History of Dhaka
PRE-MUGHAL DHAKA (Before 1608)
Dhaka was under the Buddhist Kingdom of Kamrup in the 7th and 8th centuries. From about the 9th century A.D. is was governed by the Sena Kings of Vikrampur. Some indications of human habitation of the area of the said period have been discovered which provide the evidence of existence of this town or settlement (Dani, 1962). It is around that time the name of Dhaka originated from the name of “Dhakesshwari Temple” which was built by Raja Ballal Sen. Dhaka of that time was identified as Bengalla and was probably a small town (with “fifty two bazars and fifty three lanes”) lying between the river and what is now the Dulai Khal with its center near the present Bangla Bazar (Birt 1906 p. 94 and Rudduck 1964, p. 74). The town consisted of a few market centers like Lakshmi Bazar, Shankhari Bazar, Tanti Bazar, and a few localities of other craftsmen and businessmen like Patuatuli and Kumartuli, Bania Nagar and Goal Nagar.
After the Hindu rulers, Dhaka was successively under the Turks and Pathans for a long time (1299 to 1608) before the arrival of the Mughals. The Afghan Fort in Dhaka was located at the present Central Jail. After the Pathans, Dhaka went under the rulers of Sonargaon from whom the sovereignty of the area was acquired by the Mughals.
DHAKA CITY UNDER THE MUGHALS (1608-1764)
Islam Khan (1608-1613) was appointed the first Mughal Viceroy of Bengal in 1608. He shifted his capital from Rajmahal further eastward to Dhaka in 1610 with a view to subjugate the disturbing landlords of Bengal. Islam Khan renamed the new capital as Jahangirnagar after the name of the ruling emperor Jahangir (Taifoor 1952.p.xxiv).
During the rule of Ibrahim Khan (1616-1620), Dhaka attained great commercial importance and became a trading centre of the whole of South East Asia. The European traders started to come to the city from 1616. In the 1640s the capital was shifted back to Rajmahal by Shah Shuja and in 1600 the old robes were returned to Dhaka with Mir Jumla as the Viceroy.
However the greatest development of the city took place under Shaista Khan (1662-1677 and 1679-1689). The city then stretched for 12 miles in length and 8 miles in breadth and is said to have nearly a million people.
The European settlers came in the late 17th century. They were largely Portuguese, Dutch, English and French traders. In 1717 the capital was again shifted from Dhaka to Rajmahal (Murshidabad) due to a personal clash between the Emperor Azim-Us-Shan and the Subadar Murshid Kuli Khan. In a result Dhaka started to decline and experienced a long sleep of more than a century.
Functional Pattern. Diverse activities in the city led to the development of different functional areas within the city.
Administrative Areas. The old Afghan Fort, reconstructed by Islam Khan, became the administrative headquarters of the Mughals. Here was housed the Civil Secretariat and to its north lay the Military Headquarters.
Business Areas. The Chauk, which was to the immediate south of the Fort, served as the central business district and was, called Badshahi Bazar (Royal Market). This was rich in merchandise and colourful in appearance. The Chauk was well located to serve both the upper class and the lower class residential areas. It was also close to the Burhiganga River, which served as the principal means of communication. Another commercial centre was located at Bangla Bazar. This was the main shopping centre before the Mughals, but yielded its supremacy to Chauk in the Mughal period. It however, continued to cater to the needs of people living around it and also the European factories situated close by.
Industries. An important aspect of the city’s economic life was the cottage industries. They were located largely in the area falling between the two shopping centres, Bangla Bazar and Chauk. The artisans also lived there. In most cases, the same house was used for the factory and the residence. Within the industrial area different localities specialized in different crafts. Some of the names, which persist until today, speak of the different types of specialized industries that then flourished. Some of the names of these localities are Sankhari Bazar (shell cutter’s locality), Kumartoli (potter’s locality), Patuatuli (jute-silk painters areas), Sutrapur (carpenter’s area), Tanti Bazar (weaver’s market), Bania Nagar (trader’s area), Jalua Nagar (fisherman’s locality), Churi Hatta (bangle market), and Sanchi Pander (betel leaf market).
