Paltan was a cantonment of the british east india company. To build a new cantonment, the then Magistrate of Dhaka, Charles Dawes recast the area just beyond the Nawabpur and Thatari Bazar to the north-east of the city. In the second decade of nineteenth century, the cantonment at Begun Bari in Tejgaon region was transferred to the recast place. A whole complex of sepoy barracks, officers' quarters and a parade ground were created at that place. Now this area is known as the Purana Paltan. Architect and builder Dawes was in charge for constructing this new cantonment. However, a great deal of the works was carried out by his successor Henry Walters and the Military Board.
Geographically the Paltan area was situated on the bank of a branch of the old Pandu River. The environment of the new cantonment at Paltan was unhealthy. From the beginning of nineteenth century, the branch river of old Pandu was filled with sediment. As a result, it became a breeding ground for mosquitoes and the consequent out break of, malaria and other diseases. Sepoys and the officers were being affected. The European officers refused to stay at the quarters due to the unhealthiness of the place. From the statement of Colnel Davidson, who came to Dhaka in 1840, we came to known that, the Paltan Cantonment was no longer fit for human habitation. He stated, 'the cantonment was green and beautiful, but among the regiment only one or two officers stayed in the cantonment. Other officers stayed in the town due to the risk of fever'. Transfer to this unhealthy cantonment was considered to be a punishment for any officer. the dhaka news, weekly of nineteenth century, revealed that a sepoy, who had refused to cross the sea during the Second Burmese War (1852), was awarded such punishment. The deplorable condition of Paltan was also mentioned in the contemporary Anglo-Indian literature. In 1851, it was marked as 'Paltan Line' in Dhaka Map. Paltan was mentioned as jungle, malodorous and unhygienic in a newspaper of Calcutta in 1852.
Finally, British government had to abandon the area. In 1840's the cantonment was moved once again in to Lalbagh Fort. Still, a remnant of the cantonment existed upto mid-nineteenth century in Purana Paltan. The record of Surveyor General showed Paltan as a desolated area in 1852.
After shifting the cantonment to Lalbagh, in 1850's, the place was therefore handed over to the Municipal Committee. The Municipal Committee turned a part of it into a garden named company bagan; the rest was maintained as an open field which subsequently became the cricket ground of dhaka college (1846), and a sport center where athletics and wrestling were annually held. It was also used as a parade ground, target practice, and for army exercises while Lieutenant Governors and Viceroys visited them. From the last decade of nineteenth century, public meeting began to be held at Paltan.
Hridaynath Majumder mentioned the location of Purana Paltan in his description about Dhaka of 1864-1905. According to him, 'Baboo's Bazar Khal divide the town into two halves. The older portion of the town was to the west and the north of this Khal. From Roy's Bazar to the extreme north of Dacca, extended the old town eastwards to Purana Paltan including the Ramna fields. Another portion of town was situated to the south of Bungshal and north of Tantibazar and Kamarnagar was formed later.'
There was no dwelling house upto 30's of the nineteenth century. Even there was no electricity and metalled road.
After 1947, few new houses were built at Topkhana and Paltan area. As a play ground, in 1950's, a modern stadium was constructed at Paltan. In the meantime, the Paltan ground became as a political meeting place. Purana Paltan is now popular for its unique residential and trading centre of Dhaka. [Gazi Md. Mizanur Rahman]
Bibliography Hridaynath Majumder, Reminiscences of Dacca, Calcutta, 1926; SU Ahmed, Dacca: A Study in Urban History and Development, Curzon Press Ltd., London, 1986; Muntassir Mamoon, Dhaka: Smriti-Bismritir Nagari, (in Bangla) Bangla Academy, Dhaka, 1993 (In Bengal).