Dhanmondi is a place that is intertwined with the essence of our capital city, Dhaka. Being one of the oldest areas of the newer part of Dhaka, Dhanmondi houses everything, from a bustling restaurant culture to clean roads and pavements, with serene residential areas situated beside the lake.
However, Dhanmondi was a completely different place even a few decades ago, and the name 'Dhanmondi' itself comes from this heritage.
The Pakistani government acquired lands in the area during the 1950s; before that, the area was largely agricultural land during most of the British rule.
However, it is a common misconception that only paddy (Dhan) was cultivated in the area, which in turn is responsible for the name 'Dhanmondi.' Paddy was the most cultivated crop, along with a lot of other crops, which led to the establishment of a few small but temporary localities in the area.
There also was a market for seeds of various crops in the area, with a marshland situated just in the vicinity of Dhanmondi.
In Persian, a market is called 'Mondi,' and as Persian used to be the language of the upper classes and elites at that time, the area used to be known as 'Dhanmondi,' which literally translates to a market of paddies.
In the first half of the 19th century, the marshland dried up, which led to the decline in the importance of Dhanmondi, as Dhaka, a largely rural backwater back then, was heavily dependent on various water bodies.
Dhanmondi, after that, became a largely forested area, with the woods extending as far as the Dhaka University area to the localities of Lalbagh.
In the memoirs of employees working for the British government at that time, they admit the existence of many wild animals in the area, which seems quite surreal compared with the present condition of Dhanmondi.
The Pakistani government wanted to create a sophisticated area near old Dhaka, and they chose Dhanmondi. And with the passage of Dhaka, this rural backwater of paddy fields and woods turned out to be an ever-busy neighbourhood of Dhaka.