Low Class Residential Areas. All these specialized industrial and trading areas and some other localities which were surrounded by the Dulai Khal and the Burhiganga River used to house the major part of the city’s low class population consisting of artisans, labourers and petty traders. Those localities were almost segregated from the high-class residential areas. Besides the industrial and trading people, the Dulai Khal area also accommodated the ‘Kutties’ who came from the rural areas as labourers in the city. They were forced by the frequent occurrences of famines to come to the city for refuge (Taifoor, 1952, p. 16) Pell Khana (elephant stable) and Mahut Tuli used to be the other low class areas of the time. Here lived the keepers of the animals.
High Class Residential Areas. The upper crust of the society during the Mughal times comprised of the ministers, high civil and military officials, landlords and wealthy merchants. They preferred to live in a different area from the low class people.
Location Pattern. The old Fort formed the nucleus around which the high officials lived. Thus Bakshi Bazar housed the residences of provincial ministers and secretaries (Taifoor 1952, p. 41). The Fort itself housed a palace (Dani 1962, p. 48). Rich but comparatively ordinary citizens who often could be identified with the Mughal nobilities and who owned large palatial buildings, used to live close to the ministers quarters. Such areas were in close proximity to the low class residences and thus they formed a barrier between the Mughal nobilities and the poor artisans and labourers. These areas include Becharam Dewri, Aga Sadeq Dewri, Ali Naqi Dewri and Amanat Khan Dewri. The term ‘Dewri’ means a gateway to palatial buildings and the localities were known after the names of the owners of such buildings.
The most prized residential area was the riverfront. The Burhiganga River, at that time, had a more northerly course through Lalbagh and Nawabganj. The Princes, Nawabs and Ameers (wealthy aristocrats) all coveted to have a house near the riverside and had built palaces along the river front about six miles westward from Chotakatra (Tavernier 1905, p. 100). Then there was the Jinjira Place built on the southern bank of the Burhiganga River opposite the Bara Katra. There was probably an wooden bridge across the Burhiganga at this point (Dani, 1962, p. 48). The location of the palaces to the western part of the city was a precaution from the attack of the river pirates who always came from the east.
Other than the palaces, the Mughal noble’s also maintained garden houses beyond the heavily populated part of the city. These spacious houses built within large gardens were primarily meant for recreation, festivity and reception (Mirza Nathan 1936). Mahalla Shujatpur and Mahalla Chishtian in the present Ramna area had a number of two or three storeyed mansions with spacious reception halls. Besides these, there were other garden areas and some of them still retain their names. Among such gardens were those of Hazaribagh, Qazirbagh, Lalbagh, Bagh Chand Khan, Bagh hosainuddin, Bagh Musa Khan, Arambagh, Rajarbagh, Malibagh and finally the Bagh-i-Badshahi (Dani 1962, p. 76) It is interesting to note that most of these garden houses have later become the choice sites for higher class residential areas of the city.
The European settlement in Dhaka City started with the Portuguese who established their mission here as early as 1616. After them Dutch, English, French, Armenians and the Greeks came. Of them the English, French, and Dutch traders had factories at the riverside for ease of transport. The low paid workers lived in the factories or close by and carried their business. The entrepreneurs however, lived in spacious bungalows in Tejgoan. Here is still surviving a church built by the Portuguese in 1668. The Europeans preferred to live in brick-built structures mainly as a measure of protection than of ease. It is said that the Armenians had been living in quite large numbers near the present Victoria Park. Here was located their clubhouse or the ‘Anta Ghar’ (Dani 1962 p. 229). On the ruins of these old buildings the present Victoria Park was laid out in the first half of the 19th century.
Road Pattern. During Mughal days, there was no well-developed system of roads in Dhaka City. The city was divided into a number of mohallas (neighborhoods) which was a cluster of houses webbed with intricate narrow lanes. The mohallas were interconnected with dirt roads, which were paved with bricks in 1677-79 (Dani 1962, p. 75). There were two principal roads: one running parallel to the river from Victoria Park to the western fringe of the city and the other ran from the Park to Tejgaon. The roads had no name but the mohallas had names. The roads were named after the establishment of Dhaka Municipality in 1864.
During the Mughal days, there was very little of vehicular traffic in Dhaka City. This accounts for the absence of any well-developed road system. The traffic mainly consisted of pedestrians. Horses formed the chief means of conveyance. On festive and ceremonial occasions elephant-ride was preferred by the nobles. Sukhpals (palanquins) were also in vogue. Larakacha, a palanquin made of green bamboo, and carried by men on shoulders, was used mainly by the ladies (Mirza Nathan 1936, pp. 271-277).
