The Husaini Dalan was originally built during the later half of the Mughal rule in Dhaka as the 'imambara' or house of the imam (religious leader) of the Shia community. It was the venue for 'majlise' or gatherings held during the month of Muharram -- the ten-day religious gathering commemorates the martyrdom of Husain, the grandson of Prophet Muhammad.
"Taylor writes (1839), 'the principal Mahommedan places of worship are the Edgah and Hossainee Delaun... the latter is said to have been built by a person named Mir Murad, who held the Darogahship of the Nawarrah Mehals, and had charge of the public buildings in the time of Sultan Muhammad Azam'." According to tradition, Mir Murad had a vision of Imam Husain erecting a 'taziah khannah' or house of mourning which led to the construction of Husaini Dalan. Raised on the foundations of a former small taziakhana, the building has undergone alterations. The original date of construction is still disputed, but Husaini Dalan in its present form is attributed to Nasrat Jung, who rebuilt the imambara in 1823. The present flat roof was rebuilt by Nawab Ahsanuallah Bahadur after the earthquake of 1897, and another verandah was added to the southern side.
Built on a raised platform, it is a long rectangular building with four simple, yet elegant, kiosks at the corners. A handsomely built arched gateway, to the north gives access to the building, while a masonry water tank is located immediately to the south of the building.
The exterior incorporates both Mughal and British architectural traditions. The south verandah, overlooking the deep-water tank, best illustrates western traditions, with four columns of Doric order supporting the verandah. Mughal characteristics are seen in the attached three-storeyed pavilion with arched windows and the row of kanjuras (decorative merlons) on the roof.
The main floor of the building is raised on a platform that has rooms containing graves. On the main floor, two large halls known as Shirni hall and Khutba hall are placed back to back to form the nucleus of the building complex. Subsidiary two-storeyed rooms are on either side of the halls, probably to accommodate a congregation of ladies. And there is a series of three rooms on the east and the west. The side rooms, with the exception of those in the northernmost side room, have galleries on the second storey.
Sources: Ahmed, Nazimuddin. 1984. Discover the monuments of Bangladesh. Dhaka: University Press Limited, 180,181.
Hasan, Syed Mahmudul. 1980. Muslim Monuments of Bangladesh. Dhaka: Islamic Foundation, 58.
Asher, Catherine B. 1984. Inventory of Key Monuments. Art and Archaeology Research Papers: The Islamic Heritage of Bengal. Paris: UNESCO, 56.