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Holy Rosary Church


Holy Rosary Church considered as one of the oldest Christian installations of Dhaka, was established by Portuguese missionaries before the advent of British colonial rulers in India. Tavares came to Bengal in 1579 after getting farman a royal decree from Mugal Emperor akbar (1556-1605) for trading, preaching of Christian religion and building of churches there freely. By 1580, a Portuguese settlement including trading houses and places of worship was developed in Dhaka City. The Portuguese catholic Augustinians constructed two churches named Holy Rosary at Hijli in the 16th century. The Portuguese followers of St. Augustine also built up Churches one day in Chittagong in 1601, Baleshwar and Rangamati in 1640, Bakergonj (Barisal) in 1764, Hasnabad in 1777 and Tejgaon (Dhaka). It is assumed that the Portuguese Augustinians constructed Holy Rasary Church in 1677 at Tejkunipara of Tejgaon on the eastern side of present holy cross girls’ high school and College. The Church is locally known as 'the Church of Japamala rani'. There are difference of opinion among historians, travelers and clerics over the foundation period of the church. James Tailor in his book, 'A Sketch of the Topography and statistics of Dhaka' (Calcutta 1840, P.251) stated the Church was founded before 1599 near Tejgaon in Dhaka City. According to his view, Christian traders who were followers of Nestorius set it up and later Roman Catholic missionaries renovated it. He supported this view, stated first by an Italian traveler varthema. In an article entitled 'History of the Cotton Manufacture of Dhaka District', Published in Calcutta Review in 1845, the installation period of the Church was stated as 1599. On the other hand J.J.A. Campos mentioned the period as 1679. But according to the descriptions of sebastien manrique and JB Tavernier, the Holy Rosary Church was established in 1640 and 1666 respectively. In this context the view of Compos cannot be considered. However, the Archdiocese (Chief Priest) of Goa, mentioned the foundation of the Church as 1714.

Holy Rosary Church, Tejgaon, Dhaka

According to Jesuits Fatter Antai de Megalhice, initially the installation was not med as a church. Perhaps, the Nestorian Christians constructed the west block of the Church as a chapel. Its wall, built by laying brick-dust, was 1.2192m wide and it had some open gates on the northern side. The original chapel, later, was divided into two parts. The first part was an alter of 0.7m height on the west side and the second one was a conference hall for the assembly of devotees; The width of its wall and the feature of roof construction in both the parts were different from each other. It refers that the Portuguese Catholic Augustinians perhaps constructed the eastern side of the Church later.

The 3.47m wide victory gate and the angular arched lane completed the larger part of the east end with the smaller western part. The east side is 25.48m long, 9.84m wide and the breadth of wall is 0.7m.The open space inside has two isles being devided by circular 'Tushkan' columns of 0.48m radiuses each. The main gate is located in the northern part. The south and north walls have two additional doors each, although those were built without porch. The gateways of north and south walls were constructed following the design of the main gate to get sufficient light and airflow.

In 1702, Kartalab Khan (murshid quli khan), transferred his diwani from Dhaka to Maqsudabad (Murshidabad). It had created a huge impact on Holy Rosary church as most of the rich people migrated to Murshidabad and from 1704; European companies stopped sending their representatives to Dhaka. So, the gathering of devotees in the church of Tejgaon started reducing with the gradual declining of its beauty. Father Moor S J came to visit the Church From Kolkata in 1836. He found its condition is very neglected. One Catholic Franciscans of Tejgaon donated a few villages to the church on 21 February 1839 to meet up its daily expenditures. On 26 March 1854, his son Rodrigues donated half of the Tejkunipara area for the same purpose. The fourth permanant prist of the church appointed in 1936. From 1779 to 2000, the Church was renovated four times. The renovation of 1939-40 was very massive and after that the member of Christian devotees centering the Church increased significantly.

The number of its member in 1952 was only 453. It was raised to 3,750 in 1979, 8,000 in 1985 and at presents many more. It has got five permanent Priests now. [Gazi Md. Mizanur Rahman]

Bibliography JJA Campos, History of the Portughese in Bengal, Butterworth and Co. London, 1919; Sharif Uddin Ahmed (ed.) Dhaka : Past, Present and Future, Asiatic Society of Bangladesh, Dhaka, 1991; Jerom de Costa, Dhakar Aitihashik Girza, Weekly Robbar(Bangla), 03 May 1981, Dhaka; ABM Husain (ed.), Architecture, Vol.2. Asiatic Society of Bangladesh, Dhaka, 2007; Jatindra Mohon Ray, Dhakar Itihas, Vol.1, First De's Edition, Kolkata, 2003.