The Burhiganga River and the Dulai Khal served as communication lines. Country boats used to ply on them with goods and passengers.
House Types. During the Mughal times in Dhaka, the nobles used to live in bungalows built with bamboo and grass and decorated with elegant designs (Sarkar 1948 p. 388). Due to heavy rainfall and high temperature, these bungalows required repair every year and had a maximum life span of about 15 years. Therefore, we have no knowledge of their architectural design or lay out. Islam Khan, the founder of Mughal Dhaka, lived in a barge (called Chandni) moored near the Chandni Ghat (Ruddock 1964, p. 76). The permanent buildings of Mughal Times were the mosques, katras, palaces and the fort, which were built of bricks.
The Katras were built as the resting-place (inn) for the caravan (Dani 1962, pp. 198-200). There are two Katras in Dhaka. Bara Katra was built in 1644 by Abul Qasim and Chota Katra was built in 1663 by Nawab Shaista Khan. They were located at the bank of the Burhiganga River near Chauk. The river since then has shifted further southward. The two Katras are identical in architectural design and layout but Chota Katra is smaller in size than Bara Katra. The Katras enclose a quadrangular courtyard with living rooms all around. Impressive gateways were built in Mughal style on the northern and southern entrances. The southern wing of the Katra facing the river was double storeyed with two projecting octagonal towers at its two ends. The riverside wing of the building was well decorated and was meant for the nobles and persons of high rank.
The forts were meant either to house the soldiers or were used as palaces for the Viceroy or the nobles. Some remnants of Lalbagh Fort in the form of gateways and southern boundary walls remain to speak of its Mughal architecture with minarets, domes and arches. The construction of Lalbagh Fort was taken up by Prince Muhammad Azam in 1678 and was left incomplete. Viceroy Shaista Khan used to live in that fort.
DHAKA UNDER THE EAST INDIA COMPANY (1764-1858)
At the tail end of the Mughal rule and the inception of British power around 1765, Dhaka began to decline in importance and contract in size. The city experienced disastrous famines, floods and fires. Calcutta was growing in importance and it was difficult for Dhaka to compete with Calcutta, which as the Capital of British India enjoyed the patronage of the rulers.
The fate of Dhaka was determined as a declining urban centre under the control of the East India Company after the decisive battle of Plassey in 1757. During that time (1757-1864), being an old centre of trade, Dhaka witnessed a tremendous decrease in population and its area. The population of Dhaka which was estimated to be nearly two lakh in 1800 (Taylor, 1840) dropped to about 67000 in 1873 (Allen, 1912) and 51,000 in 1873 (Hunter, 1875), in 1830, the energetic collector of Dhaka, Mr. Walters, founded the Dhaka Committee under his chairmanship for the development of Dhaka town. The inclusion of Ramna Green Pasture, area from Old Paltan to Nimtoli, Dakesshwari Tample to Azimpur under the town’s jurisdiction was done in this period. The total urban area during that time rose to a total of 14.5 sq. km and the total population was about 200,000 in 1800 and 51,635 in 1867 (Census of Bengal, 1901). The urbanized space started to encroach towards north on the Pleistocene terrace high lands during this time mainly for residential and recreational purposes (i.e., Ramna, Paribagh and Shahbagh areas).
DHAKA CITY UNDER THE BRITISH (1858-1947)
Dhaka City, by the end of the 19th century, was hemmed in between the Burhiganga River and the railway line. The extension of the city to the east went up to the eastern fringes of Gandaria and to the west up to Nawabganj.
But a phase of revival came when Charles Dawes, the Collector, began to take interest in the development of Dhaka City. He laid out the RaceCourse in Ramna in 1825. Subsequently in 1829, some roads within the city were widened and new buildings were erected for administrative and educational purposes near the present Victoria Park.
Finally with the transfer of power from the East India Company to the Crown in 1858, Dhaka started to grow more rapidly.
