Dhakeshwari Temple is located in Old Dhaka, about 01 km north of Lalbagh Fort, up to a short alley off Dhakeshwari road. It is the city’s main Hindu temple. Popular legend connects the name of one king, Ballalsena, as its builder, but it is not certain that he is identical with the 12th century Sena king of that name. The style of architecture of the temple cannot be assigned to that period. Furthermore, sand and lime, the mortar used in the building, came to be used in Bengal after the Muslim conquest.
On the other hand, the architectural and structural features of the temple indicate its builder to be someone who had very little influence on the culture of Bengal. Many of the features suggest a similarity to Arakanese religion and religious practices. The existence of twin deities suggests the affinity with the Tantric Buddhism of the Maghs.
Part of Dhakeshwari Temple which is used for regular prayer. ©Photo Credit: Raw Hasan
It is assumed that the deity belonged to the Maghs and the architectural features indicate its affinity to Arakanese structures. From all these, it has been suggested that the builder of this temple was one Mangat Ray, who was also known as Ballalasena, younger brother of Arakanese king Shrisudharma, son of famous Arakanese king Raja Malhana alias Husen Shah. Mangat was obliged to take shelter in Dhaka having been driven away from Arakan.
Thus it appears that the origin of the Dhakeshwari temple is shrouded in mystery. At the beginning of the 20th century, Bradley Birt wrote that the temple is more than 200 years old and a Hindu agent of the East India Company built it. Since ages, the temple has been held in great importance. The original 800-year old statue was destroyed during the 1971 War of Independence by the invading Pakistani army. The temple complex has undergone repairs, renovation, and rebuilding in its long years of existence and its present condition does not clearly show any of its original architectural characteristics.
The actual old Shiva Temple at Dhakeshwari Temple. ©Photo Credit: Raw Hasan
There are four small temples of the same size and shape on the northeastern corner of the tank, which stand one after another from east to west. Each of them is built on a high plinth and approached by a flight of steps and has a Shiva linga inside. To the north of the nat-mandir stands the main temple facing south. It is a three-roomed structure with a veranda in front of having beautiful wooden doors with the curving of different motifs, both sculptural and floral. The temple is open every day, and people from all religions can enter inside.
Tips for visiting Dhakeshwari Temple
Dhakeshwari Temple remains closed in the afternoon from 02.00 pm to 04.00 pm. Do not go to visit the temple at that time. Leave your shoes outside while entering the temple, even when you are stepping on the stairs. There is a place beside the entrance for leaving shoes safe. They usually expect small tips e.g. 10 tk for keeping your shoes safe. Do not touch any worshiper or any of their belongings, especially food. They consider everything wasted when someone from different religions touches anything of them, especially any offering.
The entrance of Dhakeshwari Temple. ©Photo Credit: Raw Hasan
Have you ever visited Dhakeshwari Temple? How beautiful have you found it? Share your experience with us in the comments.
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Check out our Old Dhaka Tour to visit the key attractions of New and Old Dhaka, including Dhakeshwari Temple. The full-day tour starts from $55* US with an air-conditioned car, English speaking guide, all entrance tickets, lunch on a local restaurant with authentic local food, a rickshaw, and a boat ride.
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