Jagaddala Mahavihara

Jagaddala Mahavihara During the four centuries of prosperous rule of the a Buddhist monastery situated in Naogaon. Pala rulers, numerous Buddhist monasteries, temples and Stupas were erected by various kings throughout their vast empire. dharmapala, for example, is believed to have raised no less than 50 such self-contained massive religious cum-educational institutions. Among them most prominent are the gigantic vikramashila mahavihara in Magadha; Vikramapuri Vihara at vikramapura, somapura mahavihara at Naogaon, Paharpur and Jagaddala Mahavihara in varendra.

Jagaddala Mahavihara, Naogaon

Jagaddala Mahavihara was probably built by ramapala (1082-1124 AD). According to Sandhyakara Nandi's ramacharitam, (composed in the reign of Madanapala) it was located in Varendri.

Some famous Buddhist scholars in Tibet such as Vibhuti Chandra, Danasila, Mokshakara Gupta and Subhakara Gupta belonged to this monastery. Scholars have now established that many Tibetan translations of Sanskrit texts, especially those dealing with Vajrayana and Tantrayana philosophy of Mahayana persuasion, were actually composed at the Jagaddala Vihara. The presiding Buddhist god at this Sanggharama was Avalokiteshvara.

Subhakara Gupta and Abhayakara Gupta, along with other scholars of Vikramashila Mahavihara, are believed to have taken shelter at the Jagaddala Mahavihara after the former’s destruction, and to have prepared scores of Sanskrit works on Buddhism.

These scholars - some of whom were Bengalees - not only wrote on religious subjects but also made considerable contribution to the development of secular Sanskrit literature, particularly poetry. Vidyakara, the compiler of subhasitaratnakosa, was a scholar of the famous Jagaddala Mahavihara.

In quest of the ancient site of Jagaddala, AKM Zakaria has identified five old sites bearing the same name, of which four are in northern Bangladesh and one in Maldah in West Bengal (India). These are: (a) Jagdal in Panchagarh; (b) Jagdal in Haripur upazila of Thakurgaon; (c) Jagdal in Bochaganj upazila in Dinajpur; (d) Jagdal in Dhamoirhat upazila of Naogaon; and (e) Jagdala in Bamangola upazila of Maldah. After carefully exploring these places personally and assessing their potentiality Zakaria observed that except the one in Naogaon district, the other four sites did not have any ancient remains worth any consideration. He therefore, tentatively identified the extensive mounds of Jagdal in Dhamoirhat as the site of the illustrious Jagaddala Mahavihara.

Scattered ancient mounds and deserted tanks occupy a large area in Jagaddala village and are located about 3 km northeast of Hatitakidanga Bazar on the Jaipurhat-Dhamoirhat highway about 1.5 km south of the Bangladesh-India border and 8 km northeast of Dhamoirhat upazila. paharpur and halud vihara Buddhist monasteries are only 20 and 18 km distant from it.

There is an interesting account of these ruins in the railway guide book in Bengali, entitled Banglay Bhraman, published by Amiya Basu as early as 1940 of which an English translation has been rendered by Zakaria. It observes: 'at a distance of about 3 miles from the Gurava Stambha (pillar) near the river Chiri or Sri, there is a circular stupa (actually mound) with a circumference of about 1000 ft. There is another stupa, measuring 225' and a large tank near it. An octagonal stone pillar has also been discovered from the place... The octagonal inscribed monolithic pillar mentioned in the above guidebook is located about 5 km southeast of Jagaddala village at Mangalbari. This is the famous historical Garuda pillar or Badal pillar inscription installed by Bhatta Gurava Mishra, a minister of King Narayanapala (854-908 AD).

Although most of these ancient mounds have been destroyed and the tanks silted up, with the passage of time there are still some straggling mounds surviving, albeit heavily encroached on or destroyed by the villagers. While carrying out reconnaissance survey in the area in early 1983-84, Musharraf Hussain, an officer of the Department of Archaeology collected a broken black basalt stone slab engraved with three Dhyani Buddhas and a broken bronze bell from the house of a certain thief Benjamin (known as- Benjamin Chora), which were reported to have been recovered from the Jagddal site.

