Dhaka Tuesday July 15, 2003




Murapara Rajbari

A blend of details

THE feudal lords of British government in eastern India, popularly known as zaminders, were responsible for construction of a large number of magnificent palaces throughout the Bengal.

Murapara Rajbari is one of the examples of such activity of an affluent community located in Murapara village, about 25 kilometres southeast of Dhaka on the western side of the Dhaka-Narsingdi road.

The Murapara palace was built by Ram Ratan Banerjee, appointed as treasurer of Natore at the end of 19th century. The palace complex is surrounded by three ponds. There are two beautiful small temples, built also by zaminder Ram Ratan Banerjee in 1889, not far away from the palace complex on the western side of its front pond.

The two-storey picturesque palace is rectangular in plan and has a grand frontage facing west of about 200 feet long. A 10 feet wide verandah runs in front of the palace at both levels, providing access to the rooms.
The depth of the verandah is used as a shading device from the western sun. It has semicircular arches. The areas in the arches are filled with cast iron tracery decorated with green, red and blue glasses, so that the floor of the verandah demonstrates as a colourful mosaic pattern by casting shadow from the sun.

The main entrance leads straight to the stair hall, which gives access to the upper storey of purely private or family zone. Five big rooms on the ground floor were used for public functions. The internal courtyard is also accessible from the stair hall.

The front façade has three projections consisting of a projected main entrance and two terminating wings at both ends, which also form a well-composed elevation. The central arched entrance is flanked by four pairs of Corinthian columns on both floors and surmounted by a triangular pediment.

The building is a unique mix of exposed red bricks and white plaster surface of colonial influence. Both floor and roof are rested on wooden beams. The parapet all around is relieved with a band of diamond-shaped punches. In the frontal parapet, there are six small pinnacles covered by Bengali chowchala domes --typical of post-Mughal architecture and also has a traditional temple finial at the top.

Illustrating a happy blend of the Mughal and European tastes -- massive in appearance, the building was characterised by a symmetrical composition and a variety of eye-catching details.

The socio-political scenario as a result of the partition of India in 1947 changed the status and importance of the palace complex. The Hindu zaminders started leaving their ancestral homes and migrated to India. The migration created a change in the ownership of the buildings.

The Murapara palace was acquired by the government under the Abandoned Property Act, taking advantage of the absence of the actual owner. The complex is now being legally occupied by Murapara Degree College and the rear building is used for the accommodation units for the college staff.

Story: Dr Abu Sayeed M Ahmed
Department of Architecture, The University of Asia Pacific

Photos: Syed Zakir Hossain



The aim of architectural conservation is to prolong the life of buildings and in- built environment of historic sites so that the future generation can enjoy them profitably.

The best way of conserving buildings is to keep them in use. According to the guidelines of ICOMOS (International Council on Monuments and Sites), the adaptive reuse of buildings is often the best way that historic and aesthetic values of a heritage site can be saved economically.

The college authority is paying attention to the conservation of the building with their limited resources. It has generated awareness among locals of paying due attention to preservation. They refrain from posting posters and scrawling graffiti on its walls. Proper financial and technical assistance will help save the heritage from slipping into deterioration.

  (C) The Daily Star, 2003.