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Barkanta


Barkanta (a corruption of Bada-Kamta) a large old village in Chandina upazila of Comilla district, about 20 kilometres west of Comilla, is thought to be Karmmanta-Vasaka, the khadga capital of samatata (7th century AD). It is identifiable by the picturesquely towering twin Chandi temples on the roadside just near the thana headquarters. A Tripura Maharaja reportedly built these temples some 300 years ago on the southern bank of a large old tank.

There are a number of large old tanks in the village, reportedly with some ancient ruins (no longer visible on the surface), near one of which lies an interesting 8 metres high isolated mound called Mahamaya Mura crowned by a Sena period xiva Linga which is now lost. An east-west running canal intriguingly called Khirnadi (reminiscent of the ancient Ksiroda River) passes through the centre of the village to connect it with the Meghna on the west. The mound lies on the northern bank of this canal.

A large number of ancient images have been recovered from this village, including a rare large image of Revanta, son of the Hindu god Surya, the only specimen of this class discovered in Bengal. During a short tour in the area in 1912, nalini kanta bhattasali discovered the following ancient Buddhist images in and around Barkanta: (a) A large inscribed image of Avalokiteshvara from Belas, about 1.5 km west of Barkanta; (b) Life-size images of Vajrapani Bodhisattva and Heruka from Subhapur near Biharmandal, about 8 km north-east of Barkanta; (c) A large image of Dhyani Buddha from Bagherpar, close to Biharmandal; (d) A large image of the goddess Marichi from Pior, 6 km southeast of Barkanta, and (e) An image of Vambhala, still being worshipped at Biharmandal.

A more sensational discovery of a large inscribed image of Nataraja Shiva was made at Bharella, in 1912 by Bhattasali on the east of Biharmandal. The inscription records that the son of one Kusumadeva, the ruler of Karmmanta, consecrated the image in the 18th year of the Chandra King Shri Ladahachandradeva. These discoveries convinced Bhattasali of the ancient Buddhist character of the locality round Barkanta. As a result, he identified Barkanta with Karmmanta Vasaka, the Khadga capital.

After the mainamati discoveries and the recent discoveries and decipherment of a large number of epigraphic records, scholars no longer accept Bhattasali's identification confidently. 'Kamta' could be a corruption of 'Karmmanta', but in the absence of any other proof, this name alone could not provide positive proof for the identification. There are at least half-a-dozen villages with the same name and three with 'Jayakamta' (also with comparable stray finds of Buddhist images) in this central part of Comilla district. All of them can make equal claims to represent the lost city. The Mahamaya Mura in the centre of the village is not an ancient mound. The ancient Buddhist images recovered from Barkanta and the area around it are very rich and interesting, but none of them could be assigned to a date earlier than the 10th century AD. Therefore it has been argued that Barkanta is not, the 7th century Khadga capital, 'Karmmanta Vasaka'.

In other words, we do not know for sure where the remains of this lost city are. But in view of the significant information regarding 'Karmmanta' supplied by the Bharella Image Inscription of Ladahachandra's time, the question naturally arises: Was there a township called 'Karmmanta', a successor of the 'Karmmanta Vasaka' of the Khadgas, somewhere in the Barkanta area, probably in Barkanta itselfFoodgrain' [M Harunur Rashid]