Dhaka was connected for the first time with Narayanganj by railways in 1885 and later in 1886 the railways extended up to Mymensingh. Dhaka City was for the first time electrified in 1878 and facilities of water supply started to be offered to the residences since 1874. The development of the city continued and later during the Governor Generalship of Lord Curzon, Bengal was partitioned and a new province of East Bengal and Assam came into being in July 1905. Dhaka was declared the provincial capital. With the new responsibilities, the town of less than 100,000 inhabitants started to expand rapidly. The increase of population between 1901 and 1911 was about 21 percent. But Dhaka’s phase as Capital of East Bangal and Assam was only short lived. In 1911, the Partition of Bengal was annulled and Dhaka once again lost its administrative robes. As a compensation, Dhaka University was established and the administrative buildings were utilized for housing it. But due to the First World War the functioning of the University was delayed until 1921. From that time till 1947, Dhaka City functioned as a district headquarters, trade centre and university town. The main development took place in Raman area. During the long period of over 180 years under the East India Company and the British Crown, the functional pattern of Dhaka City underwent marked changes.
Functional Pattern Administrative. The Fort, which during the Mughal times formed the administrative nucleus, was turned into a jail by the British. The new administrative district grew up near the Victoria Park, which was established, in the first half of the 19th century. The educational institutions also were located there. For these purposes the low-lying areas between the former headquarters of the East India Company and Dulai Khal were reclaimed. After 1905, the centre of principal administration of the capital city was located in Ramna. The present Medical College Hospital housed the provincial Secretariat. But the headquarters of the district administration continued to be located near Victoria Park. Thus two centres of administration were to be identified. But after the annulment of the Partition of Bengal, Ramna area lost he administrative functions.
Educational. The principal centre of education until 1905 was located near the Victoria Park. But after that an important and more expansive centre of educational institutions was established in Ramna. The Ahsanullah Engineering School was also built in Ramna. The Dhaka University was created and it took over the previous secretariat buildings and the Curzon Hall. The Government House was turned into Dhaka Intermediate College and many residential halls for students were constructed in this area. By the early 1920s the important part of Ramna was thus occupied by educational institutions.
Business. The East India Company had inherited a well-developed central business district in the Chauk, which gradually changed its identity from a retail trade centre to a wholesale centre. By 1930, it had completely become a wholesale area. The retail trade area on the other hand moved eastward along Islampur and then northward along Nawabpur Road. They have retained their character until today. Bangla Bazar also re-developed as a retail-trading centre in the later part of the British rule. During the Mughals it rivaled with Chauk as a business centre, but during the early British period it lost the commercial importance and became a seat for such institutions as the North Brook Hall and the Baptist Mission.
Industries. The industrial district, as in the Mughal period, was associated with the low class residential areas. Shell cutting was carried on the Sankhari Bazar, brass and metal work in Thateri Bazar, gold and silver work and weaving in Tanti Bazar. During the later part of the British rule in the 20th century a small number of large-scale industries were established. One of them was a glass factory (Hardeo) established in 1929 at Hatkhola railway crossing. A pharmaceutical industry, Sadhana Ausodhalaya was also established in this period in Gandaria.
Low Class Residences. The low class residences of the Mughal times continued to be low class and expanded to swallow some parts of the surrounding areas. Some high-class areas like Nawabganj also deteriorated to low class. The cause of the demotion of Nawabganj to low class was the shifting of the river southward.
Middle Class Residences. The emergence of a middle class social stratum and with that of middle class residential area was a 19th century phenomenon. Such areas with middle class characteristics were located mainly at Bakshi Bazar. Dewan Bazar, Nawab Katra, Aga Sadeq Road, Begum Bazar, Armanitola, Bangla Bazar and Lakshmi Bazar. Later on Gopibagh area was also added to the list of middle class areas. These areas were primarily inhabited by local people of respectable means. The middle class houses, which varied from plain small buildings standing, shoulder to shoulder along a long street to considerably large houses with gardens and open spaces.
High Class Residential Areas
Location Pattern. Ever since the Mughal times, the riverbank was a prize location for high-class residences. The charm of the riverfront continued up to the beginning of the present century and the most important high-class residential areas at the bank of the Burhiganga River for half a mile from North Brook Hall to the Ahsan Manzil. High European civil officers used to live there. Apart from the picturesque waterfront location, this residential area also enjoyed proximity to the main administrative centre at Victoria Park. The Palace of Dhaka Nawabs (Ahsan Manzil) was also located there. The establishment of the Capital of the new province of Eastern Bengal and Assam in Dhaka in 1906 brought the development of the Civil Lines in Ramna Area beyond the city limits. The Civil Lines were not only the administrative centre but also the official residences of the administrative heads. The Europeans gradually moved from the riverside to the new residential area in Ramna. This movement was initiated not only by the development of the Civil Lines but also by the growing demand of space for commercial purposes. By 1930, the riverfront lost its residential character and was changed into a commercial area.
