Saturday, April 24, 2010

Two Archaeological Finds Enrich the History of Bangladesh

Villagers proudly mill around a newly-revealed
mosque minaret in the Padma River

Photo courtesy: Bangla Kagoj (March 30, 2010), Toronto

Discovery of an Ancient Mosque in the Padma River

According to the Bangla Kagoj, a Bangla weekly from Toronto, some villagers in Bagha Upazilla of Rajshahi District found an ancient mosque and another building in the decreasing waters of the Padma River. In the meantime, a portion of a minaret of the mosque rose above water and people also collected bones, skulls, door-and-window planks and various household items from under water.

Checking the 12"x6"x4"-size bricks, plucked from the mosque cupolas, some historians estimated that the submerged buildings could be from the kingdom of Pathan (Pashtun) jaigirdar (a fief-holder who is rewarded rent-free landed estate by a king or ruler for his meritorious service) Laskar Khan.

Mahbub Siddiky, President of Rajshahi Heritage, says that by the end of the 16th century, Pathan Jaigirdar Laskar Khan had his capital and military quarters at Alaipur of present Bagha Upazilla. The archaeological finds are located at Chakrajapur, three to four kilometres south of Alaipur. Mughal army chief Man Singh, after defeating Laskar Khan, had given the kingdom to Botshacharja.

The Bangladesh government officials are taking some measures in securing the area and the artifacts.

More Historical Sites Hidden Under Water

When writing the history of the Catholic Church in Bangladesh, I came across some places that were made famous by Portuguese traders who did business with Bengal in the 16th and 17th century. Due to river erosion, these places vanished in the rivers. Some of these places are Diang (called 'Dianga' by the Portuguese -- on the Karnaphuly River near Chittagong), Bhulua (in Noakhali District), Bakla ('Bacola' in Portuguese, in Bakerganj District, Chandecan (or 'Chandkhan' or 'Ciandecan' -- in the Sunderbans Forest in the present district of Satkhira), Sripur (was the capital of Kedar Rai on the bank of the Kaliganga River in present Munshiganj Upazilla. The Portuguese would get their ships repaired here), Norikul (the Portuguese called it 'Loricul' -- in Dhaka District on the bank of the Padma River), Katarab or Katibari (the Portuguese called it 'Katrabo' -- in Dhaka District, opposite of Khijirpur on the bank of the Shitalakkya River) and Hoshenpur (in Mymensingh District on the bank of the Old Bhramaputra River). Besides these, there were innumerable bazars (marketplaces) and villages and other human settlements that were devoured by annual erosion of aggressive rivers.

In the past several decades, Bangladesh rivers have been undergoing drastic changes. Due to dams constructed by India in upstreams, many of these rivers have been heavily silted making the water level much lower and less currenty than before. The aging and shrinking rivers are gradually revealing the loots they had taken away in their primes. In future, Bangladesh is most likely to encounter many more archaeological finds in the rivers.

A char (silted island) is rising in the Padma River
near the town of Rajshahi in early 1973
Photo (Rajshahi: 1973) © Jerome D'Costa

An example of destructive Padma River erosion
at Daulatdia in Faridpur District in 1985
Photo (Daulatdia: 1985) © Jerome D'Costa

Ancient Buddhist Temple Found at Kamrabo Village in Narsingdi Upazilla
A Buddhist temple being unearthed at Kamrabo Village
Photo courtesy: Bangla Kagoj (March 30, 2010), Toronto

Archaeologists are unearthing a Buddhist temple at Kamrabo Village near Shibpur of Narsingdi Upazilla, Bangladesh, reports the Bangla Kagoj weekly. The square temple has an entrance, veranda, circumambulatory path, an altar, lamp stand and several terracotta lotus flowers -- symbols of Lord Buddha. The temple was hidden in an earth mound covered with trees and shrubs. Local people called this mound 'Dhubirtek'.

It is noteworthy that Kamrabo village is about four kilometres away from Wari-Bateshwar, where a 2,500-year-old Buddhist settlement was discovered years ago. Professor Shah Sufi Mustafizur Rahman, the chief archaeologist, said that, with this digging at Kamrabo, the first Buddhist temple in Modhupur Tract has been found.

In the last ten years, archaeologists found roads, ditches, settlements, bricks, stone beads, coins, weighing scales, plates, stone and iron axes, and other artifacts at Wari-Bateshwar diggings, supervised by Professor Shah Sufi Mustafizur Rahman of the Archaeology Department of Jahangirnagar University. According to the professor, a tamrolipi (written copper plate) was found at Ashrafpur of Shibpur in 1885 and it had mentioned of four Buddhist viharas (places of refuge, dwelling or monastery for wandering Buddhist monks) in this area. He surmises that the Kamrabo temple should be one of them and there are possibilities of finding remaining viharas.

Historians marked 563-483 B.C. as the period when Lord Buddha, founder of Buddhism, was alive. According to Professor Rahman, there's a legend that lotus flowers bloomed in the places, where Lord Buddha visited after his birth. That's why in some statues the Lord Buddha is shown seated on lotus flower.

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