Paharpur – The Somapura Mahabihara

screenshot_385Paharpur Bihara is the biggest known monastery ever excavated in the southern domain of the Himalayas. Paharpur Bihara is also known as Somapura Mahabihara. ‘Pahar’ means hill and ‘Pur’ means locality, thus the most befitted meaning of ‘Paharpur’ according to Bengali vocabulary is Locality of hill. Paharpur is a small village in Badalgachi Upazila under Naogaon District. Nearest railway station is at Jamalganj, which is about 5 kilometres away from Paharpur and connected to it by brick built road. Paharpur can also be reached by air to the nearest airport, which is at Syedpur and followed by an asphalt road to it via Joypurhat.

Paharpur or Somapura Bihara was established by Dharmapala (781-821 AD), who was the second king of Pala dynasty. Later on Somapura Bihara was reconstructed at least two times by the descendants of Dharmapala. First it was reconstructed by Dharmapala’s successor Devapala (810-850 AD) after the conquest of Varendra. The monastery was repaired again during the period of Mahipala (995-1043 AD).

This quadrangular structure bears 177 living cells, a wide entrance and many traditional Buddhist stupas and temples around it. Among other archaeological ruins the bathing ghat, Gondheswari Temple and Satyapir Bhita are mentionable.

A large number of cultural relics was found from the compound of Paharpur. Among them various clay stone sculptures, bronze sculptures, terracotta plaques, ornaments, potteries, domestic tools, seals, coins, votive stupas etc. are mentionable. These relics are preserved in Bangladesh National Museum, Varendra Museum, Paharpur Museum and Ashutosh Museum (Kolkata). A wide research on these founded sculpture clearly indicates that religion had great influence on ancient society.

The diversified scenario of this historical beauty reflects the then social, political, religious and economical aspects of the ancient Buddhist and Hindus of that time.