Somapura Mahavihara in Paharpur, Badalgachhi Upazila , Naogaon District, Bangladesh is among the best known Buddhist viharas in the Indian Subcontinent and is one of the most important archeological sites in Bangladesh. It was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1985.It is the largest Buddhist Vihara and one of the largest building complex along with its principal temple.
A number of monasteries grew up during the Pāla period in ancient Bengal and Magadha. According to Tibetan sources, five great Mahaviharas stood out: Vikramashila, the premier university of the era; Nalanda, past its prime but still illustrious; Somapura Mahavihara; Odantapurā; and Jaggadala. The monasteries formed a network; "all of them were under state supervision" and there existed "a system of co-ordination among them ... it seems from the evidence that the different seats of Buddhist learning that functioned in eastern India under the Pāla were regarded together as forming a network, an interlinked group of institutions," and it was common for great scholars to move easily from position to position among the
It was excavated at 1879 and discovered by Sir Alexandar Cunningham, an archaeologist. - It has been identified as Sompur Vihara its Founded by Dharmapala the 2nd Pala ruler.
Dimension: 922X919 ft from east-west to north-south
Principal structures: Consisted of three parts -Main temple-cruciform shaped, Dominating part of the whole complex -Monastery-monastic cells enclosing the whole courtyard -satyapir vita
Entrace: - Main gateway at north - Another gateway between the 15 & 16 cells
Area: 22 acres. 08. No of cells: 177.
Material: Entire Temple and monastery were made of brick
Plan: 356X314 ft from north-south to east-west and had a cruciform shape.
Height: Presently 72 ft height from the ground. It has four tires. Each cardinal point had a rectangular chamber. Temple was designed around a hollow and square shaft rising above the three terraces.
Path: All the tapering masses and receding terraces are processional path.
Staircase: Grand staircase at the north providing access to the 1st and 2nd terrace.
Hall & antechamber: Located at the 2nd terrace.
Mondopa: The shaft surrounded by four chambers with four columns- these chambers are called Mondopa.
Shrine: Probably at the enter there was a towering superstructure with four columns at the ground level. Hall room & lobby
space: Entering the north block a large hall room of 53X47 ft dimension then a lobby space of 37X24 ft.
Plinth: It was very high with terracotta decoration expressing mythological incidents.
Ornamentation: -terraces are adorned with terracotta decorations. - 3 rows of stone sculptures. - 2000 terracotta plaques in site and 800 were collected during excavation. - Terracotta size was 8’6”X8’4”.
Paharpur Monastery Plan: Quadrangular. Area: 22 acres Wall thickness: 16ft
Cells: 177 monastic cells, north has 45 and other sides had 44 each and the size of those cells were 14’0”X13’6”.
Verandah: Cells were connected by a 9 ft wide verandah which had no access from courtyard to corridor.
Central Block: It was extended on each side to the interior having 3 rooms.
Gateway: The elaborate gateway complex is flanked on either side by guard rooms. Shrine: At the south-east corner of the courtyard were a group of five votive shrines of various shapes.
Kitchen: It was also located in the same spot as the shrine. Toilet: Monastery latrine block was located on the southern side.
Passage: Passage is vaulted with radiating true arch.
Bathing Ghat: 160 ft away at the southeastern corner.
Nameable statues found
The statues are reserved in the adjacent museum for display.
• 'Chamunda' Statue of Clay Stone.
• Standing 'Seetala' Statue of Red Stone.
• Broken Parts of 'Visnu' Statue of Krishna Stone.
• 'Keerti' Statue of Clay Stone.
• Damaged 'Haargouri' Statue.
• Broken Statue of Laxmi Narayan of Krishna Stone.
• 'Uma' Statue of krishna Stone.
• 'Gouri' Statue of Clay Stone.
• 'Visnu' Statue of Clay Stone.
• Nandi Statue.
• 'Visnu' Statue of Krishna Stone.
• Sun Statue.
• 'Mansha' Statue of Clay Stone.
Sompur Bihar at Paharpur is about 282 km by road from Dhaka. Iit will take about 6.5 hours to reach Paharpur by bus/taxi/private car if no major stops are made along the way. If one starts from Dhaka, the route shall be Dhaka - Savar - Chandra - Tangail - Jamuna Bridge - Bogura - Naogaon - Badalgashi- Paharpur. The best way to tour the site is to first reach Naogaon and stay there or reach Badalgacchi and stay there in Dakbanglo