Three upper class residential areas at Gandaria, Wari and purana Paltan were developed by the local population. Gandaria was located at the southeastern outskirt of the city and Wari in a sparsely populated area east to Nawabpur Road, They housed the Local Government employees (most of whom had also other landed property), professionals, businessmen and landlords. Until 1925, Purana Paltan was a barren woodland with a few houses built of corrugated iron sheets. In a few years after 1925, Purana Paltan became a beautiful residential area housing the leaders of the society and high government officials (Bose 1950).
Road Pattern. The layout of the Ramna area consists of two roughly concentric roads at the centre of which is the RaceCourse. To the south is a somewhat irregular road pattern which serves the main buildings while to the north-east are a number of well planned parallel residential streets. The tree planting and natural vegetation are excellent even by today’s standard. The plan expresses the disregard for geometrical layout of roads, which is one of the main characteristics of contemporary town planning. The Ramna plan embodies transition from the geometrical or classical to the informal or romantic. The roads, however, became very wide (unknown in the old Dhaka) to cope with the increasing vehicular traffic.
The gird pattern of road was introduced in Dhaka City for the first time in Wari and Gandaria. Roads in these areas were wider than those in the Mughal Dhaka but not as wide as those of the Ramna Civil Lines.
House Types. The European houses near the waterfront were all done in western pattern. They had wide-open compound spaces and gardens. The houses were massive in structure with huge pillars and sometimes with round towers and verandas like the Dutch kuthis at Wise Ghat. In one of the many institutions, built by the Britishers before 1905, a juxtaposition of the Mughal and European architectural styles was made. It was the Northbrook Hall, built to serve the purpose of a Town Hall.
The Ahsan Manzil was built first in 1872 and then renovated in 1888. Its architectural style is purely European. It has pillars with Corinthian capitals and semicircular arches in windows and doors. The dome also is of European character and the Mughal kiosks are all gone. Instead of the high Mughal Palace walls it has iron fencing, allowing thus a better view of the palace from the river. The Nawabs, however, had a garden house at Dilkhusha near the present Rajdhani Unnayan Kartipakkha (RAJUK) or DIT building and now acquired for the development of commercial areas. The short period between 1905 and 1911 witnessed a speedily development of high-class residential areas in Ramna. These houses were built there in western architectural style with large compounds and gardens surrounded by hedge-fences. They maintained the red colour like the Mughal buildings. The magnificent buildings now housing the High Court and built in the Renaissance style was the Governor’s residence. Opposite to it is the Curzon Hall of equal grandeur (1905) but with Mughal architectural elements. The residential houses in Ramna had the best available contemporary living facilities. In construction design they had the peculiar colonial look. But with these houses red brick began to appear against the old Grey and also against the green foliage all around. They were the “purple palaces of the public works contrasting strangely with the graceful domes and minarets of mosques and palaces of bygone age” (Birt 1906).
The houses in Gandaria and Wari were large buildings with high and thick compound walls and open spaces. Architecture showed combination of Mughal and European styles. Verandas and more window spaces were conspicuous features along with other characteristics. The houses had water and electric connection. Houses in the Purana Paltan resembled those in Wari and Gandaria but marks of sophistication became evident in them. Gardens and lower compound walls with similar architectural designs were associated with decoration by exotic plants.
DHAKA AS THE PROVINCIAL CAPITAL OF EAST PAKISTAN (1947-1971)
Pakistan was created on the 14th August 1947 and Dhaka was made the capital of the province of East Pakistan. Dhaka was thus suddenly called upon to shoulder many responsibilities. The problem since then has been to house the increasing number of government offices, firms, industrial establishments, government employees, Muslim migrants from India and people coming from other parts of the province. The influx of people caused the population to increase from 335,925 in 1951 to 556,712 in 1961 (Census of Pakistan 1961, Bulletin No. 2, p. 18) registering an increase of 65.7 percent.
