Restoration of an Archeological Site: The palace of Raja Sitaram Roy, Mohammadpur (1st Part)

Sthapattya O Nirman
Environment & Planning
November 28, 2023
217
Restoration of an Archeological Site: The palace of Raja Sitaram Roy, Mohammadpur (1st Part)

Project data is collected from Urban Development Directorate (UDD)

The zamindar houses of different eras stand as witnesses of history all over Bangladesh. Each zamindar house has a unique history. A witness to the memory of the old zamindars, seeing the zamindar house on the one hand gives an idea about the lifestyle of the zamindars, on the other hand, many aspects of the cultural heritage of the time are known. In the past all the zamindar houses were more or less magnificent but nowadays due to lack of renovation and conservation the zamindar houses no longer have that splendor.

Restoring or renovating an archaeological site requires a planned and organized approach, as well as the collective participation of all concerned. Most of the archeological sites of Bangladesh are not properly preserved but their architectural, aesthetic and historical values are constantly being undermined in the name of renovation. If proper restoration initiatives are not taken, these archaeological monuments will disappear soon.

The 300 year old Raja Sitaram Roy’s palace is one of the historical and archeological monuments of the southern part of the country located in East Narayanpur Mauza of Mohammadpur Union of Mohammadpur Upazila under Magura District. Urban Development Directorate (UDD), at present, has taken initiatives to develop the cities of the country in a planned manner. This work involves renovating old cities and adding new ones, while also emphasizing the preservation of the city’s heritage and historical structures.The palace of Raja Sitaram Roy was selected as a renovation project in the master plan of Mohammadpur upazila and later proposed to select the palace as a tourist center. This project plan will serve as a guiding project for other zamindarbaris as a reminder of the times.

Raja Sitaram Roy’s palace restoration project will be published in two parts in ‘Sthapattya O Nirman’. In the first part, the present condition of the palace and the work-plan will be discussed.

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History of Raja Sitaram Roy Palace:

Raja Sitaram Ray was a sovereign king. He rebelled against the Mughal Empire and established a short-lived sovereign Hindu dominion in Bengal. He set up the capital in Mohammadpur, Magura where the palace is located and established a Dashabhuja Temple there. Historical records say, Sitaram, by inheritance, first became the ruler of a small state under Bhushana in 17th century. Bhushana was a pargana (large area of land) comprising of the then Fatehabad and greater Faridpur districts of present time. Later, Raja Sitaram Roy was appointed Jaigeerdar (one enjoying a grant-free land) of the then Naldi pargana by the then Mughal emperor Shayesta Khan.

3The title of ‘Raja’ was given to him for his dedication and heroism in defeating mog-pirates and pathan rebels in Bhushana. When Bhoumik Kings began dilly-dallying in paying taxes, Sitaram came to Mohammadpur following a directive from Shayesta Khan towards the end of the 17th century and brought the whole Bhushana pargana under his control through his power, influence and wisdom. After being defeated in battlefield, many of the pirates at the time became obedient to him and joined Sitaram’s army strengthening his it. Subsequently, Sitaram set up his capital at Mohammadpur and began to run state services. Within a very short time, he became reputed as a popular king due to his sincere devotion for the welfare of people irrespective of their religions.

At one stage, he began to dream for establishing a universal Hindu-kingdom and started to build number of inaccessible fortresses which annoyed the Mughal family. After ascending to the throne Murshid Kuli Khan sent Abu Torab for collecting taxes from Sitaram. But Abu Torab faced his tragic end during the blood-shedding war with ‘Monahati’, the captain of Sitaram. When Raja Sitaram heard the news, he became mentally weakened. But he vehemently fought against the soldiers led by Box Ali khan and Doyaram to save his capital. As he failed and was not eager to be caught by the opponent, he took all of his family members to a boat. All the doors and windows of the boat was sealed shut by the Raja and the boat was taken to a nearby lake named ‘Ramsagar’, where the family embraced a watery grave by making a hole at the bottom of boat with an axe.

Large ponds like ‘Dudhsagar’, ‘Krishnasagar’, ‘Sukhsagar’,’Shetsagar’ covering acres of land dug during the reign of Sitaram for arrangements of fresh water for the general people have overtime been devoured by the river Madhumati. Whereas, Kachharibari, Dolmanch and a large pond named ‘Padmopukur’ still bears the testimony of Sitaram’s rule.

