The Armenian Church of Dhaka

A lesser known place of historical and architectural importance is the old Armenian church of Dhaka, situated in Armanitola area of Dhaka in Bangladesh. The existence of this church presents the fascinating history of the seventeenth century Mughal period, when many Armenians were deported to India from Persia. These migrated Armenians settled in Bengal and due to their knowledge in the Persian tongue which was the official language of that period did not face problem to adopt in the Mughal Empire. They soon established their own trading community and gradually shifted their centre of trade to Dhaka due to their skill in textile business and Dhaka being one of the major regions for rich textile production. They initially traded in goods like saltpeter (used for gunpowder), salt, beetle nut and by 19th century became pioneers in jute trade. They established their colony in Dhaka which is till today known as Armanitola.

The church of the Armanians today is the living proof of the history of the Armenians. Initially the small community of Armenians had constructed a small chapel with a graveyard but later with increase in members there was need for a bigger church and in 1781 the present standing building was constructed and consecrated by his grace Bishop Ephreim. It is also said that the land on which this church was built was actually a gift from an Armenian noble man named Agha Catchick Minas. Some other donations were made by Michael Sarkies, Astwasatoor Gavork, Margar Pogose and Khojah Petrus for its construction.

With a rectangular plan the church forms a simple basilica design with another storey on top. The west side has arched entrances with an arched vestibule. The bell tower is topped with a conical roof structure. There are in total four doors and twenty-seven windows in the entire building. In the interior of the first floor there are three sections with the main portico with image of Christ that stands on a higher platform and the middle part having two doors on both the sides. This part is beautifully segregated from the main portico with an archway which is designed with golden color. The third part has rows of wooden fence and chairs for seating purpose. In the graveyard where around 350 people were buried one can also see the beautiful statue of Catachik Avatik Thomas wife. The clock tower was added after fifty years. A major earthquake had destroyed this tower in the year 1897. Today, this church stands as one of the significant reminiscent of the Armenian past amidst the hovering urban settlement.