To accommodate the rising population more houses were needed but the construction of new buildings takes time, while the incoming thousands had to be housed immediately. Thus growth of Dhaka City in the initial years after independence took place in the form of fission or division of existing houses and compounds mainly in the old city, and later expansion started in the open areas of the new city.
Functional Pattern Industries. After independence Dhaka has witnessed phenomenal growth in industries, which increased to over 100 in 1962. The industries are located mainly in three areas: Thjgaon, Postogola and Hazaribagh.
Business. Dhaka as a commercial centre handles both wholesale and retail trade. The wholesale area is located at Chauk, Mitford Road and Farashganj. The retail trade area extends from Islampur, Patuatuli, Bangla Bazar, and Nawabpur Road to Jinnah Avenue. A large cluster of commercial firms has developed in Motijheel. The retail trade centres along with Motijheel area forms the Central Business District of Dhaka City. Motijheel and Jinnah Avenue are the post independence extension of the CBD. A good shopping center has developed at New Market.
Administration. Being the provincial headquarters of East Pakistan and Subsidiary Capital of Pakistan, Dhaka City is an important administrative centre. The old administrative centre at Victoria Park still continues to be a nucleus of office buildings. The new centre of provincial and central administration is located in Ramna area. It has also penetrated into Purana Paltan and Segun Bagicha. More administrative buildings are under construction at Rajarbag and Tejgaon where the establishment of the second Federal Capital will ultimately wipe out the Tejgaon farm area.
Education. The present education zone is possessed by the two universities namely, Dhaka University and the University of Engineering and Technology. These two institutions occupy a large area west of the Secretariat up to the railway lines. Educational institutions also extend continuously from Bakshi Bazar up to Shahbagh, where the Government Institute of Art is situated. The educational centre of the early 19th century still continues to flourish near the Victoria Park.
Recreation. After 1947 the necessity of having more areas for recreation was felt. As a result, Ramna Park was laid out near the RaceCourse and a large stadium was built at Jinnah Avenue.
Low Class Residences. The low class areas of the past period continued as before and more areas were included in the category during the last decade as population and density of houses increased. The major low class residential areas lie in old Dhaka. A slum area developed on either side of the railwayline from Gandaria up to Tejgaon, with only small gaps at places. These areas are occupied by day labourers, cart pullers, rickshaw drivers and beggars. In the new Dhaka low class residences occupy the pottery area of Rayerbazar. In Karwan Bazar live many industrial workers with other low class people. The fringes of the city are occupied by low class dwellings where the labourers live.
Middle Class Residences. After 1947 only a few areas of the old city continues to remain as middle class residential neighborhoods. Bakshi Bazar was one such important locality, which retains its middle class standard until today. On the other hand some high-class areas have become middle class neighborhoods e.g. Gandaria, Wari and Purana Paltan. Some developing areas near Dhanmondi, which has mixture of modern buildings and mud houses, may be put in the category of middle class. To this category also belongs the Mohammadpur Housing Estate located north of Dhanmondi which was primarily developed to house the displaced persons from India.
High Class Residential Areas. Since 1947 Dhaka City is growing and changing rapidly. The residential areas (Except Ramna) classed as high in 1947, have lost their dignified status. Ramna has expanded northward and eastward to include more areas in upper-grade category and a new high-class area has developed in Dhanmondi. The delimitation of different classes of residential areas are based upon rent and land values, population density, housing density, distribution of telephones, and private cars and water and electricity connection. The consideration of physical structure of houses, including architecture and open spaces was also made. The rent of houses is highest in the high-class residential areas. In Dhanmondi 95 percent of the house are fetching an annual rent of more than Rs. 5,000, which is not the case in any other part of the city. The next highest percentage is obtained from Ramna where the corespondent figure is 27 percent. The percentages of houses with water and electric connections are also highest in Dhanmondi and Eskaton areas. The density of housing (less than 5 per acre) and population (less than 100 per acre) is also one of the least in these areas and the distributions of telephone and cars present marked concentrations. In terms of land values, many parts of old Dhaka apart from the business areas ranking higher than the high-class areas. But it must be pointed out that in old Dhaka the land is generally purchased not for residential purposes but for business and small industries. The price of residential land is highest in upper class areas. Moreover, the increase in land values since 1947, registered in Dhanmondi and Raman is highest in Dhaka (excepting the Central Business District and commercial areas). In Ramna’s northern section land used to be sold for Rs. 1,000 or less per acre in 1940 and at present it exceeds Rs. 180,000. In Dhanmondi, the land values have gone up from Rs. 1,000 per acre in 1947 to Rs. 1,50,000 in 1962. In contrast the land values in Gandaria was Rs. 15,000 per acre in 1940, today it is around Rs. 60,000 in Chauk the corresponding figures are Rs. 50,000 and Rs. 2,50,000 and in Armenitola Rs. 30,000 and Rs. 200,000.
