Shalban Vihara is one of the signs of ancient civilizations of Bangladesh. It is the most important archaeological site of archaeological excavation in Mainamati. Due to this excavation has found a large Buddhist Vihara and other materials like Somapura Maha vihara or Paharpur Vihara. These are thought to be from seven to twelve centuries.
The Shalban Vihara is situated in the middle of Lalmai Hills near Bangladesh Academy for Rural Development (BARD) in Kotbari of Comilla district. Once there was a dense forest of Shal-Gajari tree around the Vihara. That is why The Vihara was named after Shalban Vihara. There is still a small forest there. Its adjacent village is named Shalbanpur. This Vihara is like the Somapura Maha Vihara of Paharpur but it is small in size.
At the end of 1875, the ruins of an erection were exposed while constructing a road in present Kotbari area. The ruins discovered at that time were thought to be a fort. In 1917, the Principal of the Dhaka Museum Nalini Kant Bhattasali visited that area and he decided that the ruin was a fort of Ranabankamlla Harikela Dev (thirteenth century) and the city was Pattikera City surrounded by the vihara. However, according to other archaeologists, it was the ruins of an ancient city known as Joykarmantobasak.
It is speculated that the fourth king of Dev Dynasty, Shreebhav Dev, built this Buddhist Viahara from the end of the Christian seventh century to the beginning of the eighth century. The six construction and reconstruction phase of Shalban Vihara is assumed. In the eighth century AD, the central temple was built in the third phase and it is assumed that the overall renovation of the Viahara was made in that phase. The fourth and fifth phase construction and repair work were completed in the 9th-10th century.
It is known that the construction of Shalban Vihara war completed in six construction stage. Each arm of the square-shaped Shalban Vihara is 167.7 meters long. The wall on the four sides of Vihara is five meters thick. There is a central temple in the middle of it. The size of the Shalban Viahara is 167.7 square meters. It has a total of 155 rooms. The main entrance of this monastery is just one. The position of the entry path is in the middle of the North Block. The front door of this entrance is 22.6 meters wide and on the outside, there are two guard rooms on two sides to the entrance. All the walls of Vihara are huge and made of brick. The back wall is the thickest and the largest. The five-meter thick wall, the only entrance gateway, and the huge shape of the exterior show the Vihara as a shape of a fort. Such a fortress was needed because of the economic rise of such religious structures and there was a lack of security.
The Central Temple of Shalban Vihara is not actually a single construction structure, but six different construction structures exist here. These are constructed at different times and in different plans at the same place. There is a clear evidence of how gradually a Buddhist temple has been converted into a Hindu temple. The first two periods of ruins are hidden under the third period. A cruciform mound was built here in 3rd period.
There are a total of 155 rooms in Vihara. There is an 8.5-feet wide verandah in front of the room. At the end of the verandah, there is a small wall. Each cell has three niches on the wall. The statues of gods and goddesses, oil lamps, etc. were kept in the niches. Buddhist monks stayed in these rooms. There he used to study and practice religion.
The Hall Room:
There is a hall room in the south-east corner beside the main entrance and outside of the Vihara. The hall room was built on four walls and four huge round pillars in front of it. This hall was thought to be a monk’s dining room. The length of the hall room is 20 meters and the width is 10 meters. There are wide brick roads around the hall.
Other Archaeological Finds:
Among the important symbols discovered from this site of Mainamati, there are eight copperplates, approximately 400 gold and silver coins, numerous terracotta patterns, terracotta seals, cobbles, stones, bronze and terracotta sculptures, which were found in their original location or elsewhere. These huge collections of archaeological heritage collected from the Shalban Vihar are displayed in the Mainamati Museum.
The Mainamati Museum is located beside the Shalbon Vihara. There are many valuable archaeological materials found in Salban Vihara, Kotila Mura, Charpatra Mura, Rupbana Mura, Itakhola Mura, Ananda Vihara, Ranir Bangla and Bhoj Raja’s House Vihara. For the preservation and display of these archaeological materials, the Mainamati Museum was established on the south side of Shalbon Vihara in Comilla Kotbari in 1965. The Buddha’s huge bronze statue is located on the left side of the entrance of the museum. Then there is a sandstone statue of Buddha. It is thought that it was made in the 7th century. With a number of other significant items, there is a huge bell made of bronze that weighs 370 kilograms.
Schedules and Ticket Price:
In the summer, the Mainamati Museum is open from 10:00 am to 6:00 pm. There is a break between 1:00 pm and 1:30 pm for lunch. And in the winter, the museum is open from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm. There is a break between 1:00 pm and 1:30 pm for lunch. And for the Jumma prayers on Friday, the Mainamati Museum is closed from 12:30 pm to 3:00 pm. Sunday is the weekly holiday and on Monday, the museum open from 2:00 pm. Apart from this, the Mainamati museum is closed on any special day of the government.
For the Bangladeshi citizens, a separate ticket of Mainamati Museum and Shalban Vihara will cost Tk 20. 5 taka for students up to class ten. 100 taka for SAARC nationals. Ticket price is 200 taka for foreign people.
How to go there?
Distance from Dhaka to Comilla is only 2 hours and 30 minutes. Bus services of Tisha and Asia Line are better than any other. You can ride on any of them to go to Comilla. Buses of Prince and Saudia will be better who want to come from Chittagong. But interestingly, it takes less time for trains to go Comilla from Chittagong. You will reach Comilla by only 3 and a half hours by train. The bus takes about 4 hours and 30 minutes.
After reaching Comilla you have to go Tamasam Bridge bus stand. There is a stand of CNG auto rickshaw. From there, CNG auto rickshaw will cost 10 Taka per person to go to Kotbari. from Kotbari you can go to Shalban Vihara by auto rickshaw and it cost 5 Taka per person.
Where will you stay?
There are several hotels and guest houses, including Comilla Club and Comilla City Club here. There are all types of AC or non-AC arrangements in these hotels and guest houses. The cost of each night will be between 1 thousand and 3 thousand Taka for two people in a room. Besides, there are many hotels including Chandrima, Hotel Sonali, Hotel Shalban, Hotel Nidrabag, Ashik Rest House etc. Rent between 200 to 600 taka.
Ashiq Residental Rest House – Address: 186, Nazrul Avenue, Comilla, Contact: 68781.
Hotel Abedin – Address: Station Road, Comilla, Contact: 76014.
Hotel Nurjahan – Address: Dhaka-Chittagong Highway, Comilla, Contact: 68737.
Hotel Sonali – Address: Kandirpar Chattar, Comilla, Contact: 63188.