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World Heritage Sites

So far three spots of Bangladesh have been declared by UNESCO as world heritage sites. These are: Paharpur Buddhist Monastery of Noagaon, Bagerhat Mosque City and the Sundarbans. The first two sites are parts of world cultural heritage and the rest belongs to world's natural heritage, as the Sundarbans is the largest mangrove forest of the world.

Paharpur Buddhist Monastery

Paharpur Buddhist Monastery, also known as the Somapura Mahavihara, was declared a world heritage site in 1985. BuchananHamilton spotted this archaeological site in 1807-12. Alexander Cunningham, a famous archaeologist visited this site in 1879 and identified it as a Hindu temple.Archaeology Survey of India, Varendra Research Societyand University of Calcutta jointly started excavation in this site in 1923. Excavation work of this archaeological site was carried out in several phases throughout Pakistan era, and in the post-liberation era in sovereign Bangladesh. Remains of a large Buddhist monastery of 274.15 metre x 273.70 metre area was discovered here.

The World Heritage Committee includes a site in its heritage list considering several criteria. It declared Paharpur a new world heritage site considering the fact that it was a unique architectural monument of pre-Islamic era located to the south of Himalaya. The temple in the centre of the single largest architectural complex of the ancient period was a rare example of artwork on stone reliefs and terracotta plaques of Pala era depicting an extraordinary aesthetical outlook. It has been presumed that the architectural design of the Paharpur monastery had influenced the architects of Ananda Temple of Pagan, Myanmar and Lor Jangrang and Chandi Sheua temples of Java.

Historic Mosque City of Bagerhat

Bagerhat-Khalifatabad the mosque city of mediaeval age famous for its various archeological edifices is situated in Bagerhat district, north of Sundarbans. Shatgumbad mosque, Zindapeer Mosque, nine-domed Mosque, Khan Jahan's Residence and the Tomb complex, among many others, are remarkable heritage sites of high archaeological merit.

Shatgumbad Mosqueis an enormous and magnificent architectural establishment of Khalifatabad town. The Mosque was not only a place of worship, it was used as the seat of administration as well as the centre for education and a meeting place during the rule of Khan Jahan, a great saint and ruler of Khalifatabad.

Bibi Begni Mosque,another site enlisted in the world heritage list, is located beside the Shatgumbad Mosque over an area of only 10 square metre. It has four corner towers, three arched doorways on the east wall and one archway each on the north and south walls. Chunakhola Mosque,situated 500 metre east of Bibi Begni mosque over an area of 12.19 square metre, is a single-domed one having four corner towers. The Nine-Domed Mosqueis a rectangular shaped mosque situated on an area of 15.24 square metre on the west bank of nearby Thakur Dighi, a huge water body, also has four corner towers and one archway on each of the east, north and south walls. The Nine-Domed Mosque is a rare example in themosque architectureof Bengal.

The single-domed, Zinda Pir's Mosque had similar features of corner towers and archways like Chunakhola Mosque. Khan Jahan's Tomb is a single-domed square monument. Its architectural design has similarity with the Eklakhi Mausoleum at Hazrat Pandua. The residence complex of Khan Jaham is located 300 metre east of Shatgumbad Mosque. During the reign of Sultan Nasiruddin Mahmud Shah (1436-1459) of Iliyas Shahi dynasty, Commander Ulugh Khan Jahan (death 1459 AD) built the architecturally rich Bagerhat town on the Bhairab river along the Sundarbans about six hundred years back. Later, during the reign of Nasiruddin Nusrat Shah (1519-1532), the city was known as a Mint Town. In 1535 AD, Sultan Ghiyasuddin Madmud Shah renamed the town as Khalifatabad-Badarpur. The town was also traced in the map drawn by the Portuguese in the 16th century. The name of the town was Haweli Khalifatabad up to the 18th century. The architecture of Bagerhat represents a Muslim urban site of mediaeval age, which still exits being an administrative centre of the government.

The Sundarbans: The Abode of the Royal Bengal Tigers

The Sundarbans is the lone world natural heritage site of Bangladesh. This is the largest single block mangrove forest spreading over an area of about 5759 square kilometres in Bangladesh. Because of the partition of India, Bangladesh received 2/3 of the forest and the rest is the on Indian side. The forest in Bangladesh territory lies under four administrative ranges under the districts of Satkhira, Khulna and Bagerhat. It is further divided into nine blocks and 55 compartments for better management. About 32.400 hectares of reserved forest here have been declared as wild life sanctuaries. The Sandurbans consists of about 200 islands, separated by about 400 interconnected tidal rivers, creeks and canals.

The vegetation of the forest is largely of mangrove type and encompasses a variety of plants. The dominating species are: Sundari (Hesitiera fomes) and Gewa (Excoecaria agallocha). Among others, Goran (Ceriops decandra). Keora (Sonneratia apetala) and Passur (Xylocarpus mekongensis) are prominent species grown here. Most of the trees have pneamatophores for aerial respiration. Within the forest habitats, there are 50 species of mammals, 320 species of inland and migratory birds, about 50 species of reptiles, 8 species of amphibians and about 400 species of fish.

In 1764, the Sundarbans was shown in the map prepared by the surveyor general of the East India Company government of India. In 1860, the Department of Forestry was constituted in the province of Bengal, India, which took over the management of the forest. Under the Forest Act enacted by the British government in 1865, the Sundarbans, a real showpiece of natural history, was declared as a reserve forest in 1875-76.

The management plan of the Sundarbans was finalised by 1893-94 and the Department of Forestry was set up with its headquarters in Khulna in order to implement the Sundarbans management plan. It was declared as a Ramsar site in 1992. The UNESCO World Heritage Committee declared the Sundarbans as a world Natural Heritage site in 1997.

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