Somapura Mahavihara Somapur Mahavihara or, Sompur Vihara or, Paharpur Buddist Vihara is a ruined ancient Buddhist monastery in Bangladesh. The second king of the Pal dynasty, Sri Dharma Pal Dev (781-821) built this monastery in the late eighth century or in the ninth century. In 1879, Sir Alexander Cunningham discovered these huge structures. In 1985 UNESCO recognized Somapur Maha vihara as a world heritage site.
The Somapura Mahavihara is said to be the world’s largest Buddhist temple. It is compared to the Nalanda monastery of India. It was the Buddhist’s most famous religious teaching center for 300 years. Buddhists from other parts of the subcontinent, from here, China, Tibet, Myanmar (then the Brahmins), Malaysia, Indonesia etc used to come here to acquire the knowledge of religion. In the tenth century AD, Atish Dipankar Shriggan was the chancellor of Somapura Mahavihara. The reputation of knowledge of great scholastic Atish Dipangkar reached in faraway Tibet beyond the boundaries of Bengal. It is saying that he came to the Tibet and solved the water problem there. The house of this great scholar was in the village of Bajrajogini of Bikrampur near Dhaka.
Location and Size:
Somapura Mahavihara was situated in the middle of the capital of Pundravardhana Pundranagar (presently Mahasthan) and the other city of the millionaire (presently Bangarh). Its ruins are located at Paharpur village of Badolgachi Upazila of Naogaon district of Rajshahi division of Bangladesh. On the other hand, it is only 5 kilometers west of Jamalganj railway station in Joypurhat district. This archaeological site is located in the village of approximately 0.10 square kilometers (10 hectares). This landmark plot of the archaeological site is the quadrilateral shape. It is located at an elevation of approximately 30.30 meters above the plane lands of the area. It looks like a hill. The local people called it ‘Gopal Chitar Pahar’ (Hill of Gopal Chita). Since then it has been named Paharpur, although its name is Somapura Mohavihara.
History and Background:
In the middle of the 7th century, Hiuen Tsang came to Pundravardhana, but there is no mention of the Somapura Mahavihara and the temple in his description. Gopal’s son Dharma Pal (781 – 822 AD) ascended the throne and ruled for a long time and extended the kingdom beyond Bengal, Bihar to Gandhar on the northwestern border of Pakistan. Emperor Dharma Pal was very devout Buddhist and he founded Vikramshila and Somapura Mahavihara. According to another, the author of the famous Tibetan history book “Pag Sam Zahan Zhang” has very clearly mentioned the huge monastery and tall temple built in Somapur by Dev Pal (810-850), son of Dharma Pal. In various scripts have been mentioned that monks of Somapura Mahavihara used to donate money and treasure in various Buddhist pilgrimage sites like Nalanda, Bodhgaya etc.
At the end of the 9th century, the first ritual of the King of Gujrar and Mahendra Pal was particularly damaging to the Pala kingdom. Later, at the end of the 10th century, the king of Pal dynasty Mahi Pal (995-1043) restored the empire and repaired the Somapur Maha Vihara. But after the death of Mahi Pal and his son Naya Pal, the fall of the Pala dynasty started again. In the 11th century, Ram Pal retained in power. In the 12th Century, Kings of Sen dynasty who came from Kornat of South captured Bengal. During the reign of the Sen kings, Somapura lost the royal patronage. The fall of Sompur began for the last time. At the beginning of the 13th century, Ikhtiyar Uddin Muhammad-bin-Bakhtiar Khilji attacked Bengal and occupied a large part of north Bengal. Perhaps, Somapur Maha vihara and the temple had been destroyed completely because of the anti-statue mentality of these Muslim kings.
Somapur Mohaviihara is 922 feet long in the north to south and 919 feet long in the east to west. According to experts, Somapur Maha Vihara is the best in the world, so far the number of archaeological finds of geometrical design has been found all over the world. There are 177 houses in Vihara. Buddhist monks lived in these houses. There is a temple in the middle of vihara. The main wall of vihara is about 20 feet wide.
