Uttara Gonobhaban: A Palace of Maharajas
Uttara Gonobhaban is perhaps the less known tourist spot in Bangladesh. However, its rich historical background, popular heritage and beautiful surroundings have made it one of the desired places for travelers to make their holiday trip. Often referred to as the Dighapatia Rajbari, it was the home of seven generations of kings from late seventeenth century till mid-twentieth century. Picturesque description of this place makes it one of the best tourist attractions where you can visit along with your family and friends.
Dighapatia Rajbari is generally known as Uttara Gonobhaban of Natore in North Bengal. This almost three hundred years old palace was originally built by Raja Dayaram Roy, who laid the foundation of the Dighapatia dynasty. However, in his earlier life, he was dewan of Raja Ramjivan Roy, the first Raja of the Natore Raj family. In 1716, he led the army of Ramjivan Roy and taking the help of the Nawab of Bengal, he defeated the rebellious Raja Sitaram Ray, who was a zamindar (landlord) of the neighbouring Bhusna state. Because of his fidelity, dutifulness and efficiency, Ramjivan presented to him a good amount of landed property in Rajshahi, Bogra and Jessore districts. He built the Dighapatia estate out of these land grants in 1734.
The Uttara Gonobhaban was turned into wreckage after being hit by an almost 18-minute long devastating earthquake in 1897. Then Pramada Nath Roy, the sixth king of the dynasty, repaired and rebuilt the Rajbari of Dayarampur over a period of 11 years from 1897 to 1908, taking the help of foreign experts, engineers, artists and local artisans.
After the partition in 1947 and the abolition of the zamindary system under the East Bengal State Acquisition and Tenancy Act of 1950 law passed by newly formed democratic Government of East BengalÂ in theÂ Dominion of Pakistan, the last king of the Uttara Gonobhaban palace, Protiva Nath Roy, left to Kolkata.
Abdul Monem Khan, the Governor of East Pakistan, declared it as the official of the governor on 24 July 1967. On 9 February 1972, after the independence of Bangladesh, Prime Minister Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, father of the nation, declared it as Uttara Gonobhaban, an official residence of the Prime Minister in northern Bangladesh.
Opens to visitors:
Before the announcement to make it open for public, it was used as an official residenceÂ of theÂ Prime Minister of Bangladesh. However, the current government decided to open the palace for everyone. State Minister for Youth and Sports, Ahad Ali Sarkar, opened the Uttara Gonobhaban to the visitors on 25 October 2012. It remains open everyday from 11:00 am to 4:00 pm. To see this splendid royal palace, you have to buy a ticket ranging from Tk 10 to Tk 20, allowing visitors to stay 30 minutes inside the palace compound. In order to make sure security, CCTV cameras and metal detector have been installed by the local administration.
The entire Uttara Gonobhaban palace is a symbol of architectural excellence. Many visitors from all over the world visit this historical place to witness its beautiful structural engineering. Once visiting here, one is sure to become astonished by its tranquility and chirping of different types of birds. The old palatial houses and other installations, which indicate the domination of rulers, will make people ecstatic to go back to those old days. No doubt, different beautiful aspects of the site will make visitors coming back to the place for the second time.
Arched entrance gateway:
The first thing that catches the attention of the visitors is its arched entrance doorway positioned in the centre of the eastern outer wall. This three-storied pyramidal gateway of the entrance has internally connected equal-shaped rooms on its both sides. On both sides of the entrance path, there are coiled wooden staircases to move up to the first and second floors. On top of the story, there appears a big clock having two circlets next to it. It resembles the replica of the âBig Benâ in UK. It is said that king Dayaram brought this watch from England. Beside the watch, there is a big bell. Earlier the sound of the bell could be heard from long distance. The chauchala structure on topmost of the gate gives it a pyramid look. The outside of the front gate, which is over a hundred feet long, has been painted with red colour.
