We are in Sonargaon, about 30 km southeast of Dhaka, along the Meghna River, Bangladesh.
As early as the 14th century, Sonargaon was the ancient capital of Bangladesh, or more accurately, it was the capital of Isa Khan’s Bengali empire.
The cotton textile industry and trading were always a part of life and livelihood of Bengali people besides agriculture.
In its heyday, Panam Nagar was home to a prosperous community of Hindu merchants that turned the medieval Bengali capital into a thriving textile trading hub around 19th century. They built an extensive neighborhood of beautifully ornate buildings, grand ballrooms and columned facades.
It’s no coincidence that the East India Company set up its permanent offices in Panam Nagar (Panam City), which was then the Bengali capital. The strategic location of the city helped the merchants to take advantage of regional accessibility through the famous Grand Trunk Road to excel their export of goods overseas.
However, if textiles brought wealth to the town, they likely contributed to its downfall as well.
In 1965, the onset of the Indo-Pakistani war and the riots between the Hindus and Muslims compelled many of the inhabitants to vacate Panam Nagar and only their servants were left behind to take care of the town.
Uncertainty surrounds the origins of the fire that razed much of the historic city to the ground, but the fact that such a large number of textiles were stored in the buildings here probably made the fire even fiercer.
Moreover, It is not clear if the Hindu community abandoned Panam Nagar before or after the rumor that the town was haunted began.
What is known is that what’s left of Panam Nagar has been left abandoned for decades, and locals have nicknamed it “Ghost City” or “City of the Dead.”
About fifty of the city’s original buildings are still standing, and most are two-story structures, standing one attached to the other along the main thoroughfare. It seems that the oldest of these buildings date back to the 15th century, but most are from the 19th century.
It is clear that these were buildings made for affluent residents, judging from the colonial architecture, the thickness of the walls, and their endurance despite decades of abandonment.