Paharpur Bangladesh

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Paharpur Bangladesh

Paharpur (पहाड़पुर) is an ancient Buddhist site site in Bangladesh. It is located in Paharpur, Badalgachhi Upazila, Naogaon District, Bangladesh.



Paharpur is in insignificant border hamlet about three miles West of Jamalgunj railway station, in Bogra district of Bangadesh on the main line of Bangladesh Eastern Railway. The village, which lies in Rajshahi district, is connected with outside world only by un-metallic and dusty cart track.


Paharpur has revealed the remains of the largest Buddhist temple and monastery South of Himalayas. The huge tapering mass in the village is covered by remarkably fine banyan tree, visible from great distance as familiar landmark. Paharpur derived its name from this hill under whose shadow it rested. It was only in the year 1933-34 that the entire remains, isolated pile of conical earth mound, could be completely exposed to view.

According to the epigraphic evidence recovered from the excavations of the extensive remains of Paharpur, the monastery was named Somapura Vihara. Measuring 922 feet North-south and 919 feet East-west externally, monastery represents the biggest single "Vihara" so far known in the subcontinent.

Paharpur Copper-plate Inscription of the Gupta Year 159 i.e. (A.D. 478)

V. Paharpur copper-plate, year 159, I side (ASI)
VI. Paharpur copper-plate, year 159, II side (ASI)

Another important discovery of the site constituted the inscribed copper plate grants and stone inscriptions, which throw light on the history of the site. The earliest is Copper Plate, dated 159 of Gupta era (478 AD), of the Budha Gupta period, found from the monastery area. It records the purchase and grant of land by Brahman couple, for maintenance of Arhats and resting place at Vihara, presided over by Jaina teacher Gahanandin and his disciple, and disciple of disciples. But how this Jaina record of land grant of earlier date found its place in later Buddhist monastery of Somapura is a matter of great controversy.

We get some information provided by Tej Ram Sharma[1] from the information given in the inscription:

  • Mula-Nagiratta (मूल-नागिरट्ट) (No-28,L.2,L.8, L.15) : L.2 of the inscription mentions a manḍala (sub-division) called Nagiratta (Nagiratta-mandalika) and later on refers to Mula- Nagiratta which seems to have been the headquarters of this mandala. It is clear from the inscription itself that Mula- Nagiratta was situated in the neighbourhood of Nitva-Gohali. Mula-Nagiratta literally means 'Nagiratta Proper'. The word Nagiratta is the Prakritic form of Nagarastra meaning 'a country of the Nagas'. [2]

  • Daksinamsaka-vithi (दक्षिणांशक-वीथि) (No. 28, L. 1) : Literally it means 'a road forming the southern part' of the city. It seams to have formed part of the Pundravardhana district and Nagirattamandala was included in it. [3]
  • Vindhyatavi (विन्ध्याटवी) (No. 28, L. 25) : The name appears in one of the verses quoted from ancient Smrtis or the Mahabharata asking people to honour land grants. In the present case it is said that a man who violates the grant is born in the Vindhya forest as a serpent and resides in the dry hollow of a tree. 382 Vindhya forest is the belt of forest at the foot of the Vindhya mountain. [4]
  • Gosatapunjaka (गोषाटपुन्जक) (No. 28, L.2, L.8, L.15) : In line 2 of the inscription the reading is Gosatapunjaka while in lines 8 and 15 the reading is Gosatapunja. Gosata may be the same as gosala or a cow-stall and punja means a multitude. So the village may have consisted of a multitude, of cow-stalls and thus resembled ihe villages known as gohālīs. [5]
  • Jambudeva (जम्बूदेव) (No. 28, L. 2, LL. 7-8, L. 14) : It was the name of a village. It seems that this locality was named after a person named Jambudeva. [6]
  • Nitva-gohālī (नित्व-गोहाली) (No. 28. L. 3, L.9, L. 15) : The maning of Nitva is inexplicable. The word gohali is derived from Sanskrit gosala which is transformed into goal in Bengali. [7]
  • Vata-gohālī (वट गोहाली)(No. 28, L. 2, L. 6, L. 7, L. 12, L. 14) : It was a village situated in the Palāśātta Pārsva within the Nagiratta mandala in the Daksinamsaka vithi. It has been identified with the village of Goalbhita near Paharpur. [8]
  • Palāśāṭṭa Pārsvika (पलासाट्ट पार्श्विक) (No. 28, L. 2, L. 12): Palasatta may mean 'an atta 472 or turret of Palasa trees'. It is possible that there were many Palasa trees by the side of a hill and they may have formed a turret on the hill. The locality near such a situation may have been described as Palasatta-parsvika. [9]
  • Pṛṣṭhima-pottaka (पृष्ठिम पोत्तक) (No. 28, L. 2, L. 8, L. 14) : It seems to be a name based on the goegraphical situation of the place. Prsthima literally meaning situated on the back- side may here signify 'a neglected place'. Pottaka means the site or foundation of a house. It may signify here an inhabitation or locality. [10]

Other stone pillar inscriptions

A number of stone pillar inscriptions (4 belonging to 10th and 12th centuries) discovered at the site and excavation, contain records of the donation of pillars referring to either Buddha or Tri-Ranta (Three Jewels of Buddhism: Buddha, Dharma and Sangha).

Considering the immense size and important of great Vihara, the number of metal images found at the site of the excavation is indeed insignificant. This small group consists of one ornamental bronze image of Hara Gauri in conventional style, bronze image of standing Buddha in the attitude of Protection (Ahhaya Mudra), standing naked Jaina image and bronze images of Kuvera and Ganesha. Apart from large collection of various types of pottery and other minor terracotta antiquities are 4 mutilated stucco Buddha heads of about 8th-9th century AD.