Main palace building:
The entrance gateway covered by greens and gardens will lead the tourists to the main palace building. It is a one-storied building which has nine bed rooms,Â a conference room, a reception hall, aÂ dining roomÂ and aÂ dance room. The reception hall is significant from other apartments because on top of it, there is a big dome built in 1967. The whole dome is decorated with star design. Except this part, the roof of this palace is flat and its construction has used iron beams so that it can bear the weight of the root. The noticeable thing is the use of white and black colored geometric designed marble stones in the steps of veranda and floors of the rooms. The most eye soothing formation is perhaps the flower garden with a water fountain, which is located in front of the southern veranda of the main palace. In both sides of the fountain, there are four vessel motif, having two one each side. There are four female figures of marble stone on the four corners of the garden, imitating the ancient Greek architecture. The distance between ceiling and floor of the reception is over 25 feet, making is much higher than the flanking apartments. Painted floral motif is used on the ceiling for beautification of the palace. There is also a single-storied âRani Mahalâ (QueenâsÂ Palace) to the south of the main palace block.
The literal meaning of Kumar is Prince. The Kumar palace, which is also known as the yellow building, is a two-storied building. Located to the southeast, it is placed between the entrance entryway and the main palace compound. The upper storey houses five rooms, including four main bedrooms and a dressing room while, in the ground floor, there is a number of rooms, which were supposedly used as store rooms. The noticeable thing of its construction is the use of mosaic on the floors of the rooms and those of verandas, except central hall room. In the means of protection, the roof is confined using the parapet wall. Another ornamentation that can be noticed in this building is the use of floral design on a broad frieze, which runs below the cornice of the outer walls of north, west and south.
It means treasury lobby, which is placed straight behind the Kumar Royal residence. To be exact, this one-storied building is positioned between the main palace and the Kumar palace. This small house is built around an open courtyard, having twenty-six rooms on each side. A corridor is expanded from east to west on the north faÃ§ade of the building. This veranda has an arcade consisting of five pointed arches. There is veranda on the east, west and north side of the central courtyard.
The most significant part of this palace is Italian Garden. Dayaram brought many furniture from Italy. That is why, it is called Italian garden. There one can find five statuses made of marble, shower and sitting bench. However, benches where brought from Kolkata. You will notice the âKolkataâ trademark written on its body. The statue titled â?????? ?????â (The daughter of the mountain) has one broken hand. It is said that during 1971, there was a looting. The wrist of this broken hand was bound (?? ????? ?????? ?????? ???? ?????? ??? ???) with gold. Of that time, Pakistani soldiers broke the hand and looted the gold.
So far you have gone through the vivid description about palaces and monuments. Except these things, you will also find a large Mandir Bari (temple complex) of Dighapatia Raj, which is located half a kilometre away on the south-east corner of the Rajbari. In this complex, there are four temples namely Durga mandir, Kali mandir, Radha-Krishna mandir and Dhulan mandir. Architectural design of theses temples are different from those of the ancient. Taking its flat roof type into consideration, one can guess that these temples will not be more than 100 years old. This temple complex is also familiar to all as âDighapatia Raj Debottar estateâ.
In spite of the palace ground being ravaged for several times in history, still there are existence of some exquisite remainders, such as the neo-classical bronze Greek sculptures, flower pots, chandeliers, engraved wooden bedstead, princely furniture and light fixes. There are also two armored knights in main entrance hall.
The Uttara Gonobhaban is three kilometres away from the Natore town in North Bengal under Rajshahi division. It is located to the east of Natore-Bogra highway. The approximate distance from Dhaka via Rajshahi Highway is 205.8 kilometres. It may take 4-5 hours to reach the spot.
Direct bus service is available from different points of Dhaka. Locations from where you will get direct bus to Natore are- kallyanpur (Mirpur Road), Panthapath (Kalabagan), Gabtoli (Mirpur), Abdullahpur (Uttara).
It is also possible to go there by train. What you have to do is that you have to get into Dhumketu Express train from Kamalapur railway station and get down in Rajshahi and Natore.
List of hotels, boarding and rest houses:
In Natore, there are a number of affordable hotels, boarding and rest houses where you can stay. Some of the famous hotels, guest house and boarding are- Hotel VIP (Borohorishpur), Hotel Millat (Madrasha More), Hotel Rukhsana (Kanaikhali, Old bus stand), Natore Boarding (Nichabazar, Hospital Road) Hotel Prince (Railway Station Bazar), Hotel Raj (Madrasha More), Natore Sugar Mills Guest House (Natore Sugar Mills area) and Hotel Nice International (Shaheb Bazar).