The Lalbagh Hammam and Audience Hall is one of the main surviving monuments of the Lalbagh Fort complex. It is thought to be the residence of the Governor Nawab Shaista Khan. It is located in the eastern portion of the complex, midway between the monumental north and south gates, and 130' west of the restored large, square masonry tank. The tank is 235' wide and was originally outfitted with retaining walls. The walls are no longer there, but the corner stairwells still exist.
The building is a two storeyed structure with an annex projecting westward. It is an interesting blend of indigenous style and imperial Mughal architecture. A distinctive feature is the gracious, curvilinear roof that recalls the typical thatched do-chala huts of rural Bengal. A modest structure, the facade is not elaborately detailed. There are some plain, recessed, arched niches and panels in the lower section, while the upper section has arched openings that are fitted with intricate, perforated stone screens.
Moving from east to west, the ground floor consists of a central hall that measures 26'-7" x 18'-3". It is flanked on north and south by square apartments. Through a three-arched entrance, is a spacious hall with an ornamental fountain tank at its center. Across from the fountain is another arched entrance under a half dome, that allows access to the main Hammam chamber.
The square Hammam chamber is covered with a dome that had an opening for light and ventilation. The floor and a raised platform in the center are decorated with variegated, glazed tiles. To the north, east and west of the Hammam chamber, are small chambers for various purposes. Some were changing rooms, toilets or water heating closets. These chambers are covered with squat domes with central openings for light. The openings may have been fitted with colored glass. To the north is a water tank with steps leading into it. It has copper inlet and outlet pipes for regulating the water supply. A well-designed system of earthenware pipes is found embedded within the walls that brought hot and cold water to the tank and adjacent chambers.
Beneath the Hammam's floor was an ingenious series of covered drainage pipes. The collected wastewater was discharged through this system into a large masonry vaulted drain on the west of the building.
The upper floor is similar in plan to the residential section below. The Audience Hall corresponds to the central hall below and is flank to the north and south by an apartment. The second floor is accessible by staircases found on either side of the central hall. The Audience Hall and its side rooms are simply decorated with large recessed panels and smaller arched niches in the plaster. A distinctive architectural feature in the Hall are the three graceful, multi-cusped arched openings facing to the east and the west. The arches spring from four slender, ornamental sandstone columns. Perforated stones screens or jalis may have originally closed the openings.
The building has been faithfully restored to its original condition and adapted to serve as the Lalbagh Fort Museum.Sources:
Hasan, Syed Mahmudul. 1980. Muslim Monuments of Bangladesh. Dhaka: Anjuman Printing Press, 55.
Ahmed, Nazimuddin. 1980. Mughal Dacca and the Lalbagh Fort. Dhaka: n.p., 8.
Ahmed, Nazimuddin. 1984. Discover the monuments of Bangladesh. Dhaka: University Press Limited, 173.