Somapura Mahavihara Tourist Activities:
- Visit Somapura Mahavihara and adjacent archaelogical sites
- A walk through a remote Bangladesh country side
- Visit nearby Mahasthangarh
Paharpur Traveller Quick Facts
Administrative Division: Rajshahi Division
District: Naogaon District
Area: 3,435.67 km2 (1,326.5 sq mi)
Airport: Jessore Airport (IATA: JSR, ICAO: VGJR) is an airport in Jessore, Bangladesh.
Local Transport: Cars, Bus, Rickshaw, Scooters
Tourist Season: November - February
- Somapura was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1985
Paharpur a small village 5 km. west of Jamalganj in the greater Rajshahi district holds the remains of the most important and the largest known monastery to the south of the Himalayas known as Somapura Mahavihara. It was an important intellectual centre for Buddhist Dharmic Traditions besides the Jains (Jaina Dharma) and Hindus (Sanatana Dharma). It is considered the most impressive and Most Important Bangladesh Archaeological Site and also a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
A number of monasteries grew up during the Pāla period (circa. 750-1174) in ancient Bengal and Magadha. According to Tibetan sources, Five great Monasteries stood out: Vikramashila, the premier university of the era; Nalanda, past its prime but still illustrious, Somapura Mahavihara, Odantapurā, and Jaggadala. The five monasteries formed a network under state supervision and a system of co-ordination. The Paharpur excavation, and the finding of seals has indicated that the Second Pala king Dharmapala built the Somapura Mahavihara (circa 781-821) of Pāla Dynasty. Tibetan sources, including Tibetan translations of Dharmakayavidhi and Madhyamaka Ratnapradipa, Taranatha's history and Pag-Sam-Jon-Zang, mention that Dharmapala's successor Devapala (circa 810—850) built it after his conquest of Varendra.
The Nalanda inscription of Vipulashrimitra records that the monastery was destroyed by fire and also killed Vipulashrimitra's ancestor Karunashrimitra when the Vanga army, thought to be an army of Varman rulers, conquered it in the 11th century. About a century later Vipulashrimitra renovated the vihara and added a temple of Tara. The restoration work was alluded to as "jagatang netraika vishrama bhuh" (a singular feast to the eyes of the world).
Atisha Dipankar Srijnan stayed here for many years and translated the Madhyamaka Ratnapradipa into Tibetan. Over time Atish's spiritual preceptor, Ratnakara Shanti served as a sthavira of the vihara, Mahapanditacharya Bodhibhadra served as a resident monk, and several other scholars spent some part of their lives at this monastery including Kalamahapada, Viryendra and Karunashrimitra. Many Tibetan monks visited the Somapura Mahavihara between 9th and 12th centuries.
During the rule of the Sena dynasty, known as Karnatadeshatagata Brahmaksatriya, in the second half of the 12th century the vihara started to decline for the last time. It was finally abandoned during the 13th century, when the area came under Muslim occupation.
Visit Somapura Mahavihara to see the UNESCO World Heritage Site and also visit the nearby Mahasthangarh in Bogra during the same trip.
Somapura Mahavihara Tourist Attractions:
- This 7th Century Archaeological Site covers approximately an area of 27 acres (110,000 m2) of land. The entire establishment, occupying a quadrangular court, measuring more than 900 ft (270 m) and from 12 ft (3.7 m), to 15 in 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 rooms were used by the monks for accommodation and meditation.The architecture of the pyramidal cruciform temple is profoundly influenced by those of South-East Asia, especially Myanmar and Java.
- A site museum built during 1970s, houses the representative collection of objects recovered from the area. The excavated findings have also been preserved at the Rajshahi Varendra Research Museum. The antiquities of the museum include terracotta plaques, images of different gods and goddesses, potteries, coin inscriptions, ornamental bricks and different clay objects.