Fate of Temples in Bangladesh

published on June 30, 2008



Bangladesh: Last vestiges of the hundred-year-old Jagannath Mandir, one of the
oldest temples at Tantibazar, is now at the final stage of its
demolition process with the authorities showing utter indifference to
its protection.

Walking by the narrow lanes of Tantibazar one
will notice the magnificent decorative work of the temple that now
stands with only its main entrance.

According to locals, the
temple was built by Hariprashanna Dey, Kartik Sen and other elite of
the trader community of the area around 150 years ago.

A new building is being constructed inside the temple compound where the old structure has already been pulled down.

According
to experts, the two-storey temple was built in late 19th century and is
known for its decorative ceramic tiles and moulded tiles.

“The
decoration is a hybrid one with the use of chini tikri and ceramics,”
said Taimur Islam, a conservation architect of Urban Study Group.

The
doorway of the temple, at the ground floor level, is flanked by two
octagonal columns bearing Corinthian capitals. Cupola or small ornate
domes are its important features, he said.

Pilasters, relief
work, decorated cornice and parapets, lantern-shaped decoration on
domes, lotus-shaped base and bay windows are other significant
architectural features of the temple.

“Many of the tiles in the
façade have come off the wall and are lost. These moulded tiles can be
restored in this country with the help of chini tikri artisans. Then
these will have to be replaced selectively,” said Taimur.

“But first we will have to have a detailed documentation and then we will have to replace them selectively,” he added.

Babul
Das, head of the temple committee, said they are trying their best to
save the most decorative frontal façade of the temple but they do not
have funds to save it and it looks awkward in front of the new building.

“We
know that it is a part of our heritage. But if we are not given any
financial assistance from the government then it will not be possible
for us to save it,” he said.

“At first we decided to keep the
facade but the inner sections were demolished to make space because for
a long time we are suffering from space problems,” he added.

Babul
said that the condition of the temple deteriorated in the last ten
years. The thick old walls of the temple developed cracks, the iron
pillars eroded and the structure turned quite rickety.

“We
covered the cracks in the wall with plaster at some places but it did
not work. Besides, the structure became risky for the worshippers. We
do not have any other plot to build a new temple so we had to take some
decisions to build it anew,” he said.

Taimur Islam said that strong government support and state intervention are needed to save these old decorative temples.

“Many
temples in the old Dhaka have been vanished as a result of the
negligence from the authorities. For an example, a temple at 11,
Tantibazar is now gone. Another temple, Sithi Mandir, at Nayabazar is
also gone. So we need strong governmental support,” he said.

Officials
at the Department of Archaeology said that unless the owners are given
compensation it is very difficult for them to save the old structures.

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