Savar is situated at a distance of about 24 km to the northwest of Dhaka metropolis on the Dhaka-Aricha road, at the confluence of the Bangshi and Dhaleshwari (Dhaleshvari) rivers. The area forms the southern part of the Madhupur Pleistocene uplands. The land surface of the area is elevated. The upper terrace is known as chala and the intersecting low land is called baid.
The modern name of Savar (Sabhar) is derived from the word Sarbeshvar or Sambhara. Savar has a long and glorious past. Early human occupation took place at Savar right from the 7th-8th century AD onwards. Local legends associate one Raja Harish Chandra with this area. Harish Chandra is believed to have migrated from Radha to Savar and established his capital on the bank of the Bangshi. Two inscriptions have been reported from this place; one on a burnt brick fragment contains only the name of a king called Harish Chandra Pal, the other, apparently issued by a king called Mahendra, records his genealogy. The text of the shlokas in that inscription states that Raja Dhimantasena, a devotee of Buddha and son of King Bhimasena, invaded and conquered the powerful Kiratas of Bhabalina (the land between the Brahmaputra and the Bangshi). His son Ranadhirasena extended the kingdom up to the Himalayas and fixed his residence in the city of Sambhara (Savar). Ranadhirasena's son Harish Chandra was a saint king and his son Mahendra dedicated a math in the year 791 shakabda (equivalent to 869 AD). It may also be pointed out that 6 post-Gupta gold coins have been reported from Savar; two of these bear the legend 'Shri-Krama' while a third bear the legend 'Sudhanya'. It is not unlikely that Savar was the seat of a political power as early as the Gupta period.
A total of 13 ancient archaeological sites have been discovered at Savar. These are Raja Harish Chandrer Badi, Rajasan, Kotbadi, Gandaria, Karnapada, Kalma, Sulia, Dagar Mura, Mathbadi, Madanpur, Fulbadi, Konda and Pathalia (Jahangirnagar University Campus). These fall into three categories ie administrative, religious and pottery or residential sites. All the sites are found in and around Savar and on the eastern side of the Bangshi. The distance between one site to another site is not more than two kilometres. The cultural remains discovered from these sites are pottery, brick stupas and monasteries, bronze images, gold and silver coins, iron spear-heads and a dao (iron-knife), stone querns and mullers, terracotta plaques, weights, dabbers, balls and decorated bricks. The potteries of these sites represent red, black and grey wares. The common shapes are bowl dishes and small to medium sized pots and jars. The ceramics are both plain and painted. The pottery is decorated with black slips on red wares and painted horizontal bands and geometric designs on the body and neck. A few potsherds have also been found decorated with mat and cord impressions.
The major sign of ancient occupation on the riverbank at Savar is the still surviving Kotbadi mound, a fairly large rectangular area surrounded by a mud wall, although it has been largely eroded now. Mathbadi, located close to the modern channel, is another ancient occupational area. Buddhist monastic remains have been found at least in three places, one of which is locally known as Harish Chandra Rajar Badi in Majidpur village to the east of the Savar Market bus-stop. Archaeological excavations at Savar have been conducted recently at this site. Further to its east is Rajasan, another area containing Buddhist remains. In excavations, conducted here in 1925-26, traces of four structures along with some lintels of terracotta, Buddha images, and an inscribed Visnu image were found. The evidence as a whole pointed to 7th-8th century AD. Excavations in the Rajbadi mound in 1989-90 revealed a square-shaped stupa enclosed by a wide wall. A silver 'Harikela' coin, a gold coin and a number of Buddhist bronze figures have been unearthed here. A date around 7th-8th century AD has been suggested for the remains.
Besides these sites a number of ancient ponds can also be found in this area. Local legends suggest that King Harish Chandra excavated a total of 50 ponds in a single night. Of these the names of 30 ponds are known from different literatures. These are Sagar Dighi (near Raja Harish Chandrer Badi), Raj Guru's pond, Chhota Khuda, Bara Khuda, Kumaria pond, Dakaitmara pond, Jor pukur, Niramis pukur, Kodaldhoya pukur, Giyas pukur, Satini pukur, Amis pukur, Doyatdhoya pukur, Raj Dighi, Sukh Sagar, Khataishya pukur (near Kalma), Jalori pukur, Ban pukur, Chhobangara pukur, Lal pukur, Satpukuri pukur, Chhaiyal pukur, Jaleshvari pukur, Pitkila pukur, Choti Mara pukur, Andar pukur, a second Kodaldhoya pukur, Budir Bagh pukur, Yogir pukur (at Jahangirnagar University Campus) and Moor pukur. Most of these ponds have now silted up by natural processes or have been brought under human habitation. [MM Hoque]
Bibliography NK Bhattasali, 'The Math Inscription of Mahendra, Son of Harish Chandra of Sabhar', Dacca Review, 1920; GM Laskar, 'Notes on Raja Harish Chandra of Sabhar', Dacca Review, 1920; MM Hoque, SMK Ahsan and SSM Rahman, 'Pre-Muslim Settlement and Chronology of Savar Region', Pratnatattva, 1996; AKM Shahnawaz and MM Hoque, 'Savar: History and Archaeology', in Souvenir, 9th Bangladesh Science Conference, held in Jahangimagar University, 1996.