Ahsan Manzil – The Pink Palace


Once the official residential palace of the Nawabs of Dhaka, now Ahsan Manzil or the Pink Palace is a museum and one of the most visited places in Dhaka. The 5.5-acre premise of this palace bears the significance as an architectural reminder of the elite life of the Nawabs of Dhaka during the colonial era of 19th and early 20th century. In 1872, the patriarch of the Nawab family, Abdul Ghani (1813-1896), constructed the family’s official residence on the bank of the River Buriganga in old Dhaka and named the palace after his son Nawab Khwaja Ahsanullah (1846-1901). It’s mostly European styled building mixed with some decorative Indian motifs. Its soaring dome appears to be more about impressing the viewer on the exterior, rather than within the interior.
Many important persons of the Colonial period either visited or stayed here. Viceroy Lord Nathaniel Carson was one of them. He stayed here as a guest of Nawab Salimullah Bahadur in 1904. In 1906 Muslim leaders from all over India congregated at the Durbar Hall of Ahsan Manzil for the 20th Session of the All India Mohammedan Educational Conference in Dhaka.
In the same year here the All India Muslim League was formed that later lead the creation of Pakistan-when the British left the Indian subcontinent in 1947. 16 years after its erection, it was damaged by a cyclone. After its reconstruction, the palace became grander than before. After the death of the Nawab and his son, the family fortune was dispersed and the palace eventually fell into disrepair.
As the influence and the prestige of the Nawabs declined in the 20th century and the descendants of the Nawabs became too poor to look after such a vast property, The then Government took over this palace in 1952. However, the poor descendants of the Nawab family and the poor local people continued to hold the palace until the 1970s. They inflicted much harm to the building by indiscriminately altering its configuration. In 1985 the Government of Bangladesh acquired the property and after much deliberation decided to convert it into a national museum. The preservation work completed in 1989 and Ahsan Manzil started its journey as a museum in 1992.