Being synonymous with Mango and Kalai Ruti, the city of Rajshahi has a lot to offer. From the mighty Padma to the picturesque mansion of the Puthia Raj, one would get to explore the rustic splendour of Bengal with a healthy mixture of urbanisation and modern life.
The writer went on a trip to Rajshahi a few days ago with two of his friends from the Department of Economics, University of Dhaka, immediately after the end of their fifth-semester final examination.
The tour was impromptu and not well thought out at all, but it certainly was an enjoyable one.
We started the tour by train early in the morning. The journey by train was quite comfortable, and the constant caffeine intake coupled with rural scenarios outside made us forget the hectic semester and took our minds off our academic lives a bit.
However, we started sweating heavily due to the typical Rajshahi heat. The city’s temperature, although not varying much from Dhaka’s, felt much less tolerable due to humidity.
We, being extremely hungry, went on a food hunt and settled for the famous Beef Kala Bhuna from Ibrahim hotel located at Katakhali Bazar, Rajshahi. Having an empty stomach, we relished the food, which was pretty cheap for its taste and quantity.
We took residence at the rest house of the Roads and Highways Department; after roaming the entire town, we got exhausted and took short naps.
After that, we visited Rajshahi College and the Mazar of Hazrat Shah Makdhum Rupos. The architecture of Rajshahi College is a textbook example of British Indian Colonial Architecture and reminded us of a bygone era, of Zamindars and British overlords.
We shortly visited the Mazaar, which much to our disappointment, is in a dilapidated condition and does not do justice to one of the most prominent Sufi saints who spread Islam in present Bangladesh.
One of the biggest plus points, however, was the food of Rajshahi. Many delicious items, which cost an astronomical amount of money in Dhaka, were dirt cheap in Rajshahi.
The rest of our day was spent relishing some of the traditional dishes of Rajshahi, such as Bot Ruti of Shuvo's Hotel and Puri-Mishti, a combination which might turn the eyebrows of many food connoisseurs until tried in Rana Misti Ghor of C&B Chottor.
The next day was the most significant part of our tour as we went to Puthia, an Upazila full of many historical relics, early in the morning. To say Puthia astounded us would be an understatement, as the palace of Puthia made us forget that we are in Bangladesh.
Made in the fusion of Indian and Byzantine elements, the charm of the palace is unprecedented and would remind one of the kings and knights of Europe, despite being in a remote corner of Rajshahi.
The surrounding temples of Puthia, which were even older than the palace, could rival the temples of South India in terms of pomp and grandeur. The Puthia Royal family was a feudal family which ruled vast lands in the area and lost their properties after the abolishment of feudalism.
After being immersed in history for a couple of hours which stopped time for us, we returned to the city to visit the University of Rajshahi. A friend of ours, a student there, helped us with the tour.
We were mesmerised by the beauty of the Rajshahi University Campus, which appeared to be organised and tried a few traditional food items there which were mouthwatering and cheap at the same time.
Then came the turn of visiting the mighty Padma which was our best experience by far; we went to a ‘Char’ by boat which was devoid of anything but sand and from which we could see the Indian district of Murshidabad.
The view was splendid and the serenity was breathtaking. We forgot all the pain in the world and lost ourselves in the harmonized symphony of the might and beauty of Padma.
After a long day, we went back to the rest house. Our bodies were tired, but our minds were not as we went through some of the most unparalleled experiences of our lives. But every good thing has an end. We packed our bags as our bus ticket was in the next noon.
Before returning, we didn’t forget to taste another delicacy of Rajshahi, the Kala Bhuna of Ekota Hotel.
The tour reminded us of the mystic past and present of the mythical capital of Varendra Bhumi. Although the city has a pretty small-town vibe now, with proper management, it has much potential for the future.