travelling to Moghul Bangladesh with Mohur

Sometimes you come across something so striking you want to share the experience, so that’s what I’ll do today. I’d like to take you to Bangladesh, not present day Bangladesh, but Moghul era Bangladesh (1526-1858).

Dhaka became the capital of the Moghul province of Bengal in 1608. It was one of the largest and most prosperous cities of the Indian subcontinent and the center of the worldwide muslin trade. During this era the part of Dhaka now called Puran Dhaka (Old Dhaka) was built. During our visits to Dhaka we visited the area with Taimur Islam from the Urban Study Group, an organisation devoted to saving the heritage of Dhaka that is severely under threat. We visited Choto Katra, this is one of the two Katras (caravanserais) built during Moghul’s regime in Dhaka, Bangladesh. It is now crumbled and barely recognisable because of many illegal buildings in and around it.

choto katra dhaka 1880
Choto Katra around 1880
choto katra dhaka now
The main entrance to Choto Katra now, almost impossible to photograph because of all the surrounding buildings

It’s really sad to see all of these wonderful buildings crumbling and in deplorable state, being bulldozed to make way for more high-rise. Imagine what Puran Dhaka would look like if restored to its former glory. Reminding us of the time Bangladesh was a prosperous country.

choto katra dhaka restored
A visualisation of a restored Choto Katra by the Urban Study Group

Upon receiving some samples of Neela Vermeire‘s perfumes, they took me right back. Especially her Mohur. It took me back to Dhaka, not to the Dhaka I’ve visited, but to the Dhaka of 400 years ago. And to the Dhaka that I hope could once again be a reality. Mohur has a melancholy feel to it. It is very much a rose perfume, a woody and spicy rose. To me it conjures images of palaces constructed with sandalwood beams, roses & jasmine growing abundantly in the palace gardens. Spices like coriander and cardamom being sold in the narrow bustling streets of Puran Dhaka, almond milk being sold by street vendors.

shakari bazar puran dhaka
A visualisation of a restored Shakari Bazar by the Urban Study Group

I would love to be able to walk around in this image. For now it seems to become ever more unlikely, but we can dream. Neela Vermeire helps me to dream, but I would certainly hope the bureaucracy of nowadays Dhaka will listen to the Urban Study Group.

mohur_extrait neela vermeire
Mohur by Neela Vermeire, image Neela Vermeire

Do you want to travel some more virtually trough Bangladesh? Read more here about travelling in Bangladesh & India.

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