Kayettuli Shap Mandir: Century-old temple crumbling away

The temple is one of the very few establishments that feature the exclusive "chinitikri mosaic", as the establishment had been decorated with imported china clay tiles. The structure requires urgent repairs to preserve it for future generations.

— Sufi Mostafizur Rahman Professor of archaeology at Jahangirnagar University

The century-old Manasa temple of Old Dhaka, popularly known as "Kayettuli Shap Mandir", is on the verge of extinction due to neglect and lack of maintenance by Dhaka South City Corporation (DSCC) and the archaeology department.

For a newcomer, it would be a struggle to find the historic temple even if they receive the right directions, as the establishment -- situated on BK Ganguly Road -- is flanked by high-rise buildings and other structures from all sides.

Around 300 Hindu devotees  from Old Dhaka's Kayettuli neighbourhood come to Manasa temple to worship. Despite its fading beauty, the establishment attracts hundreds of visitors every day from the surrounding districts of Dhaka.

According to the temple's broken down nameplate, after the death of businessman Sashanka Mohon Basu in 1937, his four sons -- Moti Lal Basu, Hira Lal Basu, Ranjit Lal Basu and Ram Lal Basu -- built the establishment in honour of their father.

During a recent visit, this correspondent found that the structure stands with the help of seven pillars.

Half of a 15-foot tall pillar had collapsed. Almost 50 percent of the tiles on the ground have been damaged. There are numerous cracks around the foundation, which is almost 20 feet tall. There is no empty space around the structure and the nameplate has also collapsed.

Sufi Mostafizur Rahman, professor of archaeology at Jahangirnagar University, said the temple is one of the very few establishments that feature the exclusive "chinitikri mosaic", as the temple had been decorated with imported china clay tiles. "The structure requires urgent repairs to preserve it for future generations."

Rina Nandy, president of the temple committee, said miscreants looted and vandalised the temple during the political turmoil of  1990. "The establishment has not been repaired since then."

"We are trying to manage the establishment as it's our family tradition, but financially it's not possible for us to repair it,'' she added.

Shawon Nandy, vice president of the temple committee, said he had talked to the former DSCC mayor about repair, but no progress was made.

"This is the only temple of the goddess Manasa in Bangshal thana. There's no other structure with such a design in Dhaka," he said. "If the temple isn't repaired within the next seven to eight months, it will collapse."

Local resident Shilpi Datta said, "Not only is this establishment a unique shrine, it also preserves records of Old Dhaka's ancient richness."

Architect Taimur Islam, chief executive of Urban Study Group, an organisation working for the conservation of architectural and urban heritage of Old Dhaka, said, "Manasha temple is one of two such temples that we have in Dhaka."

The actual history of the establishment is not known, but it is quite obvious that the patron was an elite from the late 19th century or early 20th century, he said.

"The structure is now in a dilapidated state due to lack of proper maintenance. The government should immediately take steps to repair it," he added.

Awal Hossain, councillor of DSCC's ward-33, said, "The establishment preserves the history of Old Dhaka. Steps will be taken to repair it."

Contacted, Halima Afroj, assistant director of the Archaeology Department, said, "We don't know about this temple. We are looking for information in this regard."


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