Rangpur: History within easy grasp
Just after crossing the Jamuna Bridge, the road that goes to Rangpur is beset with fields that spread as far the horizon. Paddy and jute fields, bright yellow mustard fields, golden corn and sugar cane fields, just to name a few. Quaint little hamlets, rows upon rows of coconut and areca palm trees, and small rivers and canals will catch your eye. Through this beautiful road, you reach the northern district of Rangpur, laden with its cache of rich history.
A picturesque expanse of land — that's what comes to mind when describing Rangpur. The river Teesta flows through it. Rangpur has quite the history. It is said that back in 1575, Raja Man Singh, a trusted general of the Mughal Emperor Akbar, took over Rangpur. But it was not until 1686 that Rangpur was fully integrated into the Mughal Empire. However, Ghoraghat in Rangpur served as the one of the Mughal administrative headquarters in 1687. Back in 2010, Rangpur Division emerged with 8 districts.
The land of Rangpur was well known for cultivating Indigo (Neel). The locals called this colour 'Rang.' From this 'Rang,' the name 'Rangpur' emerged. The British rulers forced the farmers of the area to cultivate this crop. The pain and horror of this part of history still remains with the few standing Neel Kuthis (buildings meant for indigo processing, trade and management). Only recently, Indigo is being produced commercially again in this region.
Natural beauty, dotted with historical artefacts and sites — this is what a trip to Rangpur is all about! For the history buffs, there are so many places to visit. Don't forget to drop by the Carmichael College. Situated in Rangpur, this is one of the country's oldest colleges. Established in 1916, the architectural structure holds true to the building styles of the time. The enormous campus grounds, with the lush greenery, is a sight for sore eyes.
Back on 16 December, 1769, Rangpur was announced as a District Seat (Zila Sadar) and in 1869, it was announced as a municipality, thus making it one of the oldest municipalities in the country. Under the supervision of Raja Janaki Ballav Sen, a municipality building was made in 1892. As part of developing the city area, he also ordered the excavation of the Mata Shyama Sundari Khal in 1890. Legend has it that to resolve the continuous bout of sickness plaguing the region, Shyama Sundari commanded the excavation of this canal. This canal still remains, but regrettably only in name.
A trip to Rangpur should include a visit to the Tajhat Palace. The Palace is situated at the southern end of Rangpur city and is 3 kilometres away from the city. The Palace looks to be about four to five stories high. The architectural style is reminiscent of Mughal architecture. A large field, lines of trees and a pond are part of the Palace grounds. The second story houses the Rangpur Museum. Terracotta, scriptures in Arabic and Sanskrit dating back to the 10th and 11th century can be found here, along with Vishnu statues, and copies of Aurangzeb-era Quran, Ramayana and Mahabharath. Maha Raja Kumar Gopal Lal Ray took 10 years to build this at the start of the 20th century. Kumar Gopal Ray was a goldsmith, and in his time, he built an extraordinary taj (crown) which was the reason for naming the area Tajhat. Legend has it that this Palace has a hidden tunnel leading up to the Ghaghot river. However, this path can no longer be found.
The pioneer of female education in the Bengal – Begum Rokeya, was also born in Rangpur. She was born to the Saber family in the Pairaband village, just outside the city. Some of the remains of the home still Uphold her memories. The government has opened a training centre for young women in Pairaband. The Begum Rokeya University is aptly named to honour her.
Within the city limits, you have a number of places to consider visiting. First up is Jadu Nibash. This house, built over 150 years ago by Raja Gopal Lal Rai Bahadur, was the home of politician Mashhour Rahman Jadu Mia. The Rangpur Town Hall Building and the old Judge Court were also built around the same time as the Jadu Nibash.
Don't forget to visit the Pirgacha Manthana Kingdom Estate, which was established around 1100. After the death of Raja Rajendra Narayan Roy Choudhury, the Manthana Kingdom Estate was divided into two parts. The estate spreads over 100 acres of land, with a pond and a temple. Princess Kabita Rani Roy Choudhury is the present legal owner of the entire kingdom-estate. The Kachari House of the Manthana Palace is now used as Pirgacha Registrar Office.
A trip to Rangpur can be all the more memorable with a visit to the famed Palace of Devi Chaudhurani. The famous Bengali novelist, Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay, who also happened to be the Collector of Rangpur and under the employment of the British rule, wrote the famous novel Devi Chaudhurani to portray her as a dacoit-queen. After the death of Raja Rajendra Narayan Roy Choudhury, the king of the Manthana Estate, his wife Devi Chaudhurani, continued the rule for another three decades. As a ruler, she was immensely popular. During the British rule, much of her highness' kingdom were taken, but not for long. Sadly, parts of the palace were destroyed by an earthquake.
Devi Chaudhurani was an ally of Bhabani Pathak, who was known as the king of bandits, a friend to the poor, and a fierce enemy to the British rulers. She was also known to assist Bhabani Pathak in the Sanyasi Bidroho (Asectic Revolution). Keeping up with a tradition of standing up against the British rule, in 1946, the anti-British revolution Tebhaga movement (Sharing by thirds) also started from this very place in Rangpur.
Along the Rangpur-Dinajpur highway stands the Kellaband Mosque. This three-domed mosque was built 200 years ago. An old graveyard is situated behind this mosque.
Deowanbari Jamnidar Bari and Itakumari Jamindar Bari are testaments to time, residing in Rangpur. However, not much remains of these two Jamindar Bari's which were built in the 18th and 19th century, respectively. The Itakumari Jamindar Bari has a large pond, and a very ancient building. An entry in the Deowanbari Jamindar Bari is a key highlight, as it boasts of a Mughal style of architecture.
The first Bangla newspaper Rangapur Bartabaha (1847) was published from Rangpur, with financial support from Kalichandra Ray, the zamindar of Pargana Kundi in Rangpur. Gurucharan Sharma Roy was its first editor.
During the years between 1809 to 1814, Raja Ram Mohan Roy stayed in Rangpur. To uphold the memory of his stay in Rangpur, the Raja Rammohan Club was built. Don't forget to visit the club courtyard.
And in case you have an overload from all this history, why not take a trip to the Teesta Barrage. The amazingly beautiful Teesta river has a walkway just along the river bank. Drop off your car at a point and take a walk for a serene experience.
Right around afternoon, the Teesta riverside becomes the site for a small bazar.
Another must-visit would be the Rangpur Zoo. While it was built in 1880, Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (BUET) recently finished up a survey on upgrading the site and facilities to meet modern standards. Twelve kilometres outside Rangpur city is the Vinno Jogot amusement park. For children, this is a place for joy and frolicking. As for the accompanying adults, the huge lake and soothing greenery are more than enough for a whole day of relaxation.
You can easily go to Rangpur from Dhaka by bus, train, or airplane. There are a number of luxury buses as well. The best time to visit Rangpur would be between September and April. Do pack some warm clothes though. For your stay, there are a number of good hotels; Parjatan Motel, Circuit House and RDRS Guest House come with excellent facilities for a memorable trip.
Translated by Iris Farina
Photo: Abdulla al Mamun