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Submerged palace resurfaces in B'desh

A royal palace has resurfaced on the Kaptai lake after its submersion nearly 50 years ago.

india Updated: May 12, 2006 16:32 IST

The royal palace of the Chakma dynasty that ruled Chittagong hill tracts, now in Bangladesh, has resurfaced on the Kaptai lake after its submersion nearly 50 years ago.

Barrister Devashish Roy, the current Chakma Raja who is revered by the Buddhist tribals of the region, has now demanded due government attention for the proper maintenance of the mansion and protection of the Kaptai Lake, which is already a major tourist destination.

The palace went under water when a hydroelectric project was begun on the Kaptai Lake during the Ayub Khan era.

It has become visible because this summer, the surface level of Kaptai Lake has drastically gone down, the Bangladesh Observer reported.

"This ancient stately mansion not only contributed to the enrichment of indigenous peoples' heritage, but the archaeological value of this magnificent structure is also huge for Bangladesh," Roy told the news service BDNews.

He added that 13 ethnic groups have close ties with the mansion. "The folklores, songs, rhymes and fairy tales of hill culture have the echo of this palace."

Groups of people have been thronging this site out of plain curiosity.

According to him, at least 54,000 acres of arable land went under water in 1960 while implementing the Kaptai hydroelectric project.

Around 100,000 people were evicted and the royal mansion went under water at the blink of an eye.

"I was a toddler at that time but my father, the then Raja Tridib Roy, recorded the incident with his 8 mm camera. I watched the event later, again and again," recalled Roy.

Many of the uprooted people reportedly migrated to neighbouring Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram and Tripura in India.

Despite being an area dominated by Buddhist tribals for centuries, the Chittagong hill tracts went to Pakistan under the Radcliff Award that partitioned India in 1947.

The area has witnessed much friction between the Buddhists and successive governments in Dhaka in the last six decades.

Prior to the Chittagong hill tracts peace agreement on December 2, 1997, the indigenous people faced frequent eviction. They are now no longer in majority.

According to the survey of 1798, the palace was situated at Rajanagar of Rangunia in Chittagong.

The remains of that splendid stately mansion and the farmhouse are still there.

Raja Bhuban Mohan Roy constructed this palace at the beginning of the 19th century, which was known for its architectural design.

First Published: May 12, 2006 16:32 IST