Jinjira Palace: Our history in ruins
Across Bangladesh, there are hundreds of historically important buildings, some as old as 400 years, crumbling under the weight of time. They are poised to return to dust, disappearing with their tales of affluence, grandeur and warfare from a time that saw the pinnacle of their rule. Most countries take great pains to recover, renovate and conserve these structures for future generations to learn from. And although we have a relevant department for this purpose, we see no attempts to recover and conserve our historically important buildings, such as the Jinjira Palace on the bank of the Buriganga River in Keraniganj.
History tells us that Mughal Subedar Ibrahim Khan II (1689-1697) built Jinjira Palace to be his pleasure resort, with rivers flowing on all sides, giving it the feel of an island. Originally, the complex consisted of the main palace, two-storey rectangular bath house, two-storey gateway with provision for guard rooms, and two octagonal side towers on the south. But today, this once magnificent building lies forgotten and in ruins. As the archaeological department failed to take possession of the structure soon after the creation of Bangladesh, the surrounding area has gone to grabbers. As a result, no one can find the building without their help. It is sad to learn that many have taken away bricks from the palace to construct houses as well. The situation is complicated by the fact that the British government is said to have sold some of the site to different people. Given that some of the encroachers of the land have been there since the time of their grandparents, and some 200 buildings have been constructed over the years, it also begs the question of where the residents will go if or when they are evicted.
However, it is apparent that the authorities have not thought that far ahead. The feeble presence of the upazila administration is announced only through two signboards seen hanging at the site. Reportedly, the local lawmaker wrote to the cultural ministry to take over the property for preservation, but the only response so far has been yet another signboard. We believe the government has a responsibility to recover and restore Jinjira Palace to preserve the stories that we read so ardently in history books. The complex, with its intriguing tales of treachery and tragedy embedded in every brick of its walls, would attract many tourists throughout the year. We have seen this happen in the case of Lalbagh Fort, which was in total ruins before renovation, but is now a thing of beauty. Similar efforts at conservation and maintenance could also give Jinjira Palace a new lifeline.