Author Archives: admin

Welcome to Baro Sardar Bari, Bangladesh’s foremost restoration project

28 August, 2017
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In 1902 the historic building complex was renovated by a merchant, who added a verandah to the back courtyard (pictured above), created a front courtyard to match the back, and built a new entrance to the complex which was richly ornamented with Chinni Tikri or China mosaic.
The inscriptions over the archways in the back verandah are all invocations to Lord Vishnu- ‘Sri Govindaye Nama Nama’, ‘Namaste Sri Gopinath’.
This red structure, that served as a gatehouse, is the oldest part of the complex and resembles the style of architecture developed during the reign of Baro Bhuyian in Bengal (1538-1612), when it was probably built.
Early expert brick work could support steps without the need for additional load bearing structures.
When the complex was renovated, Chinni Tikri or China mosaic was liberally embellished on the surfaces. While China mosaic was commonly used in the flooring of homes in colonial Bombay, in East Bengal it was predominantly used on the facades.
The illuminated model showing the three main units that make up the grand residential complex, with the gatehouse in the middle linking the front and back courtyards.
Dr. Abu Sayeed M. Ahmed, head of the Department of Architecture at the University of Asia Pacific (Dhaka), has masterfully restored the complex over a period of four years. He documents the process in his book Unfolding the Past: Conservation of Baro Sardar Bari.
The restoration project was funded by the Youngone Corporation of Seoul, a leading garments manufacturer in Bangladesh. Mr. Kihak Sung, the Chairman and CEO of the Corporation, has previously restored his ancestral village in South Korea.
The western facade of the complex overlooks a pond.

Interiors: Baro Sardar Bari
Sonargaon, Bangladesh.

Sonargaon, the administrative and maritime centre of Bengal during the medieval period (1296-1608), takes centre stage once again with the restoration of the historic Baro Sardar Bari building complex.

The restoration demonstrates how layers of building and adaptations over a period of 500 years can be highlighted through the original materials used (brick in the medieval period, china mosaic in the colonial) as well as through the various commercial and residential uses to which the structure was put.

As Bangladesh’s foremost restoration project, the Baro Sardar Bari deserves a national opening.

Many thanks to Nausher Rahman, the Digital Communications Director at Bitopi Leo Bernett, for his warm hospitality.

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Back in baby’s arms

14 June, 2017
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Statues: Esplanade House (1887)
Waudby Road, Fort.

When Busy strayed on Sunday evening from the Breach and Sailor with the white star on his breast went missing at Khetwady, their owners turned to the Bombay press.

‘Dog Lost’, ‘Stolen or Gone Astray’, notices were published on the front page. A handsome reward was promised on the dog’s return.

Yet often in the notices no address was given to which the dog could be returned. Only the owner’s name was mentioned. Why so?

The world encompassed by the daily press of the 1860s was so small, the citizens that featured so familiar, that the front page of the paper read like a Facebook feed. Newspaper offices themselves often served as the first port of call so that Busy was as likely to be escorted back to the Bombay Gazette office as she was to her owner Mr W. Trevor Roper’s arms.

This post is in memory of Oscar Parmar who strayed at midnight on 31st May from Babulnath Road.

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Have you seen my wife Mr. Jones?

19 May, 2017
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Furniture: Jones Lodging House

Rachel Lodge, Merewether Road, Colaba.

Lesser than a hotel and more than a boarding house, lodges were a popular form of accommodation in Bombay in the early 20th century.

They offered something of the privacy of a hotel, without the convenience of in-house catering, and were preferable to the intimacy of the boarding house, where Bombay’s landladies embarked on bouts of excessive drinking with their boarders and even died from an overdose of alcohol.

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Zara Zara missing our maritime history

9 May, 2017
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Motifs: Ismail Buildings (1906)

Hornby Road, Fort (presently Zara Department Store, Dadabhai Naoroji {D.N.} Road).

Nautical motifs were important symbols for the Yusufs, a prominent Memon family invested in the shipping trade. The signboard of their office at Abdul Rehman Street had a representation of a boat which was ‘a singular attraction for seafarers for a long time’ reported The Times of India in 1914. The name ‘Agboatwalla’ was often added to the family name.

In the 1890s, the Yusufs purchased all the rights and titles of the firm Messrs. Shepherd and Company, progressing from vendors to owners of the firm well known for its coasting ships. A few years later, Haji Ismail Hassam, one of the three partners, bought the other family members out.

**Seafarers will now have to spot the nautical stripes on Zara’s clothing and turn to the Flora Fountain for the singular attraction in the vicinity.

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Crossing to Colaba

4 May, 2017
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Boundaries: The Island of Bombay (1838)

Even 30 years after the Island of Bombay was connected to Colaba by a causeway, Colaba was far from a fashionable locality.

Sanatoria and asylums, warehouses and store rooms, printing presses and cotton presses commanded the precincts of Lower, Middle and Upper Colaba.

A strong military presence in the locality meant that the options for an evening’s entertainment were limited to viewing H. M.’s 103rd Royal Bombay Fusiliers perform “The Artful Dodge” at the Colaba Theatre or attending a temperance meeting where the evil effects of the Canteen system were set forth.

**Lower Colaba, also called Small Colaba, was the area that comprised the Old Woman’s Island.

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