A 300-year-old Mughal era establishment, that stands on hundreds of big egg-shaped clay pots, has been found in Chattogram's Patharghata area as the owners partly dismantled the old building to construct a high-rise.
The reconstruction bid reveals the one-storey structure weighing around several thousand tonnes has at least 250 pots at the basement to carry the building load, make it earthquake resistant and to keep the temperature low.
Hazi Shariat Ullah Saodagar, a merchant of Chattogram, built the house as his fourth-generation descendants dismantled the old structure recently to construct a multi-storeyed building.
As they found the Mughal-era-like architectural features underneath, the government subsequently decided to take over the building for its archaeological and historical value.
People now have been thronging at the site at Nazu Miah Lane of Patharghata as the old building surprises the archaeologists and architects.
AKM Saifur Rahman, Chattogram regional director at the Department of Archaeology, said the architectural features suggest the house could have been built 300-360 years ago. We found clay pots underneath at Idrakpur Fort in Munshiganj that was probably built by Mughal Subedar Mir Jumla in around 1660 AD.
"The pots could have been used to control the temperature and make the building earthquake resistant. However, we need further assessment to ascertain the cause," he told The Business Standard after a visit to the site Sunday.
So far 34 pots have been recovered from the site. The pots are two feet in height, the diameter of the mouth is 56 inches and each weighs 10-15 kg. The pots were lined up underneath the walls.
The 22-inch-thick wall was constructed just on the lined-up pots in the basement. The old building is at least 20 feet high – around the height of a two-storey building now.
Aliur Rahman, chairman of Chattogram History and Culture Research Centre, said it is amazing how the pots would carry the weight of the wall weighing thousand tonnes.
Aliur said an old bed, a chest and a wall clock were recovered from the building Sunday. The well inside the house still has a stream of potable water.
Prof Jahangir Alam, Former Vice-Chancellor of Chattogram University of Engineering and Technology (Cuet), said, "Construction of buildings would not use rod and cement 300-400 years ago. Lime, dust and various types of soil were then used for the foundation and structure of the building.
"Along with brick-dust and lime, this building had the clay pots probably because of its location adjacent to the Karnaphuli River and the sea. The pots could have been used to protect the base from tidal surge," he commented.
Workers came from Rangoon, construction then cost Tk25,000
The fourth-generate descendants of Hazi Shariat Ullah Saodagar said they heard the construction workers were hired from Myanmar's Yangon (formerly known as Rangoon), and it cost then Tk25,000.
Mohammad Faruk, one of the descendants, said Shariat Ullah was a rich merchant who would sail to Rangoon with two ships. He built the house on 12 shatak of land around 300 years ago.
"My aunt told us a long time ago that this house was built on clay pots that were brought from Rangoon. Now we find she was right," said Faruk.
Mohammad Mominur Rahman, deputy commissioner of Chattogram, said, "According to the law, the house will be considered as an archaeological site. The current owners have damaged some parts of the house unknowingly. We will preserve the part that is still intact."
He said the next steps will be taken after consulting with the Chattogram City Corporation and Chittagong Development Authority.