Monday, June 09, 2008

Rajshahi - City of Silk and Mangoes
June 9, 2008

I went to Rajshahi this past weekend with my friends Mikey, Belinda, and Majbritt (all of us are in the tourism industry). It is mango season there now and Mikey had to go there for research for his guidebook so the rest of us tagged along to see the mangoes and monuments. Rajshahi is known for its mango orchards, silk weaving, and high concentration of historical mosques.

The first day we went to the mango market. It was quite a sight! There were hundreds of vangaris carrying mangoes into the market where they were sold to vendors who would ship them to Dhaka. Apparently we were as interesting to the people in the market as the market was to us! We had hundreds of people gather around us whenever we stopped anywhere. Mikey and Bel eventually found a building where we could stand on the roof and take pictures without crowds of people closing in on us.

We decided to buy a (large!) basket of mangoes before we left. Mikey volunteered to brave the crowds and get the mangoes while Majbritt, Belle, and I waited in the van. When we opened the doors and windows to get some air, however, we were again mobbed with men who had come to stare at us. So we sat sweating profusely in the van for over a half an hour while Mikey and the Mango Men packed up our fruit.

The same day we also stopped at some of the mosques in the area. Rajshahi has the largest concentration of mosques in Bangladesh. It is certainly the nicest collection of monuments that I have seen since I have been here.

We stayed at the Parjatan Hotel the first night which was a typical, rundown Bangladeshi hotel. The second night we moved to the Chez Razzak guest house which was a little ways out of town, but MUCH nicer. The place was in a quiet residential area and seemed quite new. The rooms were not stylish, but they were very clean and comfortable. It was probably the nicest accommodation that I have stayed in while in Bangladesh.

Before leaving on Saturday we stopped at Puthia. Puthia has several nice old temples including the Govinda and Shiva Temples and a very run down Rajbari. (I fantasized that I would get a lease from the government and restore the rajbari into a heritage hotel. Perhaps a future project!)

Chodo Sona Mosque
On the first day we went to the Chodo Sona Mosque.

Chodo Sona Mosque Carvings
The mosque had some beautiful carvings on the outside.

Takhana Palace
We also went to visit this palace on the first day. It reminded me of Lalbagh (the Red Fort) in Dhaka...

Mango Market
While the temples were interesting, we were all extremely interested to see the Mango Market. The road was so filled with mangoes, people, and vangaris that we had to park our van and walk into the heart of the market. Of course as soon as we stepped out of the car we were surrounded by curious Bangladeshis. Mikey and Belle finally managed to find a way to beat the crowd - they found a three story building and convinced the owner to let them climb to the top to take some photos. I have never seen so many mangoes in my entire life!

Getting the Mangoes to Market
The street was packed with vangaris (like rickshaw trucks) carrying large baskets of mangoes to the market.

Majbritt and Her Admirers

When we were waiting for Mikey to get back with the mangoes we were overrun by curious Bangladeshis! (This is pretty typical behavior in Bangladesh - especially outside of Dhaka!)

Due to time constraints we had to drop the picnic in the mango orchard from our itinerary. We did see numerous mango trees as we traveled around, however. I was surprised by how long the mango stems were!

Tea Stall
Our first day schedule was quite packed and we were all a bit tired from the heat and excessive attention so we stopped at a tea stall for a little break. These tea stalls are everywhere in Bangladesh; even the smallest rural town will have one. It is a place were men go during the day to socialize and escape the heat. (You will never see women there unless they are helping to run the tea stall or are bideshis like us!)

Silk Weaving
Having tasted the mangoes, we wanted to see the silk weaving that the area is known for, so our guide took us to one of the textile mills in the area. Apparently the silk is imported from China and then woven into cloth in Rajshahi. We got to see several of the weaving machines at work.

Shiva Temple
On the second (and final) day we stopped at a temple complex before we went back. The Shiva Temple was one of the main buildings at the site. This is a view of the Shiva Temple from across the pond.

Belle at the Shiva Temple
Belle is a photographer. She and Mikey are writing the new Bradt Guide to Bangladesh. They are also trying to publish a photo coffee table book of some of her images.

Shiva Temple Door
I really liked this door at the Shiva Temple.

Govinda Temple
The Govinda Temple is in the same location as the Shiva Temple. The style is very similar to the Kantanagar Temple near Dinajpur.

Terracotta Detail
The Govina Temple is covered with lovely terracotta tiles. Unfortunately many of the details have been worn away over time.

A doorway at the Govinda Temple.

Our final stop at the temple complex was the rajbari. It is very rundown now, but you can tell that at one time it was quite grand. I even met a VIP inside! One of the ten caretakers of the government of Bangladesh was sight seeing and he invited us to come meet with him. He was very nice and friendly and was excited about my resort project. Only in Bangladesh could I randomly run into one of the top leaders of the country and have him invite me to come chat with him!

Rickshaw Art
The designs of the rickshaws vary a bit by the region of Bangladesh that you visit. The Rajshahi rickshaws had some very beautiful artwork on them.

Majbritt and the Mangoes
We purchased a large basket (30 kgs!) of mangoes in the Mango Market for the four of us to share. Back at my house in Dhaka Majbritt is jealously guarding them!

Sharing the Mangoes
Belle convinced Majbritt to share the mangoes and they got to work dividing them into piles. I make myself useful by teasing them and taking photos. In the end, we each got 32 mangoes! I ended up sharing mine with Hamida and my neighbors...


At Tuesday, January 20, 2009 2:58:00 PM, Blogger arindamart said...

your project is fantastic. at least your photos attract me very much. i love your involvement in the eastern nature and heritage sites. i love old buildings, untouched-nature. i do not understand your project very much. can you explain? hey, 'am nothing special, just a person too much interested in your work. may be we have same views at least.
i am a graphic designer and a self taught artist. mail please, if possible to

At Thursday, May 20, 2010 6:38:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

hi Kristin,

hey just wrote ur blog on rajshahi, it is very good. though i'm not a good reader but i was searching for mango & mango basket pics and found ur blog...

good going ... so u do lot of travelling like me...

i am workign for a moblie company and i also had to travell a lot...

take care

zahir ahmed

add me up in facebook


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