Teota palace in Manikganj in need of protection

Shahjahan Biswas
Teota palace

Frontal view of a 250-year-old palace in Manikganj, known for the congregation of anti-British independence activists including Nazrul, which marked some highlights of the poet’s life including his first encounter with wife-to-be Pramila Devi. — New Age photo

Despite the historical significance of Teota Zamidarbari at the Shibalaya Upazila of Manikganj, which National Poet Kazi Nazrul Islam visited on several occasions, initiatives are yet to be taken to safeguard his legacy and protect the palace from falling into ruin.
The 250-year-old palace, known for the congregation of anti-British independence activists including Nazrul, also marked some of the highlights of the poet’s life including his first encounter with wife-to-be Pramila Devi.
Pramila, originally known as Ashalata Sen, was born in the village Teota on May 10, 1908.
That it was her birthplace was not known until about a decade ago when some local and Dhaka-based writers and journalists established the fact through research.
‘Teota is very significant not only because this is where Pramila was born but also because of the palace, which Nazrul and other anti-British activists made it a point to visit,’ said journalist Babul Akter Manjur.
‘Cultural activities revolving around the palace began in 2008 but they remain confined to ceremonies on his birth and death anniversaries.’
Babul, who heads an organisation called Nazrul-Pramila Institute, is one of the activists that have been pushing for building a lasting memorial to the famous couple.
It has been learnt that Pramila Devi lost her father when she was 12/13 years old. Along with her mother she took up residence in the house of her youngest uncle, Indra Kumer Sen, the inspector of court at Comilla.
Nazrul and Pramila were married in 1924 in Comilla, but they visited Teota several times both before and after their marriage.
Pramila’s house was situated beside the Teota Zamidarbari. The zamindar, Kiron Shankar Roy Chowdhury, was involved in anti-British movement and quickly hit it off with the revolutionary poet. It is said that poets, writers and independence activists would often congregate in the palace.
Nazrul wrote a number of poems during his stay in the village, including ‘Nari,’ ‘Lichu Chor,’ and ‘Chhoto Hitler,’ as well as many songs including ‘Keno Prem Jamuna Aji Holo Adhir’ and ‘Neelambari Saree Pore Neel Jamunay Ke Jai.’
He would sit by the river Jamuna while writing, immersed in the beauty of the river and the nature surrounding it.
In 2008, after Pramila’s ancestral connection to the village was established, the palace drew mainstream attention while a number of cultural organisations sprang into action. Among them are Nazrul-Pramila Institute, Teota Nazrul Pramila Sangskritik Gosthi, Shibalaya Nazrul Pramila Sahitya Parishad, and Teota Zamidarbari Kendrio Pathagar.
Nazrul Institute organised a three-day convention on the palace premises in December 2015, with the cultural affairs minister, ministry secretary, NI director general, Nazrul researchers, artistes and writers in attendance.
Meanwhile, the activists put forward an eleven-point demand that included establishment of a Nazrul-Pramila Institute, Nazrul-Pramila University, Nazrul-Pramila Library, and Nazrul-Pramila Memorial on the spacious palace premises.
‘A university, dedicated to Nazrul-Pramila’s memory, will serve several purposes,’ said Md Saiful Islam, general secretary of Teota Nazrul Pramila Sangskritik Gosthi. ‘Not only will it help save the palace from falling apart, but the students of the region will also get access to higher education.’
According to sources, the palace sits on a plot of 10 acres, about three kilometres north of Aricha Ghat. There are two big ponds as well as a Nabaratna Dol Mancha where Dol puja is held every year. There are also two temples on the northern and southern sides of the main building.
Nazrul activists submitted their 11-point demand to the prime minister on March 20, 2012. In this regard, the cultural ministry sought opinion from the directorate of archaeology and deputy commissioner of Manikganj on April 22, both of whom recommended implementing the demands.
Already, the Nabaratna Dol Mancha was renovated, which came on the heels of an announcement by the prime minister to construct a museum there after the name of Nazrul.
But activists say there has been little progress in the implementation of their demands. Apart from celebrations of Nazrul’s birth and death anniversaries, no cultural activities and events are organised centrally.
Filmmakers sometimes use the palace ground as shooting spot, they say.
Shibalaya Nazrul Pramila Sahitya Parishad’s general secretary, Mojammel Hoque, said there has been no visible progress on the demands of the activists. ‘It’s important that these demands are met, for the sake of Nazrul and for the sake of such a historically significant palace.’

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