Sunday, May 8, 2011

Mainamati-Lalmai mound

Mainamati-Lalmai ridge contained Buddhist ruins. One learns from him that even the war cemetery was built on the ruins of a Buddhist monastery. Apart from this, one may gather from Barry Morrison’s work on Lalmai and also from our field -observations that there are some small ancient settlements which were contemporary with the Buddhist remains and possibly represented nothing more than villages in the Lalmai hills. One such settlement where I observed ashy occupational soil and miscellaneous cultural debris is Barapara Bhuiyan’s Mound. The copper-plate inscription of Ranavankanalla  Harikaladeva was discovered ob the Mainamati ridge during a road repair work. The inscription referred to the capital city of pattikeara which has been identified with the Mainamati ruins. The city was supposed to be adorned with forts and monasteries. In the same way in 1875 the ruins of a small brick-fort were identified in the area of the Kotbari mound. The ruins were rediscovered during the Second World War and the Archaeological Survey of India moved in, briefly recording and protecting some sites. Among the sites which were greatly disturbed by the bricks-robbing activities of the military contractors, one may mention Ananda rajar palace, Rubpan Kenya’s palace, Bhoj Vihar, itakholam Rupban Mura, kotbari mound, etc. The Mainamati excavations of the Pakistan department of Archaeology began in 1955. The initial emphasis was on Salban Vihar, leading to the discovery of a large monastic complex and associated artistic and historical material. This was followed by work at Kutila Mura and Charpatra mura were the data on the Ananda Vihar excavations for the first few seasons the other excavations have remained completely unpublished.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

The shrine of Bhusu vihar and vihar

The main shrine of this Buddhist complex lay in the southeastern part of the mound, about 320' to the south of monastery 2 and about 100' to the southeast o f monastery -1. It was a semi cruciform shrine with terraced ambulatory passages, measuring as a whole 125' north –south and 87’ 6" east –west .It was entered from the north, the assembly hall or the mandapa was in the center of the shrine. There were 3 ambulatory passages at three heights. The width of these passages was not uniform, varying between 4 and 6 in the highest terrace. In the lower terraces it was wider and more irregular, St the level of the lowermost terrace the outer facade of the shrine was decorated with bas-reliefs made of terracotta plaques. The utter wall at the ground level shows a combination of projections , recessions and offsets and was decorated with a series recessed panels made of mounded or carved bricks.bronze images, terracotta plaques, decorated bricks and inscribed terracotta sealing constitute the major antiquities found at the site , apart from the usual range of minor antiquities including pottery, The discussion on pottery is not accompanied illustrations and does not go much beyond the classification of the material in two groups- gray ware pottery and pink ware pottery . More than 60 bronze images have been recovered, mostly from inside the cells, although belonging to the late occupational level of the site, some of them could have been fashioned earlier and preserved in the monastery , All the images fund have been reported to have had back slabs and high pedestals, they represent the Buddha or Dhyani Buddha, Bodhisattva and Bodhisaktis . The images of akshobhya are said to be more numerous among the Dhyani Buddha figures. In the range of the Bodhisattava figures, Avaokitesvare is supposedly more common and the images of the different varieties of Tara dominate the range female figure .No large, life-like bronze images has been found , but a large and inscribed pedestal suggests that such figures existed . Some images are inscribed and all of them have one of two inscribe sealing attracted to the back of the back slap. It has been observed that ‘their elongated slim body, thin waist, broad chest and graceful developed features recalling the classical pala art ether standing or seated on elevated padmasana with or without any separate pedestal, are somewhat different from those of Mainamati which are characterized by more squat body , simple to crude style and more elaborate and prominent back slab and pedestals with foliage and there ornamental devices below the seat. The terracotta plaques are of two general sizes and belong to two essentially typological groups which have been somewhat inaptly described as early figures ,animals and birds and various geometric and floral compositions , The in influence of the Gupta classical art these terracotta’s and adds :In whatever aspect they are considered these terracotta’s and adds  in whatever aspect they are considered ,these terracotta have apparently made a significant contribution to the art tradition of Bangladesh ,There is a descriptive catalogue of 27 terracotta plaques .A large number of ornamental bricks which were used to decorate the outer wall of the shrine along with terracotta plaques have been obtained. The common designs are the lotus petal, stepped pyramid , dental edge , wavy lines floral and chain motifs ;the lotus petal and stepped pyramid designs are the most common designs on ornamental bricks not bricks at Vhasu vihar but also at Mainamati , Paharpur and there Buddhist sites .more than 250 inscribed terracotta sealing out of which more than a hundred are decipherable have been obtained in the Bhasu Vihar excavations .These have been divided into four groups : sealing with two lines of inscriptions below the traditional dharmachakra symbol flanked by two deer ;the inscription could not be satisfactorily read. sealing inscribed only with personal names such as Junaraksita , Dharmadeva, etc.; these constitute the vast majority of the excavated sealing . sealing bearing the formula of the Buddhist creed.a small number of sealing bearing only floral and geometric symbols .The fact that the inscribed material from Bhasu Vihar has not been properly read and published has to be regretted . It may be noted that we still do not have a idea of the inscription on the large bronze pedestal of many smaller inscriptions of the bronze images.

