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Documenting Bangladesh

Baishali Adak, Dec 6, 2012 23:58 IST
historical The Armenian Church in Armanitola, old Dhaka, was established in 1781.

It may have been more than a century since united Bengal was divided, but the community members still yearn to meet and know their brethren on the other side of the border.

Many travel to their forefather’s birthplace, some make religious pilgrimages, while the rest just catch a train and set out to explore the forbidden land.

Arindam Mukherjee, a research scholar at the Archaeology Department, Calcutta University, decided to discover the neighbouring country through his lens, and is now sharing his experiences through a photo exhibition ‘Glimpses of Bangladesh.’

He informs Metrolife, “As a young Bengali kid, you are inundated with stories about Bangladesh – its natural beauty, people, links from the past – all of which are hugely fascinating. Then, through my archaeological studies, I came to know that Bangladesh is a treasure trove of historical, religious and cultural heritage. This is in the form of architecture, music, dance, writings and colourful festivals.”

Therefore, I started on a journey to know Bangladesh six years back. Beginning with Dhaka – the Capital, I moved southwards to Jessore, Khulna, Bagerhat, Barisal etc., followed by the northern part of the country – Rajshahi and Dinajpur and finally the Eastern border areas Sylhet and Chittagong. I covered 64 districts of Bangladesh in all, over several visits amounting to seven months.”

Arindam’s exhibition covers a wide cross-section of important religious sites in Bangladesh. He has, for the first time, documented the seven shaktipeeths in Bangladesh. These are spots where Goddess Sati’s body parts are believed to have fallen when Lord Vishnu dismembered them.

These are spread over places like Kumira – hidden in dense forests, Josheshwari, Sitakundo, Baurbhag etc..

Then, he has photographed Buddhist monasteries like the Paharpur Buddha Vihar, Comilla Buddha Vihar, Wari Bateshwar monastery etc. He has also clicked the Armenian Church in Armanitola area of old Dhaka which is an architecturally significant monument established in 1781.

He has photographed many majestic havelis of erstwhile zamindars which now stand abandoned and in ruins. These include one in Puthia (Rajshahi), Barisal, Manikganj etc., besides, the three mansions of the Tagore family in Shilaidaha, Patiser and Shahjadpur.

Other than these, he has also shot Bangladeshis rejoicing during their various festivities – Eid, Shab-e-barat, Durga puja, Kali puja, Saraswati puja etc. Arindam says, “During Janmashtami, a huge procession is brought out in Dhaka and boat processions are held in various rural areas like Barisal. The magnificence of it has to be seen to be believed.”

He adds, “Many of these sites I have photographed are not being maintained and could be lost in the years to come if the authorities do not take responsibility for them. I would hereby like to request governments of both the countries to come forward and take care of them. These have withstood the travails of many millenniums. We must make sure that they stand tall in future as well.”

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