Historical beauties

Hajrat Shah Poran

Shah Paran (Shah Farhan) was a renowned Sufi saint of the Suhrawardiyya and Jalalia order. It is said that he was the son of a sister of Hazrat Shah Jalal (R) and was born in Hadramaut, Yemen. He was an accomplice of his uncle, Shah Jalal, with whom he arrived in India. In 1303 AD, He took part in the expedition of Sylhet which was led by Shah Jalal. After the conquest of Sylhet he established a khanqah at Khadim Nagar in Dakshingarh Pargana, about 7 km away from Sylhet town, where he started Sufi spiritual practices and activities. He played a significant role in propagating Islam and establishing Muslim rule in the Sylhet region.

It is unclear how and when he died, but he is buried near his khanqah. For centuries, large numbers of devotees have been visiting his tomb, a practice which continues even today. On the 4th, 5th and 6th day of Rabi-ul-Awal, the Urs of Hazrat Shah Paran (R) takes place. His grave is located in a high hillock and it is carefully preserved at a place which is built with bricks and surrounded by walls. On the northern side of the grave there is an old tree, the branches and branchlets of which are extended above the entire tomb. The name of the tree is ‘Ashagachh’ (a tree of hopes). From a close observation of the leaves of the tree, it appears that the tree has grown out of a mixture of the fig, mango and some other tree. People eat the seeds of the figs devotionally in the hope of getting rid of diseases. Mangoes are also eaten with utmost respect as Tabaruk. There is an ancient mosque by the side of the tomb. The mosque has been modernised in 1989-91. About 1500 devout Muslims in a body can now say their prayers there.

Adjacent to the main tomb complex of Shah Paran, found in the East of Sylhet, is another tomb visited by worshipers, that of Konya Shah. Legend has it that this follower of the great saints was neither man nor woman. There is a permanent exhibition of the life and times of this saint. Contemporary paintings and pictures featured at the tomb/exhibition depict a person most likely to be a eunuch. Though the original conquerors earned a prominent role in Islamic history, main stream Islam shuns the idea of worshiping saints and eunuchs.

A road bridge over the Surma River, a passenger ferry and a hall of residence at Shahjalal University of Science and Technology have all been named after Shah Paran.


Bangabandhu Bridge

Bangabandhu Bridge, also called the Jamuna Multi-purpose Bridge (Bengali: যমুনা বহুমুখী সেতু Jomuna Bohumukhi Shetu), is a bridge opened in Bangladesh in June 1998. It connects Bhuapur on the Jamuna River’s east bank to Sirajganj on its west bank. It was the 11th longest bridge in the world when constructed in 1998 and currently the 6th longest bridge in South Asia. It was constructed over the Jamuna River, one of the three major rivers of Bangladesh, and fifth largest in the world in terms of volumetric discharge.

The bridge established a strategic link between the eastern and western parts of Bangladesh. It generates multifarious benefits for the people and especially, promotes inter-regional trade in the country. Apart from quick movement of goods and passenger traffic by road and rail, it facilitated transmission of electricity and natural gas, and integration of telecommunication links. The bridge is located on the Asian Highway and the Trans-Asian Railway which, when fully developed, will provide uninterrupted international road and railway links from South-east Asia through Central Asia to North-west Europe.

History of construction

The river Jamuna (Brahmaputra), along with the lower stretch of the Padma (Ganges) divides Bangladesh into nearly two equal halves. Until now all road and rail communication between the two parts of the country has had to rely on time-consuming ferry services that were often disrupted because of navigability problems. The need for a bridge over the Jamuna River was felt, especially by the people living in northwestern Bangladesh, for a long time. This perceived need did not go unnoticed by the policy makers. The people and successive governments always longed to bridge the mighty Jamuna and thereby integrate the communication systems of the region.

Popular leader Maulana Abdul Hamid Khan Bhashani first raised the demand for construction of the Jamuna Bridge at a political level in 1949. In the 1954 provincial elections of East Pakistan, the 21-point manifesto of the united front contained a demand for the bridge. On January 6, 1964, Mohammad Saifur Rahman, a member from Rangpur in the Provincial Assembly inquired about government’s intentions with regard to the construction of a bridge over the Jamuna. On July 11, 1966, Shamsul Haque, another member from Rangpur in the same Assembly, moved a resolution for the construction of the bridge and the house adopted it unanimously.

