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Dhakeshwari Temple


Dhakeshwari Temple is located in Old Dhaka, about 01 km north of Lalbagh Fort, up a short alley off Dhakeshwari road. It is the city’s main Hindu temple. Popular legend connects the name of one king, Ballalsena, as its builder, but it is not certain that he is identical with the 12th century Sena king of that name. The style of architecture of the temple cannot be assigned to that period. Furthermore, sand and lime, the mortar used in the building, came to be used in Bengal after Muslim conquest.

On the other hand, the architectural and structural features of the temple indicate its builder to be someone who had very little influence on the culture of Bengal. Many of the features, suggest similarity to Arakanese religion and religious practices. The existence of twin deities suggests the affinity with Tantric Buddhism of the Maghs.

It is assumed that the deity belonged to the Maghs and the architectural features indicate its affinity to Arakanese structures. From all these it has been suggested that the builder of this temple was one Mangat Ray, who was also known as Ballalasena, younger brother of Arakanese king Shrisudharma, son of famous Arakanese king Raja Malhana alias Husen Shah. Mangat was obliged to take shelter in Dhaka having been driven away from Arakan.

Thus it appears that the origin of the Dhakeshwari temple is shrouded in mystery. In the beginning of the 20th century Bradley Birt wrote that the temple is more than 200 years old and a Hindu agent of the east India company built it. Since ages, the temple has been held in great importance. The original 800-year old statue was destroyed during the 1971 War of Independence by the invading Pakistani army. The temple complex has undergone repairs, renovation and rebuilding in its long years of existence and its present condition does not clearly show any of its original architectural characteristics.

There are four small temples of same size and shape on the northeastern corner of the tank, which stand one after another from east to west. Each of them is built on a high plinth and approached by a flight of steps, and has a Shiva linga inside. To the north of the nat-mandir stands the main temple facing south. It is a three-roomed structure with a veranda in front having beautiful wooden doors with curving of different motifs, both sculptural and floral. The temple is open everyday, and people from all religion can enter inside.

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