Ruplal House

Ruplal House, Dhaka

Ruplal House an imposing early 19th century mansion located on the northern bank of the Buriganga, overlooking a riverfront promenade along the buckland bund in the Farashganj locality of old Dhaka, was erected jointly by two affluent merchant brothers named Ruplal Das and Raghunath, sons of Swarup Chandra. They purchased an old building from Aratun, an Armenian tycoon, in 1840 and had it pulled down. Ruplal House was built on the site at a huge cost, according to the design of an architect of the Martin Company of Calcutta. Divided into two unequal blocks in slightly different styles, it is a two-storeyed edifice. It presents a Grand River front, about 9144m long, and exhibits a fine example of the late Renaissance European architecture introduced during the colonial period. Its ground plan follows the shape of the letter 'E', with three arms extending toward the north or the city side, of which the middle arm projects about 1830m. It accommodates a grand portico carried on a series of lofty semi-Corinthian fluted columns, and surmounted by a triangular pediment, characteristic of Renaissance architecture.

The two blocks include, in two storeys, over fifty rooms of various sizes and of them the central hall on the upper floor of the more impressive western wing was an elegantly decorated dance hall with a wooden floor. On the north and south two broad verandahs run the entire length of the block and are supported on either round semi-Corinthian columns or rectangular brick pillars with segmented or trefoil arches above.

During its halcyon days it vied with ahsan manzil in splendour and elegance. In 1888 Ruplal gave a ball in honour of lord dufferin, the viceroy of India, during his visit to Dhaka in the dance hall of Ruplal House. It has recently been 'protected' by the Department of Archaeology, but a colony of squatters continue to occupy parts of the building. [Nazimuddin Ahmed]