Giacomo Cantelli da Vignola was an Italian cartographer active in the late 17th century. His collaboration with Italian publisher Giovanni Giacomo de Rossi resulted in a large format atlas, the Mercurio Geografico, first published in the 1680’s. Cantelli’s map of the Moghul Empire adds new geographic details and some of his sources are mentioned in the cartouche of the map. One stated source is Jean Baptiste Tavernier, a French traveler and gem merchant. In January 1666 Tavernier travelled the Ganges by boat from Patna to Dhaka. Many of the geographic names in the Bengal part of this map comes from Tavernier’s record.
As Tavernier passes the former capital of Rajmahal he narrates: “Rage-Mehale, is a city upon the right hand of Ganges; and if you go by land, you shall find the road for a league or two, paved with brick to the town. Formerly the Governors of Bengal resided here; it being an excellent country for hunting, besides that it was a place of great trade. But now the river having taken another course, above a good half league from the city, and also to restrain the King of Aracan and many Portuguese bandits who are settled at the mouths of Ganges, and made excursions even as far as Daca itself; both the Governor and the merchants have relocated themselves to Daca, which is at present a large city, and a town of great trade.”
Tavernier made overnight stopovers in several towns on the river. He mentions Teutipour, which is most likely Tartipur in Chapainawabganj district of Bangladesh; now reduced to a small village but still a major site of Hindu pilgrimage. The town of Acerat in this map is Hazrahati, a few miles downstream from Sardah in Rajshahi district of Bangladesh and a major ferry transport point over the Ganges built for the Mughal military.
As Tavernier approaches Dhaka he narrates: “The thirteenth (January 1666), about noon we met with a river, two leagues from Daca, called Laquia, which runs from the northeast. Just against the point where the two rivers join, there stands a fortress on each side, with several pieces of cannon. Half a league lower, appears another River called Pagalu, upon which there is a fair bridge of brick, which Mirza-Mola (Mir Jumla) caused to be built. This river comes from the northeast; and half a league upward appears another river called Cadamtali, that runs from the north, over which there is another bridge of brick.”
The three rivers in this map appears in the order described by Tavernier; however, there is a problem. The Laquia (Lakhya or Sitalakhya River) is to the east of Dhaka. The river system near Dhaka at the time of this map was very different and Tavernier must have had to take a circuitous route to Dhaka, approaching it from the east. So, the three rivers Laquia, Pagalu and Cadamtali should all be to the east of Dhaka and in the reverse order! The fortresses mentioned are most likely the Sonakanda and Hajiganj forts at Narayanganj which are still standing. The Pagalu (Pagla) and Cadamtali (Kodomtoli) Rivers were most likely branches of the Dulai River that joined the Buriganga and are now dried up. The ruins of the bridge over the Pagla River called “Pagla Pul” in Bengali can still be seen on the Dhaka-Narayanganj Road.
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