Lalbagh Fort, also known to locals as Fort Aurangabad, is one of the most popular sites for tourists looking to catch a glimpse of local architecture at its proudest. The fort as it stands now is significantly different from how it used to be, not least because not all of the structures that were part of the original survived, but there are several key similarities between the original fort and the present one: for one thing, they are both unfinished.
There is actually quite a tragic reason behind the fort being unfinished. One needs to go back to the fort’s foundations to understand: construction on the fort began in 1678 when the then-viceroy of Bengal the Prince Mohammad Azam, the son of Aurangzeb, came to the region and commenced work on what would be his quarters. The original fort was actually much, much closer to the banks of the River Buriganga than it is today. The river has shifted since then, and the fort is a distance away from the banks, but as one may see from the 1814 painting of Charles D’Oyly portraying the fort, the fort actually used to touch the riverbanks.
The fort was unfinished due to the prince being called back by his father before it could be completed, Aurangzeb deciding that he needed his son’s aid to fight in the wars during that time. The subahdar who succeeded Prince Mohammad Azam was his father-in-law, Shaista Khan. Shaista Khan might have intended to continue the fort in the prince’s absence if not for a tragic event that led the subahdar to consider the fort an inauspicious one: the wife of Mohammad Azam, Shaista Khan’s daughter Bibi Pari, died in the fort in 1684. According to most historical accounts, this tragedy was the primary reason for Shaista Khan’s refusal to continue the construction, claiming that the fort was due to it having been the site of his daughter’s death.
Today, an enduring monument to the regard given to the lady stands in the Lalbagh Fort, and is in fact considered the most attractive of the three main buildings that have been preserved in the fort. This is the Bibi Pari Tomb, a nine-roomed square structure with kiosk-topped turrets on the corners and marvellous white marble interiors as well as delicate tiling evocative of the delicacy of the long-passed aristocrat. Aside from it are two other buildings that most visitors remark on: the Diwan-i-Aam and the Mosque of the fort, both of which are also worthwhile sights. The three are actually linked by a central water channel with fountains, making for a most picturesque spread for the tourist.
Recent renovations have actually rendered the Lalbagh Fort even more attractive to visitors than it used to be some years ago, which means there is every reason to go see it if you are in Bangladesh. If you do go, try to enter through the southern gate, as it is the most impressive of all the gates in the fort.