Dhaka (1608-1757) / Urban fabric of Mughal Period

The modern urban fabric was influenced by the street network from Mughal Dhaka. The layout of the city was in clusters of areas and the street network was irregular and intricate. The unsystematic pattern of roads from Old Dhaka (within the Lalbagh and Kotwali areas) is visible in the modern maps with the webbed and winding roads that form organic spatial patterns around densely built buildings.

During the Mughal period, the basic urban pattern was divided into a number of mohallas (neighbourhoods).  The mohallas were interconnected with dirt roads, which were paved with bricks in 1677-791. The network was divided into the hierarchy of courtyards, narrow lanes, nodes and bazaars that manifested the socio-cultural activity. The administrative centre was located in the old fort area and served as the centre of the city, and the adjacent market places and the surrounding residential mahollas follow the well-established pattern with winding roads.

Boundary of Mughal Dhaka © 1800

The formation of streets were related to the course of the river. There were two principal roads- one that ran parallel to the river from Victoria Park to the western fringe of the city, and another that extended from Victoria Park to Tejgaon2. Within the intricate street network of Mughal Dhaka, intersections were nodes that acted as civic space. These local nodes served as relief and activity spaces in the pedestrian scale.

Larger public areas were chowks that were the public squares and bazaars. The Chowk Bazar was served for trading for both the upper class and lower class, and the Bangla Bazar was the shopping centre before the Mughal period. The Chowk bazaar in particular was the main square that acted as a market place or emporium of the city during the Mughal period. It was located next to the Buriganga hence was a popular commercial space. It was the link to water transport and commercial merchandise, and brought in popular commodities like the famous ‘muslin’ cloth, pottery, arts and crafts products3.

Chowk Bazaar © Charles D’Oyly 1814

 1 Dani, A. H. (1962) Dacca – A Record of its Changing Fortune. Asiatic Society, Dhaka.

2 Islam, N. Khan K. (1964) High class residential areas in Dacca city The Oriental Geographer, Vol. viii.

3 Hossain, N. (2001) The Socio-Spatial Structure of “Spontaneous” Retail Development in Dhaka City.

1 Comment on “Dhaka (1608-1757) / Urban fabric of Mughal Period

  1. The years around 1608 are certainly significant to the establishment of the city of Dhaka. It was the time when the town being announced as the capital of Bengal under Mughal rule that the place transformed gradually to a city with a notable increase in population. In a land that is located on the banks of a river, its habitation would certainly rely largely on water, both as a necessity of life and topographical advantage. Though it remains hypothetical in my opinion, it is interesting to see how ‘The formation of streets were related to the course of the river.’ as a derivation on how natural determinants attributed to a city’s formation.

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