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Dhakeshwari National Temple

Dhaka, Bangladesh


The Dhakeshwari National Temple is located right behind the Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology campus. It is widely seen as being the most important Hindu place of worship in the country and so you will often see devout Hindus flocking here for worship. The 11th century temple is also the oldest Hindu temple in the city and it is situated at the point where the most ancient ramparts of the city meet with the new and vibrant city of Dhaka. No one really knows much about the origin of this temple but a popular legend says it was built by Ballal Sen in the 12th century. However researchers have found that the architectural style is not consistent with that period in history. It is also nearly impossible to get a clear idea of exactly how the original temple may have looked since it has been repaired, renovated and rebuilt extensively in the many years that it has been in existence. This Temple is a great tourist attraction. The name Dhakeshwari alludes to the temple’s dedication to the Goddess of Dhaka and visitors should take care to show respect for the religious beliefs of those who frequent this large and ancient temple.
The Dhakeshwari temple was built in the 12th century by Ballal Sen, a king of the Sena dynasty, and many say the name of the city was coined after this temple. The current architectural style of the temple cannot be dated to that period because of numerous repairs, renovations and rebuilding that took place over time. It is considered an essential part of Dhaka's cultural heritage.
Within the premises of the Dhakeswari there are temples of two types of architecture. The ancient one is of the Poncharotna Goddess Durga’s which lost its actual look after the renovation work. Bradly Bird wrote this at the beginning of this century. The present temple is two hundred years old which was built by an agent of East India Company. Most probably he had renovated the temple.
The temple was panchoratno, at its front Natamandir and around it there is a row of rooms and a big pond and nahobottola gate through which elephant used to go. At its east there are tombs of some saints who used to pray or meditate at the temple. Outside the temple there are 5-6 pagoda with a shiblinga. The priest of Dhakeshawri temple used pray every day. The deity is doshvuja. It is believed that it is made of gold. At the left and right side of the deity there are some other murti. Like the ancient temples its inside is dark. To see the deity light is to be arranged. The temple is owned by many because it is bought by the new caretaker from the old caretakers. Jotindramohan bought it in 1901. Dhakeshawri is crowded but it is an abode of peace. The low sound of the tongue mixes with the evening light and tune of temple bell and make the peaceful environment a happy event.
Dhakeshwari Temple is a hub of socio-cultural as well as religious activity. Each year, the largest celebration of Durga Puja (the most important event in the Bengali Hindu calendar) in Dhaka is held at the National Temple, and a stream of dignitaries (such as the Bangladeshi President, Prime Minister, Leader of Opposition, Members of Parliament and media celebrities) come to felicitate the Bangladeshi Hindu community from the temple premises. Several thousand worshippers and onlookers (including Muslims) stream through the premises where they are offered prasad (food - usually rice and lentils). A Bijaya Sammelani (cultural program following Durga Puja) takes place in the adjoining parade ground a few days after Durga Puja is complete, and is also a major cultural event in the Dhaka calendar, regularly attracting some of the top performers from the Dhaka music and film industry.
Upon arriving at this aged temple, you will discover a permanent alter situated outside the main temple building. The alter is considered to be somewhat sacred and it is here that the annual Puja (worship) is paid to the goddess Durga. Once you pass the alter and make your way inside, you will find four identical structures that are all devoted to the god Shiva. This is not at all unusual for a temple in Bangladesh since Shiva is widely revered in this country. In fact more statues of the goddess can be found to the east of the main temple. There are architectural flourishes and interesting decorations everywhere. In fact, the temple is so large, old and interesting that there can be little wonder that it has been chosen to serve as the National Temple of Bangladesh. The temple continues to see regular use, including day-long prayers which are common practice in Bangladesh on national holidays and birth and death anniversaries of popular leaders. So tread lightly and make sure you don’t get in anyone’s way when you are visiting the Dhakeshwari National Temple.

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