The Armenian Church of the Holy Resurrection (1781) on Church Road in Old Dhaka highlights a rich tapestry of the Armenian footprint on the commerce, politics, and education of East Bengal, The Daily Star writes.
According to the source, the church is an architectural testament to the story of how the Armenian Diaspora spread out from their historic homeland, located between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea, to far-flung regions, and thrived as a versatile cosmopolitan community.
According to author Adnan Morshed, there is no consensus on exactly when the Armenians arrived in Dhaka. Some historians, however, suggest they were in Bengal in the early 17th century, most likely arriving with the southbound migration of Armenians from Persia.
“Being skilful at textile business, the Armenians naturally gravitated to Dhaka, one of the trading hubs for fine textile, contributing significantly to the city's commercial life. According to one estimate, their share of textile export from Dhaka in 1747 is reported to be as large as 23 percent of that year's total export, way ahead of the English, the Dutch or the French in Dhaka. In addition to textile and raw silk, the Armenians also engaged in the trade of saltpetre (used as gunpowder), salt, and betel nut,” the author writes.
Another major Armenian contribution to Dhaka was the transport “revolution”, introducing ticca-garry or the horse-carriage, the main mode of transportation in the city until the first decade of the 20th century. They also introduced western-style department stores for European and British goods, including wines, spirits, cigars, bacon, reading lamps, shoes, toys, table cutlery, shaving soap, saucepans, frying pans, travelling bags, umbrellas, etc.
The article also highlights the Armenian community’s contribution to Dhaka's civic life and urban administrative bureaucracy. Nicholas Pogose founded the first private school of the city, Pogose School, in 1848. It still functions as a prestigious school in Old Dhaka.
According to the source, Dhaka's Armenian community was small but wealthy, exerting a great deal of influence on local and regional businesses.
The land for the Armenian Church was originally gifted by the Armenian noble man Agha Catchick Minas, whose wife died in 1764 and is buried inside the church. The church galvanized the community around the Sunday mass and other religious festivals. Later in 1840, Lt. Colonel Davidson of British Bengal Engineers provided a vivid portrayal of the Christmas celebration at this church.
“The Armenian Church stands today like a quiet and dignified monument amidst the frenzied urban growth surrounding it. Residential apartment towers dwarf its two-story structure and the belfry or the bell tower. The oblong plan of the church is a simple basilica type with a double-height nave flanked by two one-story, 14-foot wide arcades which open to the surrounding graveyard. The three-tier bell tower, capped with a conical roof, on the west provides a square-shaped and arched vestibule, followed by a ceremonial entrance to the nave,” the Daily Star writes.
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