Accordingly, a preliminary feasibility study was carried out in 1969 by Freeman Fox and Partners of UK. They recommended a rail-cum-road bridge near Sirajganj with an estimated cost of $175 million. The estimates were preliminary and a more detailed study was recommended. On the other hand, in his address to the nation over radio and television on the eve of general election in Pakistan in 1970, the Awami League leader Sheikh Mujibur Rahman mentioned the construction of Jamuna Bridge as an election pledge of his party. But all efforts were interrupted due to political unrest and liberation war.

After Bangladesh attained independence in 1971, the new government publicly stated its intention in 1972 to construct a bridge over the Jamuna and budgetary provisions were kept for the purpose in the 1972-73 budget. On being invited by the Bangladesh government, the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) funded a feasibility study through Nippon Koei Co. Ltd. in 1973 on the construction of a road-cum-rail bridge over the Jamuna.

The JICA study, completed in 1976, concluded that the Jamuna project would cost $683 million with an economic rate of return (ERR) of only 2.6%. Considering that the project was not technically and economically viable, the government abandoned it. The government revived it in 1982 and commissioned a new study to determine the feasibility of transferring natural gas to western parts of the country across the Jamuna. The study concluded that an independent gas connector was not economically viable. However, the consultants made an assessment of the engineering feasibility and cost of a combined road-cum-gas transmission bridge, which introduced the concept of a multipurpose bridge. It was estimated that a 12-km long bridge with three road lanes would cost $420 million. Upon consideration of the report, the cabinet made a decision to take immediate steps in pursuit of the project.

The Jamuna Multipurpose Bridge Authority (JMBA) was set up by an ordinance promulgated by the then President Hussain Muhammad Ershad on July 3, 1985 to implement the project. For mobilisation of domestic resources, another ordinance was promulgated by which a Jamuna Bridge surcharge and levy were introduced. A total of Tk 5.08 billion was mobilised in the process till its abolition.

In 1986, phase-I feasibility study for the bridge was carried out when the site between Sirajganj and Bhuapur (Tangail) was found to be the best. Between 1987 and 1989, the phase-II feasibility study was carried out when a road-cum-rail-cum-power bridge was found both economically and technically viable. Funding arrangements for the bridge were finally made with IDA, ADB and JBIC (formerly known as OECF) of Japan by the government of Bangladesh in 1992. Tenders were invited through international bidding for construction contracts in 1993. Contracts for the bridge, river training work and two approach roads were awarded in March 1994. The foundation stone of the bridge was laid on April 10, 1994 by the then Prime Minister Begum Khaleda Zia. Physical implementation of the project commenced on October 15, 1994, and all the components except gas transmission line were completed by June 1998. The bridge was opened for traffic on June 23, 1998.

Jamuna Multipurpose Bridge was constructed by Hyundai Heavy Industries at a cost of $696 million. The cost was shared by IDA, ADB, OECD, and the government of Bangladesh. Of the total, IDA, ADB and OECD supplied $200 million each through a loan with 1% nominal interest, and the remaining $96 million was borne by Bangladesh.

The main bridge is 4.8 km long with 47 main spans of approximately 100 metres and two end spans of approximately 65 metres. Connected to the bridge are east and west approach viaducts each with 12 spans of 10 metre length and transition spans of 8 metres. The total width of the bridge deck is 18.5 metres.

The river crossing was designed to carry a dual two-lane carriageway, a dual gauge (broad and metre) railway, a high voltage (230 kV) electrical interconnector, telecommunication cables and a 750 mm diameter high pressure natural gas pipeline. The carriageways are 6.315 metres wide separated by a 0.57 metre width central barrier; the rail track is along the north side of the deck. On the main bridge, electrical interconnector pylons are positioned on brackets cantilevered from the north side of the deck. Telecommunication ducts run through the box girder deck and the gas pipeline is under the south cantilever of the box section. The bridge has been built by Hyundai Engineering and Construction (Korea) as a ‘design and build’ contract. TY Lin Assoc. of San Francisco carried out the design as a sub-contractor for Hyundai. The approach roads were constructed by Samwhan Corporation (Korea).

