|Name:||Shovo Shaha Dip|
|Studio:||Studio X (Thesis)|
|Studio Master:||Hasan Ahmed Chowdury, Irfat Alam|
|University:||American International University-Bangladesh (AIUB)|
CHANDRANATH HILL in Sitakunda, Chattagram is considered to be one of the most visited sacred and pilgrimage sites in Bangladesh. Every year, several hundred thousand Hindu devotees of the country climb this famous hill. According to the Hindu mythology, the sage created a pond or Kunda for the goddess Sita during her exile period. Besides the Hindu devotees, the site is also a general attraction for tourists all over the country. Climbing a hill of 1200 ft, surrounded by natural beauty and mysticism, is a complete adventure for a tourist. It takes almost three hours to climb the hill and two hours to get down there. It takes twice the time during the festivals. During Maha Shivratri festivals scheduled in March annually, lasting 7-10 days and the temple offers panoramic views and enchanting surroundings. Chandranath hill is also famous for Shakti Peeth, as the right arm of Goddess Sati fell here according to Hindu sacred texts. The site length is 2.5 km with 5.7 acre facility area along the route.
Hence, the project site offers tremendous opportunities for pilgrims, tourists and local community. Two strong significances of the project are: i) mythological significance and ii) natural point of interest. The site hosts one of the oldest Hindu temples in the subcontinent and the biggest Maha Shivratri festival in Bangladesh. One of the six Shakti Peethas is also situated here. The natural features like the Chandranath Hill being the highest place in Chittagong district, two springs, evergreen forest and the sea view from the top give pleasure to a tourist fullest. The dilapidated condition of the old temples, absence of basic facilities for the pilgrims, and the untapped potential to develop the site as a tourist place are the key drivers for redevelopment proposal for the site.
POINTS OF INTEREST (PILGRIMS):
There are 10 main temples and according to the Hindu sacred texts, the right arm of Goddess Sati fell here at the point of Bhabani Temple. Pilgrims visit this as a place where Vedic thought and quest for ‘Ultimate Reality’ is the motivation. Historically, this place is packed with temples and supporting facilities. Various activities take place all around the year. The devotees believe that one can make rapid spiritual progress and gain instant purification by doing all the rituals.
In harmony with the local terrain, all the temples are situated at various levels starting from 55’ to 200’. Most of the temples were built after 18th century. The first step before entering into design process was studying the existing pattern of the temples, buildings and their activity. Most of the temples have front arched entry, columnar circulation space around the main chamber.
POINTS OF INTEREST (TOURISTS):
There are several tourist spots in the vicinity of Chandranath Hill. From a beautiful lake to evergreen forest, tourists can enjoy the beauty of natural wonder. It’s a haven for tracking, enjoying sunset on a beach and many springs. Therefore a tourist accommodation zone and proper management can improve the structure of this area.
OBJECTIVES OF THE PROJECT:
The project aims to conserve the age-old temples near the Chandranath Hill area, Sitakundo, and design a route for pilgrims that offer the testament of a spiritual journey. The goal is to increase awareness towards the conservation of natural and cultural assets, both among locals and tourists. The proposed nature-based forms of tourism, as expected, will provide alternative employment and income opportunities for local communities.
The project has a conceptual focus on ‘religious tourism’. People travel to visit a place, a building, or a shrine, which is sacred. Traveling for the purpose of observing or participating or sharing a religious belief or faith can be defined as religious tourism. Tourists and pilgrims can come to the site all year round, enjoy an authentic experience as their way as a part of their journey.
Hinduism is based on ten main principles that start with believing in God and end with the ultimate freedom. Throughout the journey, pilgrims will be enlightened with the spaces that resemble main points of Hinduism. Tourists will also experience an authentic natural experience through many designed views and lookout points.
The master plan is divided into 3 zones: i) accommodation zone, ii) activity zone, and iii) trekking zone. The accommodation zone is where people will leave their bags and stuff and begin the journey. In the activity zone pious pilgrims will take bath and pray for the departed soul of their family members. The rest of the zone is a trekking zone with numerous temples and natural areas.
The accommodation area is where the journey begins. There are three main programs: the pilgrim’s program, the tourist program, and the core program. Pilgrim’s program-dorms for single-family and large groups, semi-outdoor kitchens, indoor sports areas will be used for shelter during the festival season and kirton / media space. Tourist program-dorm for single, family, group of people, playground, sports area, cafe and emergency medical service area. Other programs-admin, ashram for homeless children, priesthood, prayer space, gallery, conference area for international conferences.
Millions of Hindu pilgrims from remote parts of the country are gathered here at the Maha Shivratri Festival in February or March. On the other hand, there are many activities that take place every day in this area. Provided facilities here are festival space, shops, ghat, two children’s pathshalas, waiting sheds, changing rooms, and other ancillary spaces.
According to Hindu mythology, in order to get into the space of nothingness, you must overcome darkness and ignorance. This journey will help people to experience the ten points of Hinduism (1. Existence of God, 2. Numerous paths of spiritual practice, 3. Idol worship, 4&5. Heaven and hell & Restraints for Unfaithful Conduct, 6. The concept of debts, 7. Concept of Purusharthas, 8. Rebirth, 9. Concept of Varnashram, 10. Sadeh-mukti) and to understand the true meaning of liberation. Tourists will also experience an authentic natural landscape through many designed views and lookout points.
According to the Shaiva philosophy, mukti (liberation) can be achieved with the perfect knowledge. A liberated man can liberate others. Standing on the height of 1200ft one can truly feel a sense of freedom and relief. The whole effort of the spiritual process is to get to this place, and once you exit, you just merge with the whole cosmos.
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CONTEXT contributing editor: Md Tarek Morad, Architect & Assistant Professor.