Ahsan Manzil was the official residential palace and seat of the Dhaka Nawab Family. This magnificent building is situated at Kumartoli along the banks of the Buriganga River in Bangladesh. The construction of this palace was started in the year 1859 and was completed in 1869. It is constructed in the Indo-Saracenic Revival architecture. To preserve the cultural and history of the area, the palace became the Bangladesh National Museum on 20 September 1992.
In mughal period, there was a garden house of Sheikh Enayet Ullah, the landlord of Jamalpur porgona (district), in this place. Sheikh Enayet Ullah was a very charming person. He acquired a very big area in Kumartuli and included in his garden house. Here he built a beautiful palace and named it “Rangmahal”. He used to enjoy here keeping beautiful girls collecting from the country and abroad, dressing them with gorgeous dresses and expensive ornaments.
There is a saying that, the foujdar of Dhaka (representative of mughal emperor) in that time was attracted to one of the beautiful girls among them. He invited Sheikh Enayet Ullah in a party one night and killed him in a conspiracy when he was returning home. That girl also committed suicide in anger and sorrow. There was a one doomed cemetery of Sheikh Enayet Ullah in the north-east corner of the palace yard, which was ruined in the beginning of 20th century.
Probably in the period of Nawab Alibardi Khan around 1740 century, Sheikh Moti Ullah, the son of Sheikh Enayet Ullah, sold the property to the French traders. There was a French trading house beside this property. The trading house became wealthier after purchasing this property. In that time, French traders could do business here without paying any taxes by a decree from the emperor Awrangajeb.
In that time, the French became very wealthy doing business here in competition with the English and other European companies. They made a big palace and dug a pond for sweet water in the newly purchased property. The pond still exists in the compound of Ahsan Manjil, which was called “Les Jalla” in that time. In the English-French war, French got defeated and all their properties was captured by the English. In the 22nd June of 1757, the French left the trading house with a fleet of 35 boats from the river station of Buriganga in front of Kumartuli.
In 1785, the French transferred the property to a French tradesman named Mr. Champigni, and retaken it at 1801. According to Paris agreement of 1814, the French claimed all their left properties at Dhaka, and in 1827 the property was again returned to the French. For the increasing power of the English, the French was forced to left subcontinent. They decided to sell all their properties in Dhaka. So in 1830, the trading house of Kumartuli was purchased by the established landlord of Dhaka Khwaja Alimullah.
After some renovation work, the trading house became the residence of Khwaja Alimullah. In his time, a stable and a family mosque was added in the compound. After his death, his son Khwaja Abdul Gani made a great prosper to the property, and named it “Ahsan Manjil” on his son Ahsan Ullah. In the east side of the old building, he made a new building with a different design, and also done great renovation work to the old building. Since then, the old building was called “Ondor Mohol” and the new building was called “Rong mohol”.
In the evening of 7 April 1888, a great tornado hit Dhaka city causing great damage. Ahsan Manjil was greatly damaged and abandoned. An English engineer from Kolkata arrived here to examine the palace. He gave opinion that except the “Rangmahal”, all other parts of the palace have to reconstruct. So Khwaja Abdul Gani and his son Ahsanullah turned their full attention to reconstruct the palace. Both of the building was reconstructed during that time with a new design made and supervised by the local engineer Gobinda Chandra Roy.
The old French building was reconstructed to a two storied building keeping similarity to the Rangmahal. A gangway was made with wood connecting the first floor of two building. The most beautiful thing made in this time was the doom, which made the palace so beautiful.
After the death of Khwaja Ahsanullah in 1901, the glory of Ahsan Manjil was ended. His successors couldn’t continue the glory for the internal family quarrel. They rented different parts of the palace to tenants, who actually made it a slum. In 1952 govt. acquired the property and left in supervision of the Dhaka Nawab court. In 1985 Dhaka National Museum acquired the property and made it a museum.
Opening Time – 9:00 AM
Closing Time – 5:00 PM