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Raktamrttika Mahavihara


Raktamrttika Mahavihara mentioned by the Chinese traveller hiuen-tsang, who acquaints us with a sanggharama called Lo-to-wei(mo)-chi-sang-kia-lam, rendered as Raktamrttika Sanggharama, situated in the suburb of Kie-lo-na-su-fa-la-na (ie karnasuvarna). Hiuen-Tsang informs us that 'in this establishment congregate all the most distinguished, learned and celebrated men of the kingdom'.

Till the excavation of Rajbaridanga, lying within the jurisdiction of village Jadupur, Murshidabad (West Bengal), on the western side of the Bhagirathi, in the early sixties of the 20th century, location of Lo-to-mo-chi monastery was a problem. The excavation at Rajbaridanga revealed unimpeachable records pertaining to the identification of the illustrious Raktamrttika mahavihara. Prolific building activities have been noticed. Structural remains having uniform patterns and sequences were uncovered in all the trenches. Though no complete plan of any building complex could be obtained, the nature and character of the structural remains indicate the existence of a Buddhist monastic establishment, comprising a platform, stupa basements, staircase, pavement etc.

However, the most significant clue to the identification of the vihara is given by a sealing, excavated from culture period II, corresponding to 5th to 7th/8th centuries AD. This sealing bears the Dharmachakra-deer symbol on its upper register and two lines of inscription on the lower part. dineschandra sircar read the legend on the sealing as:

(L1) Shri - Rakta[m]rttika - (ma)havaiha (L2) rik - arya - bhiksu -[sanga] s[y] a. [(This is the seal) of the community of the noble monks of the Great Monastery at the illustrious Raktamrttika.]

Another fragmentary sealing bears three lines of inscription on the lower register. BN Mukherjee read the legend as:

{' L1}' Raktangrtti (kayam) {' L2}' (vi)har(e) (Arya) (L3}' bhiksu (sanghasya?).

Thus on the basis of the legends on the monastery sealings we can locate exactly the hitherto unknown geographical position of the illustrious Raktamrttika Vihara described by Hiuen-Tsang in the 7th century AD. It is important to note that the period of the sealings tallies with the period of the visit of the great pilgrim.

The existence of the Buddhist establishment is also attested to by the finds recovered during excavations which comprise stucco heads, copper chakra, sealings with sacred Buddhist formulas, etc. One of the sealings (no 19) bears the legend Guhyachakrah. The term Guhyachakrah indicates performance of some secret rites and is perhaps a precursor of later Tantricism. This is possibly the earliest epigraphic record from Bengal mentioning any type of religious rites.

The presence of the name Raktamrttika can also be perceived in a fragmentary slate stone inscription from the Wellesly province of Malay peninsula datable to 5th century AD. The inscription refers to a Mahanavika Buddhagupta from Raktamrttika, which may be identified with the famous Raktamrttika Mahavihara.

On the strength of the identification of Raktamrttika Vihara with Rajbaridanga, Karnasuvarna, the capital city of the 7th century Gauda kingdom of shashanka, can now be located with greater exactitude in the neighbourhood of the excavated site of Rajbaridanga. [Suchandra Ghosh]