Considering the fact that the width of the main channel does not exceed 3.5 km, and after making allowances for floods, a bridge length of 5 km was considered adequate. In October 1995, one year after the start of physical work of the bridge, a bridge length of 4.8 km, instead of a flood-width of the river at 14 km, was finalised. This narrowing was essential to keep the overall project cost within economic viability. It has, however, required considerable river training work to keep the river under the bridge.


To withstand predicted scourge and possible earthquakes, the bridge is supported on 80-85 meter long and 2.5 meter and 3.15 meter diameter steel piles, which were driven by powerful (240-tonne) hydraulic hammer. The superstructure of the bridge is pre-cast segments erected by the balanced cantilever method. Basic features of the bridge are length (main part) 4.8 km; width 18.5 metre; spans 49; deck segments 1263; piles 121; piers 50; road lanes 4; dual-gauge railway (broad gauge and metre gauge).


The bridge is supported on tubular steel piles, approximately 80 metres in length, driven into the river bed. Sand was removed from within the piles by airlifting and replaced with concrete. Out of the 50 piers, 21 piers are supported on groups of three piles (each of 2.5 m diameter) and 29 piers on groups of two piles (each of 3.15 diameter). The driving of 121 piles started on October 15, 1995 and was completed in July 1996.

The pier stems are founded on concrete pilecaps, whose shells were precast and infilled with in-situ reinforced concrete. The reinforced concrete pier stems support pierheads which contain bearings and seismic devices. These allow movement of the deck under normal loading conditions but lock in the event of an earthquake to limit overall seismic loads through the structure and minimise damage.


The main bridge deck is a multi-span precast prestressed concrete segmental structure, constructed by the balanced cantilever method. Each cantilever has 12 segments (each 4 m long), joined to a pierhead unit (2 m long) at each pier and by an in-situ stitch at mid span. The deck is internally prestressed and of single box section. The depth of the box varies between 6.5 metres at the piers to 3.25 metres at mid-span. An expansion joint is provided every 7 spans by means of a hinge segment at approximately quarter span. The segments were precast and erected using a two-span erection gantry.


The Jamuna bridge carries broad gauge and metre gauge rail tracks. It also carries pylons for a powerline.


Within a decade of inauguration, cracks were detected on the bridge prompting the authorities to impose limits on the number of vehicles allowed to cross at any given time. By early 2008, the government announced its intention to sue the South Korean conglomerate Hyundai for flawed design.



Jaflong is a natural tourist spot in the Division of Sylhet, Bangladesh. It is located in Gowainghat Upazila of Sylhet District and situated at the border between Bangladesh and the Indian state of Meghalaya. It is just below the mountain range. Jaflong is famous for its stone collections and is home of the Khasi tribe.


Jaflong is one of the most attractive tourist spots in Sylhet division. It is about 60 km from Sylhet town and takes two hours drive to reach there. Jaflong is also a scenic spot nearby amidst tea gardens and rare beauty of rolling stones from hills. It is situated besides the river Mari in the lap of Hill Khashia.

Stone crushing

The land grabbers occupied government khas land and reserved forestland and extracted stone by cutting small hills polluting the environment of Jaflong. They also established crushing mills on the forestland without permission from government.

Forestation program

In early 2005, Laskar Muqsudur Rahman, Deputy Conservator of Forests, Sylhet Forest Division, observed that Jaflong that he heard in his boyhood as the ‘lungs’ of Greater Sylhet was at stake due to on going encroachments and establishment of unauthorized stone crushing mills. He took initiatives to recover the land and establish a recreation-cum-botanical park named as ‘Jaflong Green Park’. The first foundation stone for the thematic Green Park at Jaflong was laid by Laskar Muqsudur Rahman, Deputy Conservator of Forests in 2005 with the cooperation of local forest staffs led by Forest Ranger Mohammad Ali. Nonetheless, at the inception it was a challenging task due to local conflicts and procedural constraints. The forestation program in Jaflong Green Park has been started under supervision of the joint forces, Jaflong Foundation and Forest Department. They have jointly taken up the forestation program with about 100 hectares of grabbed land. Under the forestation program, various types of trees, including hybrid Akash-moni, are being planted in the park to maintain ecological balance.


Shah Jalal

Shah Jalal (Persian: شاه جلال‎; Bengali: শাহ জালাল full name:Yamanī Shāh Jalāl ad-Dīn al-Mujarrad) is a celebrated Sufi Muslim figure in Bengal. Jalal’s name is associated with the Muslim conquest of north-eastern Bengal and the spread of Islam in Bangladesh through Sufism. He was buried in Sylhet, Bangladesh, formerly known as Jalalabad, while the country’s main airport is named in his honour.