Social Environment. Ramna and Dhanmondi are exclusive areas housing the upper crust of the society. Their distinctive character is being maintained by keeping a very high level of rent. This keeps out the middle class from renting a house and the allurement of high rent forces the house owners with low income to let out their houses on rent. About 70% of the houses are tenant occupied in the Dhanmondi Area. Again in most cases the rent is paid by the employer. In a sample survey in Dhanmondi Area it was found that the rent of 79.2% the tenant occupied houses were paid by the employers. Therefore only people with high income or business executives for whom the firm provides accommodation, or foreign diplomats and consultants live in those houses. The creation of Pakistan has given an opportunity to many people to acquire wealth through business or rising to high administrative positions. Cultural contacts with the Americans and Europeans living in Dhaka City and the western world by going abroad for training, on business or on diplomatic assignments has caused the development of strong desire in a group of people to maintain a high standard of living. This is a common feature in all the underdeveloped countries of the world (Mabogunje 1962.p.56-77) and Dhaka is no exception. In Dhanmondi, there are residences of two former Chief Ministers, several other provincial and central ministers, some members of the National Assembly, judges of the High Court and Supreme Court, several foreign diplomats and others. The facilities enjoyed by these houses also speak of the type of people who live in these areas.
Location Pattern. Since the creation of Pakistan, the landscape of Dhaka City has been undergoing a rapid change. The city is expanding northward and the high-class residential areas are constantly endeavoring to keep themselves at the northern periphery of the city. This is contrary to what Berry, Simmons and Tenant (1963. P. 404) have stated about the non-western cities. Their assertion that “any income improvements lead to greater demands for central location “does not apply to Dhaka City. This is neither true about Comilla, a town in East Pakistan with a population 54, 504 in 1961 (Khan and Masood 1962). The high class residential areas in Dhaka City which are left behind in the northward march are deteriorating and losing their status, Gandaria which is at the opposite end of the growing city was first to lose its status and is most adversely affected by the encroaching industries of Postagola. Wari and Purana Paltan have been the next victims. On account of their proximity to the central business district, Wari is being invaded by small industries, workshops and commercial firms and Purana Paltan by business offices. The deterioration of Purana Paltan would have been delayed for the time being if the Stadium, Mosque (Baitul Mukarram) and Post Master General’s Office were not constructed in the heart of the CBD. It is unfortunate that the lands of extremely high value (over Rs. 600,000 per acre) are used for recreational purposes (stadium and sporting clubs). Southern part of Ramna would have met the same fate that the lands in that area are owned by the government and are occupied by offices and institutional buildings.
At present there are three high-class residential areas in Dhaka: Ramna, Dhanmondi and Gulshan. It was north of Bayely Road, where the extension of high-class residential district of Ramna took place. The reasons were obvious. Open lands with a few mud house were available. Being in close proximity to the civil lines the extension of electric wires and water pipe was easy. The area was then far from the heart of the city as the city then virtually ended at the railway lines.
All these happened without any formal planning. Then the government entered into the scene with piece meal planning of the city: an industrial district in Tejgaon, a shopping centre at Azimpur, a stadium at Jinnah Avenue, a commercial area next to the stadium, flats for government employees at Motijheel and Azimpur, and high class residential area for the public in Dhanmondi. No attempt was made to evaluate the future growth of the city. No land use survey was conducted to find the available land, their present use and their future utilization.
