Millennium Post

Museum to be set up at excavation site of India’s oldest Buddhist monastery

Senior officials of the excavation team said that historical artifacts recovered from a mound at Mogalmari village suggest that the monastery was constructed during post Gupta period between 5-6 century AD. The excavation which was started by the Directorate of Archaeology and Museum in 2013 brought to light the largest Buddhist monastery complex in the state. Excavations are being conducted in various phases, the first two of which have been completed while the work in the third phase will begin after Puja this year.

The state government is trying to promote the Mogalmari as an important tourist destination as it is a unique artistic creation embellished with stucco work of Nalanda in Bihar and partly with the Raktammthika Mahavihar of Bengal, enriching the history of the state. The state tourism department is developing the Mogalmari as a favourite destination for attracting the tourists from various parts of the country and abroad. The state archaeological department has a plan to set up a museum showcasing the artifacts recovered from the monastery.

It may be mentioned that a team from the Calcutta University led by the then head of the Department of Archaeology and current senior official of the state government, Dr Ashoke Dutta had carried out some excavation work in 2003. Later, the Directorate of Archaeology and Museum protected the mound and started the excavations after Ashoke Kumar Das, the then District Magistrate of Howrah who is originally from the Mogalmari village wrote to the directorate urging it to take up the issue.

Prakash Chandra Maity, the Director of the excavation said that in seals and coins found in the excavation suggest that the monastery was set up during post Gupta age. It is evident from the mixed metal coins carrying a mention of King Samachar Dev who ruled in South Bengal. Evidences which were found in the four lair of outer wall of the monastery say that the name of the monastery was “Sri Bandaka Mahavihar”. 

“The monastery was situated on the 64,000 square meter mound and the entire village of Mogalmari carries the evidence of one of the oldest Buddhist monastery which had a mention in the account of Buddhist monk Hsuan-Tsang,” Maity said. He also said that the most remarkable aspect was the recovery of 95 bronze image hoard Botive Stupa. These suggest that it was a big monastery where the people used to come from various parts of the world. There were 4 large rooms which appear to the study rooms for Buddhist monks. 

There were also small rooms where the monks used to stay. People used to visit the village through waterways and Tomluk was assumed to be a major port area. The evidences that were found in the excavations include terracotta, sealing, stone beads, bangles, potteries, gold pendent. A gold crown found in the site suggests that it could be donated by some kings. The monastery has two structural phases.

The earlier phase (6th – 7th Century AD) is characterised by the application of stucco and decorative bricks in the construction. The later phase (11th to 12th Century AD) is represented by a tri-ratha structure to the west as a brick stupa inside the complex.
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