Archaeological Infrastructures :
The fortified capital, Mohammadpur, was guarded on three sides by blis. The square fort was built of earthen bricks and a moat was used to surround it. Each side was not less than 1300 feet, which acted like both natural and artificial water bodies to keep the capital protected. As there was the Kalinga River to the northeast, the Chatrapati River at the west and Madhumati at the east, Sitaram constructed a moat extending from East to the west which was almost 1 mile in length and 200 feet in width. Inside the fort, Sitaram set up garrisons and built residences, temples and tanks. He encouraged craftsmen and merchants to set up businesses at Mohammadpur and soon it became a thriving metropolis abuzz with trade and commerce. Following up on the need for drinking water for the residents, Sitaram constructed numerous water reservoirs in the capital. The rectangular lake, Ramshagar, was the most famous one measuring 2,400 feet (730 m) by 900 feet (270 m). It had a depth of about 20 feet (6.1 m). Even in the summer, it sustained a water level of at least 12 feet (3.7 m). The reservoir was treated to prevent any algal bloom. In the village of Harekrishnapur, another lake he constructed was Krishnasagar, measuring 1000 ft by 350 ft, which could prevent flood water. Sitaram constructed a squarish tank named Sukh Sagar, with each side about 375 feet (114 m). At the centre, there was a three-story luxurious palace, which served as the summer retreat for the royal family. Mayurpankhi boats ferried them to the palace in the middle of the lake. Sitaram erected the Dashabhuja Temple, coming from a shakta family and practising Shaktism Later, he became attracted to Vaishnavism and erected the Panchatantra Temple in Kanainagar to the west of Mohammadpur.
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Declared as a Preserved Antiquities by Department of Archeology

In a gazzettee notification on April 15th, 2010, Department of Archeology has been declared the site as a preserved antiquity of Bangladesh. Already they repair dilapidated “Kacharibari” and “Dolmonch and constructed walkway, boundary wall and gate in front of the kacharibari and Dolmoncha area.

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Image : Department of Archaeology

Existing scenario :
Raja Sitaram Palace has now almost been destroyed but holds the history of many years in every corner of its building. Most of the land of Raja Sitaram Roy’s ‘Kachharibari’ and its adjoining areas had been grabbed by the local people. Mohammadpur upazila land office records say the relic still possesses 163 decimals of land. A total of 18 poor families live on 54 decimals of land out of the total 163 decimals land belonged to the archeological site while the relic stands on only 35 decimals. The rest 74 decimals of land have been grabbed by influential local people.

Rational of the action area plan :
The place was the capital of Raja Sitaram Roy’s Bhusana state. During his ruling period, he constructed a lot of temples, structures and dig a number of ponds in his capital. So, the place has holding a significant historical, cultural and archeological importance for the nation and that’s why lots of tourists come to visit this historical site every day. Through Department of archeology has already preserve and maintain the “Kacharibari” and the adjacent area but rest of the portion has been grabbed by local influential people and in a dilapidated condition. If a comprehensive restoration plan has not been taken and implemented, the rest of the area will be grabbed and destroyed rest of the heritage. Besides, as a tourist spot, necessary infrastructural development needed to ensure tourist comfortability that attract more tourists and support to boost local economy.

Objectives of action area plan:
The main objectives behind to prepare action area plan in this site area-
1. To provide necessary restoration plan for the whole palace area and the adjacent area.
2. To make necessary provision to perform religious customs by the hindu pilgrims at temple areas.
3. To introduce the palace area as a new tourist spot.

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Image : Methodological approach to prepare action area plan

 1. Reconnaissance survey

The reconnaissance survey is an extensive study of an entire area that might be under planning consideration. To prepare action plan for Mohammadpur, the project team has visited several sites and among them the palace of Raja Sitaram has been chosen due to consider its historical and archeological value.

2. Goals and objectives of action area plan

1. Primary Data Analysis
Primarily, the goal of the action is to develop a restoration plan for the palace area and also develop the area as a tourist’s spot. Besides, as the palace area consists of some historical hindu temple, so necessary arrangements have to develop for the pilgrims.

