Located on the bank of the Betai River in present-day Netrokona district of Bangladesh, Ruaylbari Fort was an important outpost in Mediaeval Bengal
To be very honest, I am not an archaeology expert or researcher. I am simply a world traveller who loves to explore the archaeological sites, to know the ancient history of places, whether it be in Bangladesh or any other place on earth.
If you ask me why am I fascinated with those places? It is because when I see a man-made archaeological site, I wonder, how a human being could have thought in this way. So it gives me immense energy and inspiration as another human being. It also shows me that nothing is impossible for mankind.
After travelling to 47 countries and 256 cities, I decided to visit the archaeological sites in the 64 districts of Bangladesh.
I travelled with a purpose, because Bangladesh is endowed with beautiful archaeological and historical places, but the world is unaware of them.
So in 2016, I started a project at my own expense. The name of my project is 'Quest: A heritage journey of Bangladesh'. Under Quest, I travelled throughout Bangladesh to build awareness about preserving our heritages as well as promote and brand Bangladesh through heritage travels.
In this particular write-up, I am sharing my experience of visiting a fort named Ruaylbari at Netrokona district of Bangladesh. Like many other forts in riverine Bengal, this was also built on the bank of a river: the Betai River, in Kendua Upazila under Netrokona district.
Ruaylbari was an important outpost in mediaeval Bengal. The name Ruayalbari is a combination of an Arabic word and a Bengali word. 'Ruayal' is derived from Rail or Ralah and the Bengali word 'Bari' means house.
The site was discovered by the archaeological department of the Bangladesh Government in 1987. The local people used to call this area Kotbari, Dargapara, Telipara and so on. It was not very hard to find the place because all the people of this district know about it and they are proud of it.
The excavation revealed a Lion's Gate which local people called 'Shingha Darwaza'. I talked to the senior citizens of that area who shared with me that there are different stories and myths regarding Ruaylbari Fort.
Near the fort, there is an area called Jangal Para. Legend has it that it stretched all the way from Jangalbari to Astali in Delhi.
I noticed that beside the Lion's Gate, there are two more gateways. The structure is roofless; possibly had five rooms. The excavation team found a structure of a mosque beside the fort. Only a bit of the mosque wall survived.
The terracotta decoration of the mihrabs is one of the finest specimens of this kind noticed in mosques from the Sultanate period.
From the excavation site the archaeologists found 77 glazed tiles, ornamental bricks, iron chair, cooking pots, iron rods, etc. The same specimens of glazed tiles were noticed in Mahasthangarh as well as in the sites in Bagerhat of Bangladesh. Glazed tiles were used during the Husayn Shahi period and in the buildings of Bengal in Mughal period.
The experts have not found any inscription or coin from Ruaylbari that might indicate the exact date of the establishment. But it has been ascertained that the fort served as an outpost or station during early Muslim occupation.
Ruaylbari belongs to the category of forts called 'Ribat'.
Beside talking with local people and journalists, I came to know about the complex by reading 'A preliminary report on excavation at Ruaylbari', written by Muhammad Abdul Qadir and Habibur Rahman of the Department of Archaeology, Ministry of Cultural Affairs.
It was really a special experience for me. But do not just believe me, try it for yourself!
Eliza Binte Elahi is a traveller and a teacher