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Devaparvata


Devaparvata literally 'the mountain of gods' is the name of an ancient city in samatata. It is situated on the isolated mainamati ridge near comilla. Recent archaeological excavations and explorations in the Mainamati area have revealed its extraordinary historical importance and archaeological wealth. They provide a large variety of epigraphic records, over 400 ancient gold and silver coins, innumerable seals and sealing, an exceptionally rich collection of stone, bronze and terracotta sculptures, an extraordinary variety of architectural treasures and various other objects of art and culture. Devaparvata is a great landmark in the reconstruction of the history of the region.

Of the five known successive capitals of Samatata, Devaparvata was the third and perhaps the most significant. It was a pilgrim spot and a great religious and cultural centre long before it became the political centre of the region. We do not know when or how it originated. But it had the requisite character, qualities and resources for such a development. Exceedingly beautiful and picturesque with a hilly-forest surrounding it has a commanding height on the bank of an arterial river that encircles it like a moat - an ideal situation for a city royal. More interesting are the great monastic establishments that grew under its aegis. These remarkable cultural features of the city have left some mark in art, architecture and other aspects of life as are amply manifest in the excavated remains and relics.

That the city of Devaparvata was situated in the Mainamati area is beyond any controversy. Half a century of investigations, discoveries and researches in the area has fully established this fact. Though the work is not yet complete, it has already defined quite clearly and in astonishing detail the character, extent and various features of the city and its environs.

nalini kanta bhattasali's suggested identification of this centre with Chandi Mura on the southern end of the ridge is now rejected. The question has not yet been satisfactorily settled. The discovery of the exact location and identification of this city-centre, if it still exists and has not been completely destroyed and washed away by the Ksiroda, will certainly depend on extensive and intensive archaeological investigations in the area, especially on mainamati’s palace mound, a conspicuously large and high mound at the northern end of the site.

Scholars generally suggest the identification of this centre with Mainamati's Palace Mound for some cogent reasons. The very limited excavations in 1967 here have partially uncovered an elaborate system of defensive walls round the whole site, probably a citadel, and there are clear traces of a substantial river once encircling the site on three sides like a moat, such as has been described in the contemporary epigraphic records.

Capital of Samatata was established at Devaparvata for the first time by Balabhatta, the Khadga ruler, sometime in the latter half of the 7th century AD as is evidenced by Balabhatta's Mainamati Plate. This is also the first record to mention Devaparvata and its famous river Ksiroda (now Gumti), to be followed by more elaborate and more vivid descriptions in the records of the Rata, Early-Deva and Chandra rulers of Bengal.

It is reasonable to think that the city centre of Devaparvata originated as a hill-fort. Its strategic importance for natural defense and its commanding position led to its initial selection and subsequent development. Once selected, it remained the undisputed centre of political authority in the region for more than two hundred years. But it retained to the last its dominant religious and educational bias. The Mainamati excavations hardly leave any doubt about it. Even in its decadent days, it was traditionally associated with a large number of Buddhist sages and Natha Yugis and Siddhas.

Balabhattas Mainamati plate was issued from his Raja-laksmi sprhaniya palace at Katakashila, situated within the capital city of Devaparvata. The record gives a good description of Devaparvata and its river Ksiroda. The city was adorned, among other things, with a raja -marga (kings' way), and Swami Devakhadga's construction of a marga-padastambha at Lalambi-vana, the forested area in the southern part of the ridge, is interesting.

After Balabhatta, the suzerainty of the country appears to have passed to the Rata dynasty. The Kailan plate of Shridharana Rata gives a short but vivid description of Devaparvata, now styled sarvatobhadraka (square or rectangular-shaped), encircled by the river Ksiroda like a moat. 'Elephants ... played in its water', and its 'banks were adorned by cluster of boats'.

The early Devas ruled Samatata from its capital at Devaparvata during the 8th and also probably 9th centuries AD. This was a period of unparalleled peace, prosperity and cultural developments, which is amply manifest in the Mainamati excavations. Two of their five inscriptions have so far been deciphered. The Calcutta ASB plate of Bhavadeva (originally recovered from ananda vihara) gives a very elaborate and vivid description of Devaparvata and its great river Ksiroda. The city has now gained substantially in stature and glory and its river has become the most sacred. Huge monastic establishments and temples including the famous Ratna-Traya shines began to grow and flourish under the active support and patronage of Deva Kings and the place became really fit for the residence of not only kings but also gods.

Devaparvata again came into the limelight under the Chandras in the 10th century AD. Though the capital was moved to vikramapura, Devaparvata did not lose its importance or glory. Contemporary records, remains and relics bear testimony to its undiminished fame and glory till the end of the Chandra period (11th century AD). It was the base for their emergence as a regional power and their operations against Shrihatta-mandala and kamarupa. After the Chandra times, we do not hear of Devaparvata or its inseparable river Ksiroda, its place being taken by Pattikera, the new capital. Its origin is traceable to the Chandra period when, as 'Pattikeraka', it began to grow and develop as an important administrative unit. [M Harunur Rashid]