The temple is 400 feet in length, 350 in width and 70 feet tall. In the evolution of time, the upper part of the temple collapsed. On the outer wall, there are Buddha statues, Hindu statues of Goddess and lots of burnt soil plaques. These figures illustrate the diverse life stories of ordinary people.
There are found ruins of some buildings in the open part of Bihar. Many of these buildings could not be identified. The dining-room and kitchen are located in the southeast part of the courtyard. There are 46 m long brick paved sewage between these two deployments and it has three wells in a row. There are also some submersion stacks, administrative buildings, a portrait of the central temple etc. The northeast buildings of the courtyard were probably used for administrative and other purposes.
Bathrooms and Toilets:
They are basically the buildings located outside of Vihara. A number of baths and toilets were constructed on a platform 27m south from the southern wall of Bihar. The stage is 32m long in the east to west and 8.23m wide in the north to south. It is connected by a high paved road from the number 102 room of Vihara.
About 3.5m wide bathing ghat is located about 49m south of south-eastern angle of Bihar. On each side, each wall is 1.5m wide. The ghat was built by stacking bricks.
12 meter west from the bathing ghat an east facing building has been found in the which is locally known as the Gandheswari Temple. Its length is 6.7 meters and width is 3.5 meters.
Name of some statues found in Somapur Mohavihara:
• ‘Chamunda’ Statue of Clay Stone
• Standing ‘Seetala’ Statue of Red Stone
• Broken Parts of ‘Visnu’ Statue of Krishna Stone
• ‘Keerti’ Statue of Clay Stone
• Damaged ‘Haargouri’ Statue
• Broken Statue of Laxmi Narayan of Krishna Stone
• ‘Uma’ Statue of Krishna Stone
• ‘Gouri’ Statue of Clay Stone
• ‘Visnu’ Statue of Clay Stone
• Nandi Statue
• ‘Visnu’ Statue of Krishna Stone
• Sun Statue
• ‘Mansha’ Statue of Clay Stone
All statues are reserved in the adjacent museum for display.
An Archeological Museum has been built beside the Somapur Maha Vihara. If you want to see the archaeological heritage of Paharpur and nearby archaeological sites, do not forget to visit the museum.
Schedule of the museum:
From 1st April to 30th September:
Open Monday to Thursday from 10:00 am to 6:00 pm. Midday lunch break between 1:00 pm and 2:00 pm. Friday 9 am to 5 pm. Lunch and Jummah prayers break 12:30 pm to 2:30 pm.
1st October to 30th March:
Open from Monday to Thursday from 9 am to 5 pm. Midday lunch break between 1:00 pm and 2:00 pm Friday 9 am to 5 pm. Lunch and Jummah prayers break 12:30 pm to 2:30 pm.
How to go there?
After reaching Naogaon town from any corner of the country, you can go straight to the historic Paharpur by bus from Naogaon Baludanga Bus Terminal. It distant approximately 32 kilometers from the bus stand and fares of buses is 30-40 Taka.
Or after reaching Jaipurhat from any corner of the country, you can go to Paharpur Buddhist Vihara with the bus or autorickshaw. It is only 13 kilometers away from Jaipurhat.
BY Train: You can reach Jamalganj Railway Station in Joypurhat by train. You can go to Paharpur by rickshaw or van. Paharpur is only 5 kilometers distant from Jamalganj Railway Station.
Where will you stay?
There is no arrangement for common people to stay in Paharpur. You have to return on the day. However, there is a rest house near for the VIPs. There are several hotels in Naogaon to stay:
• Hotel arrival, Muktir Mor, Naogaon. Phone: 0741-63351
• Hotel Obokash, Shantahar Road, Naogaon. Phone: 0741-62356
• Afsar Rest House, Sadar Hospital Road, Naogaon. Phone: 0741-63153
• Paharpur Archeology Rest House, Paharpur. Phone: 0571 89119