Early life and education

Born Makhdum Jalāl ad-Dīn bin Muhammad, he was named al-Mujarrad (probably for his lifelong celibacy or performing of prayers in solitary milieu) and entitled Shaykh-ul-Mashāykh (Great Scholar). Shah Jalal’s date and place of birth is not certain. Various traditions and historical documents differ. A number of scholars have claimed that he was born in 1271 CE in Konya in modern day Turkey (then in the Sultanate of Rum) and later moved to Yemen either as a child or adult while the majority believe he was born in a village called Kaninah in Hadhramaut, Yemen. He was the son of a Muslim cleric, who was a contemporary of the Persian poet and Sufi mystic, Jalal ad-Din Muhammad Rumi. Shah Jalal was educated and raised by his maternal uncle Syed Ahmed Kabir in Mecca. He excelled in his studies and became a Hafiz there, increasing proficiency in Islamic theology (Aqidah). He achieved spiritual perfection (Kamaliyyah) after 30 years of study, practice and meditation.

Travel to India

According to legend, one day his uncle, Sheikh Kabir gave Shah Jalal a handful of soil and asked him to travel to India. He instructed him to choose to settle and propagate Islam in any place in India where the soil exactly matched that which he gave him in smell and color. Shah Jalal journeyed eastward and reached India in c. 1300, where he met many great scholars and Sufi mystics.

Later life

During the later stages of his life, Shah Jalal devoted himself to propagating Islam. Under his guidance, thousands of Hindus and Buddhists converted to Islam. Shah Jalal became so renowned that the famous traveller Ibn Battuta, then in Chittagong, made a one-month journey through the mountains of Kamaru near Sylhet to meet him. On his way to Sylhet, Ibn Batuta was greeted by several of Shah Jalal’s disciples who had come to assist him on his journey many days before he had arrived. At the meeting in 1345 CE, Ibn Batuta noted that Shah Jalal was tall and lean, fair in complexion and lived by the mosque in a cave, where his only item of value was a goat he kept for milk, butter, and yogurt. He observed that the companions of the Shah Jalal were foreign and known for their strength and bravery. He also mentions that many people would visit the Shah to seek guidance.

The meeting between Ibn Batuta and Shah Jalal is described in his Arabic travelogue, Rihla (The Journey). Amir Khusrau also gives an account of Shah Jalal’s conquest of Sylhet in his book Afdalul Hawaade. Even today in Hadramaut, Yemen, Shah Jalal’s name is established in folklore.


Begumbazar Mosque

The design of the mosque is quite fascinating. The mosque, with a do-chala annex on the northern side built on high vaulted terrace, is entered from the east through five arched doorways. There was a stepped well to the north east of the platform to provide water for ablutions. In course of time the well became filled up with filth and later shops were built on it. The interior of the original mosque, forming a large elongated hall (25.60m by 5.18m), is divided into five bays by four transverse arches of plain four-centred design. The central bay is square and bigger than a couple of smaller rectangular ones on either side. Underneath the platform are a series of rectangular rooms that are let out to shopkeepers. The approach to the mosque is on the east of the platform by a flight of steps. The western wall is internally recessed with five semi-octagonal mihrabs. A kitchen market was built, endowed to meet the expenses of the mosque. In 1777, the control of the market was taken over by Lovely Begum daughter of the then Naib-e-nazim Sharfaraz Khan. The name of the locality ‘Begumbazar’ originate from her name. The mosque underwent several phases of reconstruction in the past and now having further renovation work. The madrassa has been shifted from the mosque.

Very little is known about his family and parenthood. Haji Shafi of Ispahan brought him up in Iran and gave him useful education. After Haji Shafi’s death, he entered the Mughal service in India as diwan and faujdar of Golkonda. When Mughal emperor Aurangzeb was looking for an honest and efficient diwan for Bengal, his choice fell on this young man. He was transferred to Bengal in 1701 as diwan and was honoured with the title of ‘Kartalab Khan’.