Lakshmindarer Medh

There are numerous mound in the vicinity of Mahasthangarh and the Bagura district as a whole.These mound will be briefly reported in the next chapter .Here we are concerned only with the excavated data .One may, however,note in passing that all there mounds give the impression of being structural mounds containing the ruins of stupas, temples and monasteries. They are all fairly compact and high mounds with plenty of brickbats on the surface. one may legitimately infer that they harbor the remains of burnt-brick structures.Chronologically,most of these structures probably belong to the period between the sixth seventh century and the twelfth-thirteenth century,roughly between the Gupta-post-Gupta period and the time of the pala-senas. Regretly only two of these sites have been excavated,the first one, lakshmindarer Medh in 1934-5 and the second one bhasu vihar, in the mid-seventies. The village of Gokul lies about a mile to the south of mahasthangarh, on the western bank of the Karatoy a which has formed a clear loop in its flow in this section.The village could have been the ancient village of Gopagriha, the name of which figures in one of the inscriptions found at mahasthangarh .There are two mounds in the village. lakshmindarer medh and netai dhopanir pat  mahasthangarh and its Environs lists their sizes,respectively,as 200' by 110' by 54' and 300' by 300 by 30' .The height of 54' for a mound is very high indeed in this part of the subcontinent and perhaps because of this the mound of lakshmindarer medh was excavated in 1934-6 by N.G. majumdar, The modern reports, however , put the height of the mound at 43' from the level of the surrounding plain . The mound, when excavated, revealed a single structural complex.It is essentially a polygon of 24 sides with a central shrine raised on an octagonal plinth .This central shrine could have been a stupa but no tease of it was found in the excavations, The most significant feature here is the cellular architecture in which 172 blind rectangular cells of different dimensions were packed solidly with earth and arranged in gradually rising tiers to support the lofty and massive podium of the central shrine, The shrine is place more than thirty feet above the ground level on a solid foundation raised by means of four massive walls forming a quadrangular platform, the intervening spaces of which were same compact by erecting cross-wanks and by filling up the cell-like enclosures , thus formed, with earth, subsidiary smaller quadrangles were also add on fort sides to lend further strength to the high and solid foundation supporting the shrine, These subsidiary quadrangles were also reverted on four outside by additional rows of walls and cells, they being of shallower and of less height as they reach the ground level , The western quadrangle is longer than those in the other three sides, and from the remains of the flight of steps it may be assumed that the main approach was from the west. This movel arrangement of buttress quadrangles not only let stability to the whole monument but also are to the grandeur and imposing character of the building level that once stood on it .Terracotta plaques and other associated objects date the first phase of the shrine in the sixth-seventh century. The original shrine of stupa on the central octagonal plinth gave way in the Sena period to a square shrine with a porch on the outside .Later on the door way of the shrine and porch was blocked and the floor level further raised to an known height. A small cell containing a human skeleton was found inside the shrine. A brick-lined pit was found to underlie this cell. A stone slab found in the center of the shrine carried 12 shallow holes . and a larger hole in its center yielded a gold leaf which was an inch square. The figure of a recumbent bull was engraved in relief on this gold leaf and this at least suggests that the Sena period shrine was devoted to the worship of Siva.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

