Dholaikhal an area on the bank of the river buriganga in the old part of dhaka city. In the past, the area was an important centre of the city and the historic lalbagh fort, ahsan manzil, bara katra and chhota katra located in its surroundings. Many big merchants, nawab families and aristocratic people lived in the area.
The area was named after a canal excavated in 1608-1610 by Islam Khan, the first Mughal Subedar of Dhaka. The canal flowed through the heart of the old town. It was meant to protect the city as well as to provide internal communication. Crossed by an iron suspension bridge connecting farashganj (French-ganj) and Gandaria, it once represented the lower course of the balu River. The canal took off from this river near Demra and went southwest through Dhaka to join the Buriganga near the Mill Barrack. After taking off from Balu, it branched off into two channels, one going northward, and the other westward right through the city crossing Dhaka-Tejgaon Road not far from the present Shahbagh area.
At this point the canal was crossed by Ambar Bridge, which joined Shahbagh and kawran bazaar. In 1832, the energetic collector of Dhaka, Mr Walter, put up a single-span hanging bridge over the canal for facilitating passage to and from narayanganj. Known as Dholai Bridge, it was a great engineering feat at that time. In 1867, tolls were imposed upon traffic across the canal. The annual average amount of tolls collected from large country boats and other vessels entering the city through it was about Tk 13,000 during 1867-1872. The responsibility for toll collection was eventually handed over to the municipality in 1872, In course of time the channel, once of strategic and commercial importance, became choked at places by filth and dirt dumped from neighbouring houses. Some segments of the canal still exist as open exposure, but others had been converted into an underground drainage in the old part of the city.
For many years Dholaikhal was used for boat race and other sports, including swimming. Annual fairs were held at different places on the banks of the canal on festive occasions. One of the famous ghats was the Panch Bhai Ghat at Rokanpur. The Hindu community threw images of their deities into the holy water of the Dholaikhal after puja.
Dholaikhal area of present Dhaka Metropolitan City is a small block covering only 550 sq yards. It borders with Tipu Sultan Road on the north, victoria park on the south, Narinda on the east and English Road on the west. Dholaikhal is now a busy centre of trade and commerce. There are more than 5,000 shops in the area. Also in the area are innumerable small workshops for repair or manufacturing of many types of household items and machinery parts. Major business activity in the area is the sale of automobile parts and spares, sanitary fittings and computer accessories. Traders of Dholaikhal are not educated, but they posses high quality craftsmanship. The area had become very congested now because of too many shops and slum-like dwellings of their owners and employees. [Haripada Bhattacharja]