The Hussaini Dalan was originally built during the later half of the Mughal rule (17th century) in Dhaka. It was built as the Imambara or house of the imam (religious leader) of the Shia community. Hussaini Dalan serves as the main Hussainiya of Dhaka, or venue for majlis or gatherings held during the month of Muharram, tenth day religious gathering commemorates the martyrdom of Hussein, the grandson of the Islamic prophet Muhammad.
According to Taylor (1839),
The principal Mahommedan places of worship are the Edgah and Hossainee Delaun, the latter is said to have been built by a person named Mir Murad, who held the Darogahship of the Nawarrah Mehals, and had charge of the public buildings in the time of Sultan Muhammad Azam.
It was built during the Subedari of Prince Shah Shuja (r. 1639–1647 and 1652–1660), son of Mughal emperor Shah Jahan. Although Shuja was a Sunni Muslim, he patronized Shia institutions too. According to tradition, “Mir Murad had a vision of Imam Hussain erecting a 'taziah khannah' or house of mourning which led to the construction of Hussaini Dalan.
Raised on the foundations of a former small taziakhana, the building has undergone alterations. During the rule of the East India Company, it was repaired in 1807 and 1810. The original date of construction is still disputed, but Hussaini Dalan in its present form is attributed to Nasrat Jung, who rebuilt the imambara in 1823. The present flat roof was rebuilt by Nawab Ahsanuallah Bahadur after the earthquake of 1897, and another verandah was added to the southern side.
The main building is situated in the middle of complex, built on an area of about 0.65 Bighas (9,380 sq. ft/ 88.05 sq. meters). In the south touching the building there is a “pond” having an area of 1.01 Bighas (14,544 sq. ft/ 1376.95 sq meters). This pond is the main attraction of this building which touches the walls of the building
Built on a raised platform, it is a long rectangular building with four simple, yet elegant, cabins at the corners. An attractively built arched gateway, to the north gives right of entry to the building, while a stonework water tank is located directly to the south of the building.
The exterior incorporates both Mughal and British architectural traditions. The south verandah, overlooking the deep-water tank, best illustrates western background, with four columns of Doric order supporting the verandah. Mughal characteristics are seen in the attached three-storeyed pavilion with arched windows and the row of kanjuras (decorative merlons) on the roof.
The main floor of the building is raised on a platform that has rooms containing graves. On the main floor, two large halls known as Shirni hall and Khutba hall are placed back to back to form the nucleus of the building complex. Subsidiary two-storied rooms are on either side of the halls, probably to accommodate a congregation of ladies. And there is a series of three rooms on the east and the west. The side rooms, with the exception of those in the northernmost side room, have galleries on the second storey.
Shia Muslims are a minority in Dhaka. During the first 10 days of Muharram, Hussaini Dalan becomes a centre of mourning and religious gathering in old Dhaka. Both the Sunni and the Shia followers join the mourning, usually ending in the festival of Ashura when a large procession parades through the streets, though mourning continues from 1st day of muharram to 10th of the Islamic month Safar.