Mangalaya in Farashganj: Another century-old building faces demolition
Mangalaya, a century-old heritage building situated in Old Dhaka's Farashganj area, is currently facing the imminent threat of demolition.
The new owner of the property has already started the destruction of a significant portion of the building, including its unique ornaments and features, known as Putul Bari on BK Das Road.
While the site is not officially recognised as a protected heritage by the Rajdhani Unnayan Kartripakkha (Rajuk) and the Department of Archaeology, it holds significant historical values, being included in the Urban Study Group's list of 2,200 British-era buildings marked as heritage sites in Old Dhaka, as mandated by a 2018 High Court directive.
Following a complaint filed by the USG, local residents, and citizens, Sutrapur Police Station yesterday intervened and halted the ongoing demolition activities, confirmed the station's Officer-in-Charge Mainul Islam.
But activists remain skeptical, citing past instances where demolition has resumed once the issue fades from public attention.
Contacted, the current owner of the property, Hazi Saifuddin Ahmed Milon, a member of the Jatiya Party's presidium member, told The Daily Star, "I purchased the building around 15-20 years ago. The building is in a dilapidated state, and I intended to renovate it. I was unaware of any stay order issued by the HC for this building."
"Upon learning about it, I immediately halted the renovation work. I will now proceed according to the legal procedures," he added.
THE HISTORY OF MANGALAYA
Mangalaya was constructed in 1915 by Ashutosh Das, a local landlord known for his involvement in various businesses such as construction, brick manufacturing, and imports.
During the partition in 1947, Ashutosh Das' family relocated to India, leaving only his son Gopal behind in Dhaka. The building suffered damage during the Liberation War when the Pakistani Army used gunpowder to burn its front section.
Mangalaya stands as an architectural gem, boasting a two-story traditional design that features an enchanting open courtyard adorned with intricate ornaments -- a hallmark of heritage structures in Old Dhaka.
The rear of the building encompasses another open courtyard and a shorter block that extends towards the back boundary. However, it is the building's street-side appearance that captivates onlookers with its unique architectural style and ornamentation.
The structure exhibits two semi-octagonal blocks on either side, with a swing-porch nestled between them -- a characteristic influenced by French architecture, prevalent in the Farashganj-Sutrapur area.
Additionally, metal bracket-supported balconies, a common feature in neighboring buildings, further enhance the visual charm of Mangalaya.
Of particular note is the second floor of the building, where three decorative pediments [triangular upper parts of a building] grace the roof in the elegant French Rococo style. Among these, the central pediment prominently displays a portrait of its founder Ashutosh Babu.
The sale of Mangalaya by Dilip Das, the grandson of Ashutosh Das, who migrated to India, has cast a shadow of uncertainty over its future. Activists and concerned citizens are advocating for the preservation of this cultural treasure, hoping to avert its potential demolition and ensure that Mangalaya continues to stand as a testament to Dhaka's rich heritage.
Taimur Islam, chief executive of the USG, said, "This building holds immense significance for all citizens passionate about preserving cultural heritage due to its aesthetic importance. The unique decorations and distinctive architectural elements make it unparalleled in Dhaka. The three decorative triangular pediments on the roof of this centennial two-story building are not found in any other building in Dhaka."