Built between 1644 and 1646, it is an important serai erected on the north bank of Buriganga in Chawk Area. An inscription fixed on the building states that it is meant to be the residence of Shah Shuja but the prince then endowed it to his diwan and the builder of the serai, Abul Qasim. According to an inscription composed by Sad ud-Din Muhammad Shirazi, "Abul Qasim al-Husaini at-Tabtaba as-Simnani, built this edifice, endowing it with twenty-two shops, attached to it, on the rightful and lawful condition that the officials in charge of the endowment would expend the income derived from them upon the repairs of the building and upon the poor and that they should not take any rent from any deserving person alighting therein, so that the pious act may reflect upon the monarch in this world and that they should not act contrariwise, or else they would be called to account on the Day of Retribution."
The building follows the traditional pattern of the Central Asian caravanserai and is embellished according to imperial Mughal style. It originally enclosed a quadrangular courtyard surrounded by shops and was overlooked by a row of 22 living cells in each wing. Two magnificent gateways were built in the northern and southern wing. The southern wing is a two storeyed structure and extends 223' along the river. It is marked in the middle by the southern gateway -- an elaborate three storey central archway framed within a projected rectangular bay -- that provides access to the courtyard. The gateway contains an octagonal central chamber, 27'- 3" in diameter, and numerous vaulted ancillary rooms and passages. The underside of the arched alcove of the gateway is adorned with intricate plasterwork. The wall surface around the spandrels with plastered panels in relief contain a variety of forms such as four centered, cusped, horse shoe and flat arches. The northern gateway is similar but less elaborate.
Each wing is two storeyed and the corners are marked by tall octagonal towers, only the two in the south wing remain. Encroachment has destroyed most of the building with only the southern wing still reasonably intact. However, except for the gateway, not much of the southern wing can be seen as houses now come up to and are integrated into the southern wing. Sources:
Asher, Catherine B. 1984. Inventory of Key Monuments. Art and Archaeology Research Papers: The Islamic Heritage of Bengal. Paris: UNESCO, 55.
Ahmed, Nazimuddin. 1980. Islamic Heritage of Bangladesh. Dacca: Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, 50, 51.
Hasan, Syed Mahmudul. 1980. Muslim Monuments of Bangladesh. Dhaka: Islamic Foundation, 56.