Lalbagh Fort Garden
Dhaka, Bangladesh

Lalbagh is an incomplete 17th-century fort located in the heart of the old city of Dhaka. Built under the patronage of Prince Azam Shah, son of Emperor Aurangzeb, the Mughal structure is of significance to the city of Dhaka. Compared to Mughal structures across the Indian subcontinent, the fort complex is smaller in scale and grandeur but it is considered to be a fine example of Mughal architecture in Bangladesh. It is one of the few surviving structures from the era in the city of Dhaka.

A popular tourist attraction, the vast expanse of the fort complex is a significant green space in the otherwise congested area, offering respite to the 18.9 million residents of the city of Dhaka. An estimated 3.7 million residents live in the immediate locality of the fort complex. Spread across 19 acres the garden has the potential to improve the quality of life for the residents of the city and could become an important public garden.

The structures in the complex require some minor conservation interventions aimed at the long-time preservation of the structures. Conservation works will be aimed at reviving the architectural grandeur of the structures and restoring the architectural integrity of the complex. A leading tourist destination, visited by both foreign and domestic visitors, conservation works here will enhance the setting of the site and its immediate context.

The gardens of the fort complex are laid in a simple char bagh with connecting pathways and waterways. The gardens will require extensive landscape restoration to revive the lost grandeur of the Mughal garden. Landscape restoration will need to be preceded by extensive efforts to understand the extent of the garden and the now-defunct water systems. The landscape restoration will be guided by a detailed landscape plan detailing the revival of water systems and fountains, sensitive planting, and provision of visitor amenities. Coupled with carefully selected landscape planting, the gardens would revitalise the densely inhabited neighbourhood.

The fort complex of Lalbagh is located on the banks of the Buriganga river in the old city of Dhaka. Construction of the fort was started in 1678 AD by Prince Azam Shah, son of Emperor Aurangzeb, during his period as the Viceroy of Bengal. His successor, Shaista Khan, however never continued the construction and the fort remained incomplete.

Construction is believed to have been abandoned mainly due to the death of the daughter of Shaista Khan, Iran Dukht, popularly known as Bibi Pari. She was betrothed to Prince Azam, and upon her death, Nawab Shaista considered it inauspicious to continue the project. One of the main buildings in the complex is the Tomb of Bibi Pari.

After the end of the Mughal period, the fort was abandoned and remained unoccupied for a long period of time. This period saw the loss of architectural features and structural decay of the fort complex. During 1947 – 1970, prior to the independence of Bangladesh, the fort was used as police barracks and much of the complex was built over.

The complex is now under the care of the Department of Archaeology, Government of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh. The Department has since carried out some minor conservation works at the complex and carried out excavations across the complex. Several modern structures have also been demolished to retain the architectural integrity of the complex. The Lalbagh Fort now sits in a dense urban environment surrounded by modern buildings.


The rectangular fort encompasses an area of 19 acres which consists of the mausoleum of Bibi Pari, a mosque, the Audience hall/hammam, a large water reservoir, and military barracks. Only three gateways and a long fortification wall with semi-octagonal bastions on the south side and high defense walls running along the western side remain.

Diwan – i – Aam/Hammam

The Lalbagh Hammam and Audience Hall is one of the main surviving monuments of the Lalbagh Fort complex. It is thought to be the residence of the Governor Nawab Shaista Khan. The two-storied structure is an interesting blend of Mughal architectural style with local building traditions. A distinctive feature is the gracious, curvilinear roof that recalls the typical thatched do-chala huts of rural Bengal. A modest structure, the facade is not elaborately detailed.

The ground floor consists of a central hall with an ornamental tank and fountain. Across from the fountain is another arched entrance under a half-dome that allows access to the main hammam chamber. The Department of Archaeology has carried out studies here to understand the water systems and discovered a network of copper pipes. Traces of tile work still remain in the structure. Further testing will be required to determine the material and authenticity of the tile work.

The upper floor is similar in plan to the residential section below and is currently used as a museum display. The audience hall corresponds to the central hall below and is flanked to the north and south by an apartment. The large hall has foliated arches which would have originally been covered with stone lattice screens, which have now been replaced with cement lattice screens. The arches spring from four slender, ornamental sandstone columns. The arches are now blocked off internally by the site museum display.

Mausoleum of Bibi Pari

The tomb has identical facades with plaster designs decorated in relief, with octagonal minarets at each corner. The minarets are capped with ribbed plaster domes. In the centre is a copper dome topped by a finial which was once gilded. The facades are divided into three sections, with each section having an entrance doorway. These are now blocked by metal gates.

The single domed structure follows a plan similar to that of Humayun’s Tomb with the main chamber in the centre and ancillary chambers in the four corners, connected via passages. The entrance to the tomb chamber is restricted to the south with a sandalwood door. The three remaining openings are blocked by marble lattice screens and the interior walls of the tomb chamber are faced with white marble. The flooring of the main chamber has a geometric pattern of marble and black stone with a corbelled black stone roof above. The central cenotaph is also made of white marble.

The ancillary chambers have tile work till dado level and deterioration of glazing is noted in several areas. There is also loss of plaster in the walled surfaces. The passages connecting the chambers are faced with marble till dado level and here too there is loss of plaster noted in the walled surfaces. The roof of the passages are corbelled black stone, similar to the main chamber.

The raised stone platform of the mausoleum has a central tank on three sides which corresponds with the water channels leading up to the mausoleum. In the south, however, there are three lime plaster graves rather than a tank.


The mosque is located at the western part of the enclosure aligned with the tomb. The mosque is considered to be one of the finest examples of the amalgamation of Mughal-Bengali/Shaista Khani architecture. Thestructure is divided into three bays with three ribbed domes, buttressed by four corner octagonal minarets. The three bays of the main facade each contain an entrance doorway to the interior corresponding with the three domes and adorned by cusped arches. The central bay is the largest and is emphasised by a frame of slender columns and a larger dome. The mosque is functional and modern interventions and electrical fittings are noted in the interior. Traces of painting are visible on the ceiling of the interior domes, while most of the wall and ceiling surfaces have been white-washed.


The southeastern gateway is a majestic structure built in the Mughal style. It was intended to be three storeys, but the upper storey was never completed. The inner facade has a four-centered archway with deep plastered semi octagonal alcoves on either side. Short octagonal minarets define the edges. The outer facade also has a four-centered archway flanked with plastered semi-octagonal alcoves. Above each alcove there is an oriel window in two stages that is capped by an elegant dome. The central archway leads to a square domed hall with guardrooms on either side. Two other gateways are still existing, one in the northeast and the other in the northwest.

Dhaka, Bangladesh
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Associated Names
Part of Site
1678/1089 AH
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Variant Names
Lal Bagh Fort Garden
Fort Aurangabad Garden
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