is a country considerably rich in archaeological
wealth, especially of the medieval period both
during the Muslim and pre-Muslim rules, though
most of it is still unexplored and unknown. In
archaeological fieldwork and research this area
was very much neglected for a long time for various
reasons, not the least of which are its difficult
geography and climate and remoteness from the
main centers of the subcontinent.
With the independence of Bangladesh in 1971
the Government has undertaken a number of field
projects including a comprehensive survey and
exploration of the hitherto unexplored areas and
a fairly ambitious scheme of excavations on selected
Though work at present is carried out on a limited
scale, the discoveries already made have been
significant, while new information and fresh evidence
are coming out gradually. These fresh explorations
are likely to add substantially to our knowledge
of the history and chronology of ancient Bangladesh
and various aspects of her life and culture.
The earlier history of Bangladesh reveals that
Buddhism received royal patronage from some important
ruling dynasties like the great Pala rulers, the
Chandras and the Deva Kings. Under their royal
patronage numerous well-organized, self-contained
monasteries sprang up all over the country. The
major archaeological sites are described below.
Paharpur - Largest Buddhist
Seat of learning:
Paharpur is a small village 5 km. west of Jamalganj
in the greater Rajshahi district where the remains
of the most important and the largest known monastery
south of the Himalayas has been excavated. This
7th century archaeological find covers approximately
an area of 27acres 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.The excavated findings have also
been preserved at theVarendra 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.
The oldest archaeological site of Bangladesh is
on the western bank of river Karatoa 18 km. north
of Bogra town beside Bogra-Rangpur Road. The spectacular
site is an imposing landmark in the area having
a fortified, oblong enclosure measuring 5000 ft.
by 4500 ft.with an average height of 15 ft. from
the surrounding paddy fields. Beyond the fortified
area, other ancient ruins fan out within a semicircle
of about five miles radius. Several isolated mounds,
the local names of which are Govinda Bhita Temple,
Khodai Pathar Mound, Mankalir Kunda, Parasuramer
Bedi, Jiyat Kunda etc. surround the fortified
This 3rd century archaeological site is still
held to be of great sanctity by the Hindus. Every
year (rnid-April) and once in every 12 years (December)
thousands of Hindu devotees join the bathing ceremony
on the bank of river Karatoa. A visit to the Mahasthangarh
site museum will open up for you wide variety
of antiquities, ranging from terracotta objects
to gold ornaments and coins recovered from the
For visiting Paharpur and Mahasthangarh, the visitors
may enjoy the hospitality of Parjatan Motel at
Bogra. Mahasthangarh and Paharpur are only 18
km. and 75 km.respectively from Bogra town.
Rajshahi is famous for pure silk. Silk processing
industry of the Sericulture Board is just ten
minutes walk from Parjatan Motel at Rajshahi.
Besides the Sericulture Board, a visit to Varendra
Research Museum at the heart of the City for archaeological
finds, would be most rewarding.
An isolated low, dimpled range of hills, dotted
-with more than 50 ancient Buddhist settlements
of the 8th to 12th century A.D. known as Mainamati-Laimai
range are extended through the centre of the district
Salban Vihara, almost in the middle of the Mainarnati-Lalmai
hill range consists of 115 cells, built around
a spacious courtyard with cruciform temple in
the centre facing its only gateway complex to
the north resembling that of the Paharpur Monastery.
Kotila Mura situated on a flattened hillock, about
5 km north of Salban Vihara inside the Comilla
Cantonment is a picturesque Buddhist establishment.
Here three stupas are found side by side representing
the Buddhist "Trinity" or three jewels
i.e. the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha.
Charpatra Mura is an isolated small oblong shrine
situated about 2.5 krn. north-west of kotila Mura
stupas. The only approach to the shrine is from
the East through a gateway which leads to a spacious
The Mainamati site Museum has a rich and varied
collection of copper plates, gold and silver coins
and 86 bronze objects. Over 150 bronze statues
have been recovered mostly from the monastic cells,
bronze stupas, stone sculptures and hundreds of
terracotta plaques each measuring on an average
of 9" high and 8" to 12" wide.
Mairiamati is only 114 km. from Dhaka City and
is just a day's trip by road on way to Chittagong.
The capital city Dhaka predominantly was a city
of the Mughals. In hundred years of their vigorous
rule successive Governors and princely Viceroys
who ruled the province, adorned it with many noble
monuments in the shape of magnificent places,
mosques, tombs, fortifications and 'Katras' often
surrounded with beautifully laid out gardens and
pavilions. Among these, few have survived the
ravages of time, aggressive tropical climate of
the land and vandal hands of man.