The discovery in the lalmai hill

The fact that, except for the chance find of a single palaeolithic tool from Chhagalnaiya, on palaeolithic site could be located in the territory of modern Bangladesh comes as a surprise.One must remember that there are large Pleistocene deposits in Bangladesh and that palaeolithic men had lived during the Pleistocene period. One must also recall that, although there is an almost total absence of suitable rocky material for  palaeolithic implements in Bangladesh, fossil wood occurs in reasonable quantities in many of the areas with Pleistocene deposits.The Barind tract of the northern part of Bangladesh, the Madhupur tract of the Mymensing and Dhaka districts, the Comilla-Noakhali hills of which the Lalmai hills are a part, and the Chittagong hilly areas are the major instances of Pleistocene deposits  in Bangladesh. The hypothesis could be checked in the field in the Lalmai area only in the early part of January 1989, and on the very first day of my personal exploration of the area it was possible to locate a stratified palaeolithic occurrence. The next spell of fieldwork, this time with the support of the archaeology project of the Jahangirnagar University, took place in April 1989 and resulted in the discovery of ten more palaeolithic occurrences.The Mainamati-Lalmai complex of hill, about 8 km long and 4.8 km wide at its maximum, extends from the Ranir Bangla ridge on the Comilla-Brahmanbaria road in the north to the vicinity of the Dhaka-Chittagong railway track in the south. The average height of this upland from the level of the surrounding  plain is about 12 m, with some individual spurs rising up to a height of 30-50 m. The northern part of this complex of hills is known as the Mainamati hills whereas the southern section is called the Lalmai hills. Basically this tract shows a spread of rolling uplands intersected by depressions. wherever the cliff- like formations are cut they show a clear cross-section of yellowish sandy material which is leached a little red towards the top. One can also observe some small nodule concretions and very rare small quartz pebbles in the section. Formerly, the area was given over to the jhum or slash –and-burn method of cultivation by a group of trials called the Tipras. Now the settled farmers use this area for vegetable cropping on the slopes and tops of the ridges and for normal rice cultivation in some of the depressions between the ridges. Vegetation has worn thin but one can notice stumps of sal, jack fruit and mango trees, apart from bamboo groves, etc. The area explored by us falls in the south and southeast  parts of the ridge. Our search for prehistoric tools was conditioned primarily by the distribution of fossil wood chunks which were used as raw materials. At the same time, we noted that not all types of fossil wood were preferred as raw materials. There was a distinct preference for only those pieces which showed below the cortex or surface skin a rather hard and flinty deep brown or darkish material. This shows that the prehistoric people concerned were closely familiar with the properties of fossil wood chunks of the area and their distribution.

Mound of Bihar

The mound of Bihar is only a kilometer south of Bhasu vihar and encircled y the Nagar river .It was excavated in 1979-83.The major discovery has been that of a monastery, the plan of which has been full obtained .It measures 57 m by 61 m and contains 37 monastic cells in all around the open courtyard: 10 each in the northern and southern wings 8 in the eastern wing and 9 in the western wing . The gateway projects outward from the center of the eastern wings. It was flanked on the outside probably by two guardrooms which survive in the form of two structures, each measuring 6.33 m by 5.9 m. A staircase led to the outer hall which also contained a brick platform with a semi circular structure at the base .The inner entrance hall is linked to the inner verandah from where a staircase with 3 steps goes down to the open courtyard .The monastic cells measure 3.3 m -4.5 m by 3.3 m. The partition walls are 1.5 m thick. The outer wall of the monastery which also the back wall of the monastic cells is 2.6 m thick while the thickness of their front walls  2 m . The lone surviving example of a door is 1.4 m wide.  In two cell s of  the eastern wing pedestals for image shave been found .The verandah is uniformly  2.7 m wide , with the western part of the southern wing showing  a brick platform . The thickness of the retaining wall of the verandah varies from 1.3 m in the eastern and western wings to 1 m in the northern  and southern wings . Deep digging revealed to conductional phases of the monastery, one built on the top of another without any alteration in the layout .The ruins of possibly another monastery were exposed to the south of this monastery the outline of which could not be fully obtained. Five monastic cells were excavated. One of them was found to possess a 2.2 m square platform . The back wall of these cells id 2.5 m thick and the thickness of the front wall is 1.8 m. The partition wall is 1.2 m thick. The southeastern portion of the mound showed the ruins of a temple with a high superstructure based on an irregular series of blind cells. It appears that the sanctum of the superstructure was built over the massive squares central cell of the cellular structure. This central cell internally measures 4.6 m N-S by 4 m E-W and externally 9.6 m N-S 9 m E-W. The massive eastern and western walls of the cell are 2.7 m wide and northern and southern walls are 2.5 m wide. Other subsidiary cells encircle this central cell in several rows on its four sides .The major antiquities discovered at the site are  one silver coin  of Sultan Sikandar shah , thirteen terracotta plaques , two terracotta seals, a few decorated bricks , miniature earthen pots , oil lamps , lids , glass bead ,terracotta beads balls toys,, net sinkers, bronze pieces , red , ochre’s , and iron nails.