He was honest and faithful to the emperor, proved to be very efficient in matters of revenue and financial administration. But while safeguarding imperial interests, he came into conflict with Azim-us-Shan, the nazim and grandson of the emperor. He was about to lose his life, but faced the problem with fortitude and courage. The emperor intervened with warning to his grandson and allowed Kartalab Khan to shift his office to Makhsudabad on the Ganges in 1702. In 1703, Kartalab Khan visited the emperor in the Deccan where he got the title of ‘Murshid Quli Khan’ and an elevation in rank. The emperor also allowed him to rename Makhsudabad as Murshidabad after his new title.

After Aurangzeb’s death in 1707, the Mughal Empire was in turmoil and faced dismemberment. Bengal was, at that time, being governed by absentee governors through their deputies. Murshid Quli Khan was recalled from Deccan in 1710 and became the deputy subehdar, on behalf of the absentee son of Farrukh Siyar, and then, after his death, of the absentee subehdar. But he continued to stay at Murshidabad. Being the highest officer present in the station, the control of affairs in the province fell in his hands. He was raised to the post of nazim of Bengal in 1716. He was loaded with titles. He secured the imperial title of “Motamul-ul-Mulk, Alauddowla Jaffer Khan, Noseri Nasir Jang (Guardian of the country, promoter of the State, Helper in War, the Defender). He transferred the capital of the province from Dhaka to Murshidabad in 1717 and reigned over Bengal, Bihar and Orissa.

He was true to his salt and did not yield to pressure, he didn’t allow the East India Company to purchase more villages around Calcutta even after the company’s receipt of the imperial farman. Murshid Quli Khan was also a good builder. Kartalab Khan’s Mosque/ Begam Bazar Mosque at Dhaka and the Murshidabad Mosque bear his name. He also opened a mint and introduced the “Zurbe Murshidabad” coin. In private life, he was extremely religious and never deviated from the path of shariat. After a successful tenure of office, he died in Murshidabad on 30 June 1727.


Chawk Mosque (Chawkbazar Shahi Mosque)

Chawk Mosque (also Chawkbazar Shahi Mosque) in Dhaka, Bangladesh, is located in the Chowk Bazaar area of the old town of Dhaka, south of the current city centre. The mosque is built above a raised platform. The three domed mosque above the platform, now transformed into a multi-storied structure was originally a copy of Shaista Khan’s another three domed mosque at the Mitford Hospital compound near the Buriganga River. Today the original building design has been lost through multiple renovations and extensions.

Interior & Exterior Design

The western half of the 3.05m high vaulted platform (28.65m from north to south and 24.38m from east to west) is occupied by the original three-domed mosque. It measures, inclusive of the four octagonal towers on the exterior angles, 16.15m by 7.92m. There are three four-centred archways in the east, all opening out under half-domed vaults. The half-domed vault of the central archway still contains beautiful Muqarnas works in stucco. Corresponding to the three eastern entrances there are three Mihrabs inside the west wall, all now remodelled. The central mihrab still has a semi-octagonal aperture, while its flanking counterparts are rectangular in design. The mihrabs are now all studded with lustrous pieces of enamel. The rectangular frames enclosing the mihrabs are now topped by rows of painted crestings. The floor of the mosque is now laid with marble.

The interior of the mosque was divided into three bays – the central one square and the side ones rectangular. All these bays were covered with domes, the central one being bigger than its flanking counterparts. This can be deduced from the newly built three-domed prayer chamber exactly above the original one, where the central dome has been kept larger than the side ones.

The vaulted rooms all round underneath the platform are either square or rectangular in shape. Many of them are now let out to shopkeepers and others are still being used as accommodation. The underceilings of these rooms are flat on the top and barrel-shaped at the sides.

The promenade around the three domed prayer chamber, since there was no separate structure for study purpose, might have been used for open-air classes and the vaulted room with book-shelves on their walls underneath the platform may have been designed to provide residential accommodation for those who used to teach and study here. In that context Chawk Mosque may be regarded as the first known example of Residential Madrasa Mosque.


The construction has been dated to 1676, as noted by an inscription in the Persian language over a doorway. The inscription attributes the project to Subahdar Shaista Khan. So far known this is the earliest dated mosque in the History of Muslim Architecture in Bengal built on a high vaulted platform. Its architectural design was perhaps influenced by Tughlaq Architectures; such as Khirki Masjid or Kalan Mosque of Delhi. Influenced by this structure some other mosques were built in Dhaka and Murshidabad.


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