In 1950, the Construction and Building Department of the Government of East Pakistan acquired 500 acres of rice fields in Dhanmondi for the establishment of a high-class residential area. That there was a need for such a housing project is evident from the fact that Dhanmondi has become an exclusive residential area within a few years and a demand for better houses in better surroundings still exists. But the expansion of Dhanmondi has been choked by the establishment of low rent apartment houses and the Mohammadpur Housing Estate. Such a step has also affected residential quality of Dhanmondi. The Dhanmondi Residential Area does not have any shopping centre, corner store, park, community centre, club etc. The whole area was divided into plots without keeping in mind the facilities that a community requires. In the meanwhile Dhaka was becoming more and more unmanageable. So a Master Plan was eventually prepared by a foreign firm. One does not know how much of their recommendations have been honoured but a high-class residential area is being developed at Gulshan by the Dhaka Improvement Trust. Close to Gulshan lie the industrial area of Tejgaon and the medical centre of Mohakhali, which includes the Tuberculosis Hospital and Cholera Research Centre. Interestingly again, Badda on the east of Gulshan and Banani on its west have been earmarked to be developed as middle class residential areas. It would have been much better if Badda was developed as a high-class area as it is further away from the industrial area and the Medical Centres and would not have fallen between two middle class housing areas.
Road Pattern. Dhanmondi is a planned residential area and Ramna beyond the Civil Lines has developed by private enterprise. Dhanmondi has a grid pattern of roads and almost all the plots are rectangular and of the same size (14,400 sq. feet). An existing khal (water channel) has been dug and extended to form an irregular shaped lake. This is the only break in the monotonous layout of the Dhanmondi Area.
It is difficult to predict the future of high-class residential areas in a city where the things are changing fast and where the developments are largely controlled by a number of governmental and autonomous agencies. Construction and Building Department and the Dhaka Improvement Trust are the two, which are primarily responsible for many developments in Dhaka City. It would have been much better, if only one agency had taken up this responsibility or at least there should have been a coordination among various agencies.
House Types. Most new houses in Dhanmandi and other high-class areas are built with reinforced concrete and glass. The houses are remarkable with large balconies and almost wall size windows. Newer buildings mostly have no curve lines. Right angles make up the structure. Plaster foliages and other designs as seen in former high class houses are conspicuously absent in modern buildings. The houses, however, have large compounds and generally low boundary walls. The wall and the gate keep affinity with the architectural style of the building. Some of these houses are huge structures. A random survey of 8 percent of the houses in Dhanmondi reveals that 59.4 percent houses had three bedrooms besides the living room, dining room, kitchen etc.
The percentage of 4 bedroom houses was 18.9, those of 2 and 5 bedrooms were 8.1 and the rest had more than 5 bedrooms. Most of the houses in Dhanmondi and Ramna are single family dwellings (89.1 percent). This is closely correlated with the number of one-story houses, the percentage of which in Dhanmondi is 72.9. Some houses (19.9%), particularly two or three storeyed ones have plural families in them. The percentage of two-story houses is 24.3 and that of more than two story houses is 2.7. In Ramna there are a number of flat or apartment house. The government flats in Bayley Road, Minto Road and Eskaton Road is of higher rents. Within the Ispahani Colony in Maghbazar are located some apartment houses. Many American families were living there. Another private apartment housing is to be found in Motalib Colony in Paribagh off Mymensingh Road.
DHAKA AS THE CAPITAL OF BANGLADESH (SINCE 1971)
After the independence of Bangladesh on December 16, 1971, the city’s population rose suddenly to about 15,00,000 and in 1974 it was about 16,100,000 (Census of Bangladesh, 1974). The urbanization activities have been achieving tremendous growth for the needs of the newly independent country’s capital. The city began to expand in all directions including over the low-lying areas on the eastern side, such as in Jurain, Goran, Badda, Khilgaon, Rampura, and in the western side, areas like Kamrangirchar, Shyamoli, Western Mohammadpur, Kallyanpur through the earth filling (Chowdhury, 1991). In 1995, The new Master Plan for Dhaka was prepared for the further development of Dhaka City. As very rapid urban growth along with the fast increase in population and structural development started to take place in the city, this new structure plan was a must. The population had leapt to 3 million within one decade of the independence of the country and the city covered an area of about 70 sq. km. in 1980. The swamps and wetlands of the city started to disappear fast. New areas of residential, administrational, business and commercial importance began to develop. At the same time, numerous slums and unplanned low-income residential areas or squatters also grew up in different areas of the city. Keeping pace with the magnitudes of these urban growth, the new urbanized areas were being encroached in the low-lying areas in the city and even in some of the adjacent distant areas.