Habiganj, located in the division of Sylhet, is a major town and district headquarters in Bangladesh. Despite its small size, this charming city is rich in history, culture, and natural beauty. In this article, we’ll explore the many facets of Habiganj, from its colonial past to its present struggles for better transportation.
Habiganj was once an important railway hub during the British rule in India. The Habiganj Bazar–Shaistaganj–Balla line was built in 1928-1929 by the Assam Bengal Railway, connecting Habiganj district headquarters town to Balla border via Shaistaganj junction. Coal-engined trains used to run between eight stations at Habiganj Bazar, Habiganj Court, Shaistaganj Junction, Shakir Mohammad, Chunarughat, Amuroad, Assampara and Balla bordering Tripura. Tea produced in 22 tea gardens from those three stations was transported by rail. At that time, this railway was the only means of exporting tea leaves of 13 gardens of Chunarughat upazila of Habiganj at a low cost and importing related items including garden rations. However, after the independence of Bangladesh, the importance of the Balla train decreased, and the train became a target of smugglers. The train continues to run at great risk, and the speed has slowed down to 15 kilometers.
Despite the struggles with transportation, Habiganj has much to offer visitors. Its natural beauty includes a scenic lake called Tanguar Haor, which is a popular spot for birdwatching and fishing. The city is also known for its long tradition of handloom weaving, producing exquisite silk and cotton fabrics. Visitors can see the weaving process up close and purchase a wide variety of textiles at the local markets.
In addition to its natural beauty and handicrafts, Habiganj is home to several historical landmarks. The Shaistaganj Railway Station, established in 1903, is one such landmark. The station was once an important transport hub for tea and other goods, but it has fallen into disrepair in recent years. However, locals are working to preserve the station as a heritage site, and visitors can still admire its colonial-era architecture.
Another notable landmark in Habiganj is the Lakkatura Tea Garden, one of the largest tea gardens in Bangladesh. Visitors can tour the garden, learn about the tea-making process, and sample some of the finest tea in the region. The garden is also a popular picnic spot, with its lush greenery and serene atmosphere.
Habiganj is also a hub of cultural activity, with a rich tradition of folk music, dance, and theater. The local Baul music is especially popular, featuring soulful lyrics and traditional instruments. Visitors can attend cultural festivals and performances throughout the year, and immerse themselves in the vibrant local culture.
Despite its many attractions, Habiganj faces significant challenges in improving its transportation infrastructure, particularly with the Balla train. The train line has been abandoned since 2003, and the railway property worth crores of rupees has been looted. Locals have been demanding the restart of the Balla train for years, and the hopes are now on the state minister for civil aviation and tourism, Mahbub Ali, to bring back this important link.
In conclusion, Habiganj is a city that may be small in size, but it is big on history, culture, and natural beauty. Its struggles with transportation have not dampened the spirits of its people, who are working hard to preserve the city’s heritage and attract visitors. Whether you are interested in history, nature, handicrafts, or culture, Habiganj has something to offer. We hope you have enjoyed this virtual tour of this hidden gem in Bangladesh.