But the finest specimen of this period is the
Aurangabad Fort, commonly known as Lalbagh Fort,
which, indeed represents the unfulfilled dream
of a Mughal Prince.
It occupies the south western part of the old
city, overlooking the Buriganga on whose northern
bank it stands as a silent sentinel of the old
city. Rectangular in plan, it encloses an area
of 1082' by 800' and in addition to its graceful
lofty gateways on south-east and north-east corners
and a subsidiary small unpretentious gateway on
north, it also contians within its fortified perimeter
a number of splendid monuments, surrounded by
These are, a small 3-domed mosque, the mausoleum
of Bibi Pari the reputed daughter of Nawab Shaista
Khan and the Hammam and Audience Hall of the Governor.
The main purpose of this fort, was to provide
a defensive enclosure of the palacial edifices
of the interior and as such was a type of palace-fortress
rather than a seige fort.
About 27 km. from Dhaka, Sonargaon is one
of the oldest capitals of Bengal. It was the seat
of Deva Dynasty until the 13th century. From then
onward till the advent of the Mughals, Sonargaon
was subsidiary capital of the Sultanate of Bengal.
Among the ancient monuments still intact are the
Tomb of Sultan Ghiasuddin (1399-1409 A. D), the
shrines of Panjpirs and Shah Abdul Alia and a
beautiful mosque in Goaldi villaae.
In mid-15th century, a Muslim colony was
founded in the inhospitable mangrove forest of
the Sundarbans near the sea coast in the Bagerhat
district by an obscure saint-General, named Ulugh
Khan Jahan. He was the earliest torch bearer of
islam in the South who laid the nucleus of an
affluent city during the reign of Sultan Nasiruddin
Mahmud Shah (1442-59), then known as 'khalifatabad'
Khan Jahan adorned his city with numberous mosques,
tanks, roads and other public buildings, the spectacular
ruins of which are focused around the most imposing
and largest multidomed mosques in Bangladesh,
known as the Shait-Gumbuj Masjid (160'xlO8').
The stately fabric of the monument, serene and
imposing, stands on the eastern bank of an unusually
vast sweet-water tank,clustered around by the
heavy foliage of a low-laying countryside, characteristic
of a sea-coast landscape.
The mosque roofed over with 77 squat domes, including
7 chauchala or four-sided Pitched Bengali domes
in the middle row. The vast prayer hall, although
provided with 11arched doorways on east and 7
each on north and south for ventilation and light,
presents a dark and sombre appearance inside.
It is divided into 7 longitudinal aisles and 11
deep days by a forest of slender stone columns,
from which springs rows of endless arches, supporting
the domes. Six feet thick, slightly tapering walls
and hollow and round, almost detached corner towers,
resembling the bastions of fortress, each capped
by small rounded cupolas, recall the Tughlaq architecture
of Delhi. The general appearance of this noble
monument with its stark simplicity but massive
character reflects the strongth and simplicity
of the builder.
The most ornate among the late medieval
temples of Bangladesh is the Kantanagar temple
near Dinajpur town, which was built in 1752 by
Maharaja Pran Nath of Dinajpur. The temple, a
50' square three storyed edifice, rests on a slightly
curved raised plinth of sandstone blocks, believed
to have been quarried from the ruins of the ancient
city of Bangarh near Gangharampur in West Bengal.
It was originally a navaratna temple, crowned
with four richly ornamental corner towers on two
storeys and a central one over the third storey.
Unfortunately these ornate towers collapsed during
an earthquake at the end of the 19th century.
ln spite of this, the monument rightly claims
to bethe finest extant example of its type in
brick and terracotta,built by bengali artisans.
The central cells is surrounded on all sides by
a covered varendah, each pierced by three entrances,
which are separated by equally ornate dwarf brick
pillars, Corresponding to the three delicately
causped entrances of the balcony, the sanctum
has also three richly decorated arched openings
on each face.
Every inch of the temple surface is beautifully
embellished with exquisite terracotta plaques,
representing flora fauna, geometric motifs, mythological
scenes and an astonishing array of contemporary
social scenes and favourite pastimes.
Besides, there are many other monuments which
incite tourist interest.
On the bank of river Buriganga in Dhaka
the Pink majestic Ahsan Manzil has been renovated
and turned into a museum recently. It is an epitome
of the nation's rich cultural heritage. It is
the home of Nawab of Dhaka and a silent spectator
to many events.
Today's renovated Ahsan Manzil a monument of immense
historical beauty. It has 31 rooms with a huge
dome atop which can be seen from miles around.
It now has 23 galleries in 31 rooms displaying
of traits, furniture and household articles and
utensils used by the Nawab.