The government is taking steps to protect the centuries-old mansion of the Pailgaon Chowdhurys -- once a notable zamindar family in the region, in present day Jagannathpur upazila of Sunamganj.
On January 21, the Ministry of Cultural Affairs declared the aesthetic building, which has been in ruins for decades, a 'Protected Archaeological Site' under the 'Antiquities (Amendment) Ordinance, 1976'.
The ministry made the move acting on a proposal of the Department of Archaeology for protecting the decaying heritage site, situated in the village of Pailgaon. A gazette notification in this regard will be published soon.
Dr Md Ataur Rahman, regional director of the archaeology department, said, after successfully bringing the Laurer Garh of Sunamganj under protection of the department, the protection of the Pailgaon zamindar house will be another important achievement towards preserving archaeological heritage sites in the greater Sylhet region.
The Pailgaon zamindar mansion is located on the northern side of the Kalni river, on nearly 5.5 acres of land. Though there were several other structures including a temple in the compound, the remains of the main building is still standing there.
According to "Shrihatter Itibritto (Uttarangsho)", authored in 1917 by veteran historian Achyut Charan Choudhury, and various other historians, the Chowdhury family has a long history in the region with the earliest known member of the family being Kanailal Dhar.
About 10 to 12 generations later, Umananda Dhar alias Binod Roy became the family's first member who was awarded the title 'Chowdhury' by then Mughal ruler Muhammad Shah.
In his line of succession, several generations later, four brothers -- Durlav Ram, Ramjiban, Hulash Ram and Jogjiban -- expanded the Chowdhury zamindari by leasing four estates in 1786 under the 'Dash Shala Bandobasto'.
Fame and fortune of the zamindari peaked under Jogjiban Chowdhury's grandson Brajanath Chowdhury, who was a lawyer and an honorary magistrate. He had two sons -- Rosomoy and Sukhamoy.
Sukhamoy Chowdhury was a first class magistrate for 40 years since 1886. Many awards and titles -- including the 'Queen Victoria Jubilee Award', in 1897, and the 'Roy Bahadur' title, in 1915 -- were conferred on him during his lifetime.
From 1916 till 1926, he was chairman of Sylhet municipality. In 1919, he established Brajanath High School in Pailgaon and in 1930, he established Rosomoy Memorial High School in Sylhet town.
Rosomoy's son Brajendra Narayan Chowdhury was the last zamindar of the family until 1950, when the 'State Acquisition and Tenancy Act, 1950 (East Bengal Act)' dissolved zamindari system.
During the anti-British movement in the subcontinent, Brajendra acted as a leader of the movement to end the British rule. He was president of the Indian Congress Party in Sylhet and between 1936 and 1940, he served as an elected member of the state and central legislative councils.
After the 'partition' in 1947, unlike other zamindars, Brajendra decided to stay in the then East Pakistan. After falling gravely ill, he left for Kolkata in 1962 to be with his family. He died in Kolkata in 1972.
On January 25 last year, Brajendra's grandchildren -- Dr Aparna Basu, Bhaswati Chakraborty, Mitali Chowdhury and Pratap Narayan Chowdhury -- who live in different cities in India, came to Pailgaon Brajanath High School to celebrate founding centenary of the school.
Following their visits to the school and their ancestral home, they urged the government to protect and restore the heritage building that has a history of around three centuries.