Wednesday, May 17, 2006


Shalban Bihar
Even though it is not included in the World Heritage list, Mainamati is an area with several important Buddhist acheological sites in Bangladesh. This area is located near Comilla (pronounced Kumilla) town, which is about 80km southeast of Dhaka. It took us about an hour and a half to reach there from Dhaka. The main congestion was in the outskirts of Dhaka, where seemingly a zillion trucks and buses gather and mingle.

There are several sites in Mainamati, many of them fall inside the Comilla cantonment or are unexcavated. The place to visit is the Shalban Bihar, which was a Buddhist enclave built by Shri Bhavadeva in 8AD (a Devapala king) . On this foundation, several repairs and rebuilding have been done over the ages.

The name of the site suggests that in some distant past, it must have been a secluded spot surrounded by shal trees (This is famous for being the kind of tree under which the Buddha lay down to die). Presently, there are several residences in the vicinity and no shal trees in sight (though in all honesty, I would not be the best person to identify one). Nevertheless, it is still nice place to see.
Shalban Bihar
While we were visiting, a group of schoolchildren were frollicking about, presumedly on a fieldtrip.

Following them, I climbed on to the top of the structure looking for the central shrine but all I found were rectanglular markings designating the area.
Central Shrine?

There is a small museum next to the Bihar where you can gain admittance with 2 takas (which is a pitable amount even in Bangladesh!). I was pleasantly suprised to find some impressive statues there, though there was very little information about the pieces. They appeared to be mostly terracota but a couple were more exotic and appeared to be made of stone or bonze, including some of Tara, who is a goddess amongst Buddhas. Maybe she took a detour here on her way to the Far East . . .

Even though most of the buildings in the Bihar have collapsed, the heavy foundation and superstucture remains, sunken into the soft soil of the area. It occured to me that this phenomenon is similar to Bangladesh's ancient past, which clings on despite some people's efforts to erase the pre-islamic days, years & centuries.


Blogger Bedini said...

just a note on tara, she is actually a popular deity among some tantric hindu sects in west bengal, so maybe that's what she was doing in bangladesh...

1:17 PM  
Blogger Mikey said...

If you decide to continue this work.. it would be great if we could have some of your contributions over at! I'll definitely be using your impressions of Comilla for my book.

11:16 AM  
Blogger Mikey said...

Woops, screwed up that link.

try this one instead.

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