Lalbagh Fort: Secret Tunnels and historical mysteries...

Dhaka, Wednesday   23 June 2021

Lalbagh Fort: Secret Tunnels and historical mysteries

 Abdur Rahman Rahad

 Published: 02:04 PM, 21 September 2019   Updated: 09:53 AM, 22 September 2019

Photo: Collected

Photo: Collected

Almost all the forts of the subcontinent have some folklore, beliefs, and mysteries throughout the ages. Those folk tales and beliefs may seem rumored and ridiculous for the civilized and modernized people but people still believe these irrelevant or childish things.

Lalbagh Fort is the most popular and renowned fort and a great signature of art by the Mughal Empire in Bangladesh. It has a year-long tradition in history. Among all the things the secret tunnel in Lalbagh fort is at the top of the list of peoples’ interests. Showing more interest in restricted things is the nature of human beings. Public entry is totally forbidden in these secret tunnels as it is said that if anyone enters into it, s/he can’t return anyway. There is a lot of talks about this. There are two very popular mysterious myths about the secret tunnel and the pond on the east side of the Lalbagh fort. 


The Sepoy Rebellion

In 1857, anti-English sepoys rebellion has begun all over India. The number of soldiers at Lalbagh fort in Dhaka was about 200. The native soldiers who lived in Lalbagh were called Kala Sepoys. When the news of the Mirat rebellion arrived in Dhaka in May, the local Englishmen became terrified. Dhaka became a city of rumors. Lalbagh's troops were quiet at that time. But to dispel suspicion and panic, a group of English troops including Lieutenant Lewis, Lieutenant Etibius, went to the fort. Kala sepoys suspected that and they had already received the news that the attack might have taken place, and then the war began. As the armories were closed, the native sepoys could not survive. In the absence of ammunition many had to surrender. Many people were killed by coughing with a bayonet. The dead body was dumped in the pond on the east side of the fort. People were arrested and given life imprisonment. After the incident, people in the city were intimidated but calm. After that, the path of this fort would not be particularly used if people did not need it. The locals said that at night, there was a shouting of people from the fort. The water of this pond was colored red for many years. The locals didn’t use the pond. Many people went missing in this pond. By the end of the British period, everything had become normal.


Secret Tunnel

Although there were several tunnels in the south of the fort, the main tunnel has been closed with an iron gate. There are many stories available about the tunnel. It used to be said that you could go to Delhi using the tunnel route! But the reality was different. It was built as a way for the Subedars to flee freely in times of war or danger. This type of tunnel is seen in all the forts of India. Generally, the design of a tunnel for the river bank was technically developed as it helped to flee from the fort in times of danger by using the river. Therefore, it can be said that this tunnel of Lalbagh does not end anywhere except Buriganga. Delhi is very far from Bangladesh. But people were more pleased and excited to say it. However, it is true that if a person enters this mysterious tunnel, s/he would never return. Because the tunnel was so dark that the light could be extinguished or nothing could be seen. Another reason is that there is lack of gas or oxygen.

In the British period, an investigation team wanted to know the end of this tunnel. They sent some chained dogs into the tunnel. After a few minutes they pulled chain and found only the chain. No dogs were found. After it, The British govt. sent some elephants but none of them ever returned. After these incidents, this tunnel was sealed by the British govt. It is thought that, the there is some types of gases in the tunnel which could make the body-bones vanished within minutes.


History of Lalbagh Fort

Mughal emperor Aurangzeb’s third son Subahdar Muhammad Azam Shah started to build it in 1678. He could not finish building it as he was called to return to Delhi. He stayed in Bengal only for 15 months. It remained incomplete when he was called by his father Aurangzeb to the capital Delhi.

Shaista Khan was the new Subedar (Governor) of Dhaka at that time. He started the incomplete work of Azam Shah as he was requested by Azam Shah to complete his incomplete work. But he did not complete the fort also. In 1684, the daughter of Shaista Khan named Iran Dukht (Pari Bibi) died there. After her death, he started thinking the fort as ominous and left the structure incomplete. Instead of it, he decided to build a mausoleum of Pari Bibi there.

After Shaista Khan left Dhaka, the fort lost its popularity. The main cause was that the capital was shifted from Dhaka to Murshidabad. After the end of the royal Mughal period, the fort became abandoned. In 1844, the area achieved its name as Lalbagh replacing Aurangabad, so this fort as Lalbagh Fort.

Different Parts of Lalbagh Fort


Tomb of Pari Bibi

Of the Mughal buildings inside the fort, Pari Bibi’s Mausoleum is the most important, as it is a unique structure. It is the only building where black basalt from Rajmahal Hills, white marble from Rajputana and encaustic tiles of various colors, have been used to decorate its interior. The roof is covered by a false copped dome and crowned by a tall finial. The interior of the mausoleum is divided into nine chambers including the 19′-0″ square central sepulcher.

All the rooms are paneled with marble. Curiously the roofs of all the nine chambers are spanned by overlapping courses of massive black basalt slabs on the principle of the corbel.

Access to the tomb-chamber is from the south, through an entrance filled with a stone door jamb and a door of sandalwood, which is decorated with a Chinese cross pattern. Opening on the other three sides is blocked by fretted marble screens. The floor of the tomb chamber is attractively laid out in geometric patterns of marble and black stone.

The Mosque

This mosque is situated in the western part of the complex, aligned with the tomb of Bibi Pari. The Lalbagh Fort mosque is a typical Bengali Mughal type- a rectangular structure crowned with three-domes. It is one of the finest examples of its kind, where the central dome is larger. The mosque is still in use and separated with a fence from the fort so that people can enter it for prayer without any ticket.

Residence of the Governor

Another structure in the fort is the residence of the governor Shaista Khan, which is a two-storied building with a projecting annex to the west, and contains the Audience Hall and the Hammam. The central hall contains a sunken ornamental fountain in the middle.

The hammam is covered by a dome which originally had an opening in it for light and ventilation. There is a masonry tank with steps leading into it, which contained temperate water for bathing. Except for the two end rooms which contain the stairs, the upper floor corresponds exactly in plan with that of the ground floor.

The South Gate

The main South Gate of the fort facing the river presents a grand appearance and rises gracefully in three stories. A lofty archway opens from the riverside into a domed square hall, which is flanked on either side by slender octagonal with two stages of oriel windows. Each is topped by a cupola.

The four corners have pillared kiosks gracefully breaking the skyline. The entrance hall of the gateway is flanked on either side with guardrooms and staircases leading to the upper story. The southern and western fortification walls, which rise to a height of about 25′-0″ from the surrounding ground level, have a number of octagonal bastions, which are largely back-filled with earth, up to rampart level, have underground cells beneath.

The Lalbagh Fort is still alive with the mysteries behind these secrets remain unsolved and the actual purpose of these architectural mazes remains unknown. Among the entire dense thing one thing is very clear that it still remains one of the most visited places of the capital Dhaka by the locals and the tourists. The traditional Lalbagh fort will enlighten all of its beauty with its mystery.