One of our bases during our time in Bangladesh was the university town of Rajshahi.
Built on the northern banks of the Padma River, Rajshahi is a bustling town with a smattering of old historical buildings; it also has a riverbank walkway that makes for a pleasant stroll. On our arrival day we walked around the town and took in its history through the crumbling buildings and architecture; most required just a quick stop and a photo.
We did, however, take a walk around the grounds of the Government College. Given that it was full of students, we had lots of curious stares, selfie requests and the normal twenty questions of interrogation about who we were, where we were from, how we liked Bangladesh etc. This was especially true of one particular guy we met who wanted to practice his English; he was so nervous speaking to us that his hands were actually shaking!
Once we’d seen the buildings we walked along the river bank that was, unfortunately, rather run down and appeared to have a few dodgy characters roaming around. After a brief stop at a local chai stall we decided to head back to our hotel, which was actually one of the nicer places we stayed during our trip.
Our main aim was to use Rajshahi as a base for a few day trips and so the next day we started reasonably early for a day trip to Puthia. This quiet little village, just a 30 minute bus ride away, has a cluster of old temples that, if it were a more touristy country, would be rammed with people. Thankfully, it hasn’t got to that stage yet!
In a small cluster we saw the towering Shiva Temple, which sits at the entrance to Puthia village, and the Govinda Temple that houses a Krishna shrine and is visited by many of the local Hindu population. The Govinda Temple, located inside the palace, is especially beautiful with intricate terracotta designs embellishing the surface.
Close by is another small complex of three temples, Govinda, Gopala and Anika. After loitering outside the locked gate for a while, a friendly man approached and let us in; the temples were well maintained, all with domed egg-shell roofs.
After seeing these we took a look at the rather dilapidated yet equally grand looking Puthia Palace, taking centre stage on a green lawn. Some local boys playing cricket there added to the tranquility of village life.
Facing the palace across the maiden is Dol Mandir, a white pyramid-shaped temple with four tiers. The sights of Puthia were worthy of the trip but we covered them very quickly; we therefore decided to move on to another nearby place of interest.
A further 30 minutes from Puthia lies the village of Natore; not mentioned in the Lonely Planet, we found out about it from a blog we had read. Another small rural village, local residents had evidently seen very few foreign tourists, given the curious stares we received as we made our way to the Rani Bhabanir Rajbari, a historical palace in a gated complex.
It took us a while of walking around and asking for directions before we eventually found it. We were allowed in after we’d paid a fee of 20 Taka; inside we had multiple selfies with some locals and two smiling police officers, who kept reassuring us that if we had any problem we should contact them.
Unfortunately the palace was in a state of disrepair and the grounds were not very well cared for but, judging by the grand appearance and imposing facades of the buildings, it was clearly very prestigious back in its day. There wasn’t much more to hang around for and so, once we felt we’d seen enough, we made our way back by local bus to Rajshahi.
We felt like the day trip had been a success as we had seen and done everything that we had wanted to but we felt a little let down by the sights, as although they were nice, they could have been a little more looked after.
The next day we made a very long excursion – and by long I mean a 3 hour rickety, bumpy ride by local bus – to Sona Masjid. Located in Gaud, which serves as a border town between Bangladesh and India, Sona Masjid is a sight of great historical importance to all Muslims.
Chhoto Sona Masjid or ‘Small Golden Mosque’ is oddly named given the fact that it is jet black in colour. It is very active on Fridays for prayers but we were there on a Sunday so activity was very low at the time; not only that but it was also raining heavily! In fact it rained continuously the entire day. I felt particularly sorry for Lynette given the fact that the day we visited was actually her birthday!
Once we had seen the small but impressive main attraction we took some time to seek out the other sights in the area, which were few and far between and required lots of walking, asking for directions, left turns and right turns.
Next up was the Tahkhana Palace Ruins, a small complex with the principal building being the palace itself. Just beyond the palace lies the attractive Shah Niamatullah Mosque, a three-domed mosque built in 1560, and the Mausoleum of Shah Niamatullah Wali with one dome and four squat towers.
We planned on seeing another mosque that was a little out of the way (Darasbari Mosque) but given the terrible condition of the muddy roads, the horrid weather and the fact that time was getting on, we decided to skip it.
We did, however, after picking up a small entourage of local kids as ‘guides’, manage to find the small Khania Dighi Mosque, a single-domed mosque in excellent condition. It was hidden away under a canopy of mango trees and is still actively used; it was a bit of a gem to find as it made for a nice sight to see in a peaceful rural setting.
As we reached the main road we heard that a bus would soon be departing for Rajshahi. With no clue when the next one would be and with a three hour journey ahead of us, we took the opportunity to make our way back.
We didn’t fully succeed in our mission to see all of the sights but the ones that we did find were nice to photograph and offered a visual insight into the history of the area. Making the trip was hard going and the border town of Gaud wasn’t exactly pleasant but we made the effort to see what we could, given the weather that day, and were glad we did.
From Rajshahi your next stop in Bangladesh should be Bustling Bogra. Click to find out how to do this town justice!