2. Secondary data analysis
Secondary data relevant to Raja Sitarm Roy’s palace have been collected from available source (e.g. internet, newspaper, literature). Database from Survey of Bangladesh (SoB) has been collected for the site. The literature and history have been collected from district gazetteer, Department of Archeology. A sketch of the palace area has been found at Upazila web-portal where several elements including ponds, structures, trench and temples of the fort city has been identified. For the planning purposes, total area has been classified into three (03) section-
a. Heritage structure: Kacharibari, Dolmoncho, Dasbhuja temple, Lakshmi temple, Prasad and Tosakhana
b. Heritage pond: Padmapukur, Dudhpukur, Sadhupukur, Noyabaripukur, Northern pond
c. Heritage site: Jahajvira nala, Nayabari dhibi, Bilasgriha, Porikha.

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3. Geo-referenced map preparation :
The sketch has been geo-referenced with the help of SoB image to explore the location of the site. The sketch also been digitized to identify the exact location of each elements inside the fort area. The sketch has also been digitized and geo-referenced to identify the elements more clearly.

4. Base map preparation :
The action area plan site is located at Mohammadpur union in Mohammadpur upazila. It is only 500 meters away from the Mohammadpur Upazila parishad. The mighty river Modhumati has flown 1000-meter east from the site. The site is located beside the core built-up area of Mohammadpur upazila town and the place has been transforming into a built-up area gradually from the past few years.To prepare action plan a base map has been prepared with the support of SoB data.In the base map major roads, river ,waterbodies, important structures in and adjacent palace area has been presented.

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Around 1000 meter of the Raja Sitaram palace has been considered as primary zone of influence of the action area plan. The surrounding area is mainly built-up area and with a mixed use of residential, commercial, administrative, service facilities etc. The residents of the area are directly engaged with the action area site for either directly or indirectly for their job, business, and all other purposes. The area is around 506 acre.

5.Conceptual data interpretation from geo-referenced map
With the support of geo-referenced sketch data has been extracted from base map to develop a conceptual base of action area plan site and existing situation has also been examined through bird’s eye view. From the base map “hand drawing sketch” has been prepared. The hand drawing sketch has been digitized and geo-referenced with base map. It became successful to identify trench area and other elements of the palace area in the base map and a conceptual data interpretation map has been prepared.

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Image : Action area plan site

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Image : Hand drawing sketch preparation

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Image : Hand drawing sketch preparation

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Image : Hand drawing sketch from base map

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Image : Hand drawing sketch of proposed plan of the site

6. Site visit and field verification :

To verify the existing situation, field verification tour was held on 16/11/2023 and 17/02/2023.During the site visit, the palace area has been thoroughly discovered according to the sketch. The field visit team explore every element of the sketch. From the field verification, it is found that except Kacharibari, Dolmonch and Toshakhana other heritage structure stand near to ruin. Two heritage ponds already filled up and rest of the ponds aren’t in good condition. Most of the section of the Porikha (trench) either converted into a ditch or field and some built-up form also been noticed. 

A check list has been prepared to describe the existing condition of heritage structure, site and ponds given below-

 

Existing situation of the palace area

NameConditionRemarks
1. KacharibariIn a good conditionRestoration action have to take to preserve the heritage
2.DolmonchoIn a good conditionRestoration action have to take and could converted into a public space.
3.Doshabhuja TemplePrevious temple has been replaced by a new one.  
4.Lakshi MandirThe structure is destroyed  
5.ToshakhanaNear to ruinHave to preserve
6.PrashadNear to ruinHave to preserve
7.Nayabari DhibiConvert into field  
8.Jahajbhira NalaConvert into field 
9.BilashgrihaConvert into field 
10.PorikhaConvert into ditch, pond, field, structureHave to restore
11. PadmapukurThe pond is existed but not in a good conditionRestoration action have to take and could converted into a public space.
12.DudhpukurConverted into a ditch  
13.SadhupukurIn a good condition 
14.Northern pondPond has been filled-up and converted into built up area 
15.Nayabari pukurPond has been filled-up and converted into built up area 
 
Contributor : Ar. Faiza Fairooz
Nirnoy Upadeshta Ltd.

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