Bangladesh Buddhist Association


The Somapura Vihara is a Buddhist Monastery dating from the late 8th century. It is located in Paharpur, in the northwest of Bangladesh. It is said to be the second largest single Buddhist monastery south of the Himalayas. It was made a WHS as a tribute to the Pala dynasty that ruled Bengal and Bihar for 3-5 centuries from the middle of the 8th century. Paharpur is a small village 5 km. west of Jamalganj in the greater Rajshahi district of Bangladesh. Anyone can go to Paharpur from Jaipur district. Its only 10 km from Jaipur. King Dhammapala established Paharpur Buddhist Monastery in 7th century. From the readings of the sealings we came to know that its original name was Sompura (the abode of the moon) Mahavihara (great monastery) which was built by Pal King Dhammapala in century 770-810 A.D. It was burnt and destroyed by the Patihari Intruders during the time of weak successors of King Devapala in century 810-855 A.D. and again by the Vangala armies some time by the twelfth century A.D. Following these repeated destruction and establishment of Hindu Rule in this part of Bengal, the vihara was completely destroyed by the monks around the thirteen century A.D. Since then it had been lying under the wind born activities for several centuries and ultimately took the shape of Pahar (mountain). This is why it is known as Paharpur (the abode of mountain).The main Mandir (temple) is in the center of this Monastery. This 7th century archaeological find covers approximately an area of 27 acres of land. The entire establishment, occupying a quadrangular court, measuring more than 900 ft. externally on each side, has high enclosure- walls about 16 ft. in thickness and from 12 ft. to 15 ft. height. With elaborate gateway complex on the north, there are 45 cells on the north and 44 in each of the other three sides with a total number of 177 rooms. The architecture of the pyramidal cruciform temple is profoundly influenced by those of South-East Asia, especially Myanmar and Java. A small site-Museum built in 1956-57 houses the representative collection of objects recovered from the area, where you can see the statues of Buddha and Vishnu. The excavated findings have also been preserved at the Varendra Research Museum at Rajshahi. The antiquities of the museum include terracotta plaques, images of different gods and goddesses, potteries, coins, inscriptions, ornamental bricks and other minor clay objects.In the plain land naturally everybody becomes curious to see such a high pile of land. As such at the beginning of the nineteenth century the personals of the then East India Company who came to this land for the official works attracted the attention of this hill of Paharpur. As a result many of them visited this Paharpur out of curiosity. Amongst them Dr. Buchanon Hamilton visited the site as early as 1807-1812. In the year 1875 Westmacott visited the site. Those personals after returning to their country expressed their views and experiences in many news papers. Basically, following their description the Chief of Indian Archeological Survey and pathe-finder of Archeology in this Sub-Continent Sir Alexander Cunningham visited Paharpur in the year 1879. At last in the periphery of 1909 Archeological laws this site Paharpur was declared as reserved ancient heritage. UNESCO has taken Paharpur as World Heritage Site (WHS).