A remnant of the Zamindari grandeur in Mymensingh
Shashi Lodge, the elegant residential palace for Moharaja Shashikanta Acharya Chowdhury is one of the most attractive landmarks of Mymensingh city. Situated at the center of administrative area, this palace carries some exclusive architectural features that portray the Zamindari life style of that time. The vivid story of Zaminders’ life and the grandeur of their living were celebrated through design manifestations of various spaces of this structure and molded especially by the European style architecture of that era.
This historically renowned building makes most of the passersby take a pause to get a glimpse of this architecture. Originally the palace was a two-storied structure built in 1877 by Maharaja Suryakanta Acharya Chowdhury for his adopted son Maharaja Shashikanta Acharya Chowdhury.
But a massive earthquake on June 12, 1897 destroyed the whole palace. Later, in between 1905 to 1911, Maharaja Shashikanta rebuilt this new single storied palace and gave a powerful declaration to stop building two storied masonry structure in Mymensingh city.
Before the palace was built, Mymensingh acted as one of the most important tax collection centers; hence people from different places used to gather here only for this purpose. Muktagacha Zaminder Bari was the main center for all other administrative purposes. For some reasons, Maharaja Suryakanta decided to shift the center from Muktagacha to Mymensingh.
The decision of shifting the administration center was a major thriving force to lay the foundation of Shashi Lodge in Mymensingh city. This distinct location near the Brahmaputra River was also promising as boat was the major mode of transportation both for travelling and carrying goods at that time. The then much wider river was quite closer to the palace and connected the west Mymensingh with the east and other cities as well.
Later, Zaminders from adjacent parganas started to congregate and construct their own domiciles here. Thus, this city became a bustling cultural locus for music, dance, drama and sports as well.
It is said that, Maharaja Suryakanta often travelled from Muktagacha to Mymensingh by his horse chariot for administrative purposes. Local sources add that, there was a hidden tunnel constructed between Shashi Lodge and Atani Zaminder Palace of Muktagacha for emergency secret communication and evacuation.
After the sudden demise of Maharaja Suryakanta, Shashikanta came back from Cambrige at the middle of his study and took the charge of Zamindari as a successor. Shashikanta used to take all his administrative decisions from this palace. But he moved to Calcutta for good when Bengal was divided finally.
Dr Nandini Awal is Associate Professor at the Department of Architecture at North South University