Sompur Mahabihar or Paharpur Buddhist Vihara is one of the largest well known Buddhist Bihar’s in the Indian Subcontinent and one of the most popular tourist destinations in the country. This very important archaeological site was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1985. The Bihar is located at Paharpur village, Badalgachhi Upazila in Naogaon District.
This Buddhist Monastery is famous for its unparalleled architectural design. The wonderful terracotta plaques of the then musicians, snake charmers, different types ofanimlas are the key attractions to see. The outer walls of the temple are decorated with the lifestyle plaques of ordinary folks of hundreds of years.
From the excavation work and the inscriptions found on the seals, it has been found that Sompur Mahavihara was built by the second Pala king Dharmapala (782-821) of Pala Dynasty. Other sources say that it was built by Dharmapala’s successor Devpala (circa 810-850) after his conquest of Varendra. The monastery got its first renovation work during the reign of Mahipala (circa 995-1043AD). Then in the 11th century, the monastery was destroyed by fire during a conquest by the Vanga army. After about 100 years Vipulashrimitra rebuilt the Bihar and constructed a temple of Tara.
In the second half of the 12th century, during the reign of the Sena Dynasty, the Bihar started to decline and was ultimately abandoned during 13th century when Muslim invaders occupied this place.
Buddhist Monks used to meet here to discuss on different subjects apart from Buddhism. The Monks from China, India, Japan and other parts of the world come to exchange their studies on culture, politics, arts and other faculties.
Famous Buddhist scholar Atisha Dipankar Srijnan resided here for many years and interpreted Madhyamaka Ratnaprodipa into Tibetan.
This 7th-century archaeological site covers nearly an area of 27 acres of land. The monastery is a large square quadrangle measuring nearly 920 feet. Its main entrance is on the northern side. The outer walls of the monastery are built by a series of cells (total 177 cells) that face toward the main shrine. The central shrine has a crisscross ground plan and a terraced structure that ascend in three terraces to a peak of about 70 feet. The upper level is a large rectangular central block.
This archaeological site remained hidden under grass and stones for centuries after the monks abandoned it in the 13th century. Locals thought this elevated place to be a hill. Thus the name Paharpur came. The complex that was discovered under the rubble had 177 monastic cells, a water pit, a kitchen, and various stupas.
Visiting Paharpur Museum:
The museum of Paharpur Buddhist Vihara is a major attraction to the visitor. Hundreds of archeological things, bearing historical values of that time are displayed here on different show cases. This museum is situated at the footstep of Paharpur Bihar territory. There are three galleries inside the museum building and hundreds of objects collected from Paharpur monastery are displayed on these galleries. During your visit here you might feel that you have lost yourself in the 12th century.
To enjoy the architectural beauty of Paharpur Bihar is a great opportunity. Taking pictures of this great archaeological site will be a memento for you. If you go there in a group you can enjoy a picnic there.
How to Go:
Paharpur Buddhist Vihara is about 282 km away from Dhaka. One can go to Paharpur from Dhaka by both bus and train. Going to Paharpur is a two-phased journey. Paharpur is accessible from both Joypurhat and Naogaon district. One can first go to Joypurhat or Naogaon from Dhaka by bus. Both A/C and non-A/C bus service is available. It takes 6 hours to reach in Joypurhat and 6.5 hours to reach in Naogaon. Then by rickshaw or auto-rickshaw, you can go to Sompur Vihara. You can also go there by private taxi or car.
Where to Stay:
There is a guesthouse at the Bihar arena. If you are enough lucky you can get your reservation. From here you can enjoy the charming beauty of the Bihar at night especially in a moonlit night. If you don’t get any room here then there are many hotels and rest houses in Joypurhat and Naogaon town. You can book a room here in a cheap or expensive hotel according to your budget.
There is no signature food here that tourists can enjoy. Hotels and rest houses supply typical Bangladeshi foods. If you stay in the guest house at Paharpur you will enjoy the eating facilities here but if you go from J
Fresh water and cold drinks are available in the shops. Tea and coffee are also available.