A cluster of mounds is situated to the southern end of Jagddal and the northern fringe of Jagatnagar villages. Among these there is an imposing oblong mound, measuring 105m east-west and 85m north-south with an average height of about 5.5m from the surrounding ground. There is a depression in the centre of the mound.

In view of the importance of the site, the Department of Archaeology began a small-scale excavation on the above mound during the winter of 1996. It partly unfolded the remains of a Buddhist monastery. So far, only seven monastic cells from the southern and four from the western wings have been discovered, each measuring 3.5m ' 73.3m. Inside some of these hermit cells and also on the verandah facing them, there were stone altars for icons, similar to altars found in some cells on the eastern wing of Paharpur monastery. In addition to the above eleven recluse cells, excavation have also revealed an entrance gateway to the east and a small shrine on the western wing. Curiously, the monastery appears to have had four semi-circular corner towers, a feature usually not found in any ancient monastic establishment.

One season's excavation at the above mound has exposed only a small part of a monastery, leaving its major part still buried under the ground. Even so, the antiquities recovered from it, besides the structural remains, are encouraging. Excavations have recovered over 150 objects of art and artifacts of daily use including stone sculptures, inscriptions, terracotta plaques and a terracotta head, ornamental bricks, a gold ingot, various earthen pots and pans, iron nails, dressed stone pieces, pedestals and beads.

Of the three stone images salvaged in mutilated condition, one is a black stone image of Visnu (9cm ' 7cm ' 72cm) dug up from the southern wing of the Vihara, although the pedestal and Laksmi image are missing. It has been stylistically dated to the 10th/11th century. The second is the Buddhist image of Heruka, the 'protector of devotees', in close embrace with Sakti, his counterpart-carved on a limestone (90m ' 78m ' 74m). This image bears affinity to the one found at Paharpur monastery and is approximately dated at the same period.

The third is a large unidentified headless stone image of a god (1.33 ' 70.50 ' 70.36) with both hands broken and a detached pedestal, depicting double petalled lotus and the foot of the icon, found separately. He wears a dhuti, bedecked with an armlet on his left arm, a waistband, a necklace, and a sacred thread across the body over the shoulder from left to right.

Besides the terracotta head picked up loose from the southwest corner of the monastery, some terracotta plaques depicting human and animal figures were salvaged from various parts of the Vihara. These represent a doorkeeper, an archer, deer, birds etc. A number of these were found in situ decorating the western outer wall. Ornamental bricks show lotus petal, chain and zigzag patterns. Other minor antiquities include iron nails stone beads and large quantities of old pottery.

However, the most important discovery from the site was a couple of inscribed stone pillars that help us in ascertaining the chronology of the site. One of these was found near the eastern gateway of the Vihara and the other form its southwest corner. The octagonal shaft of the first pillar found near the eastern gateway, engraved with proto-Bengali characters of about 12th/13th century, records that the writer of the inscription was Shri Makkada Nandi from Gangapura. The second stone pillar found in the southwest corner of the monastery, still half buried in the trench bulk, is also engraved in the proto-Bengali character of the same period and records the name of Sri Bhava Dasa, belonging to the writer caste. Both Sri Makkada Nandi and Sri Bhava Dasa, belonging to the writer caste, were probably residents of Jagaddala or its ambient area.

The results of the limited excavations carried out in 1996 at the above large mound in Jagaddala village, though encouraging, are not conclusive. The identity, chronology and the extents of the ruins of the monastery here have still not been identified. In order to obtain a clearer picture it is necessary to urgently undertake prolonged and systematic operations at the site - especially in view of the threat of progressive destruction of the scattered mounds by land hungry villagers who have already considerably denuded these ruins in the last 50 years. [Nazimuddin Ahmed]

Bibliography Akm Zakaria, 'Jagaddala Mahavihara', The Journal of the Varendra Research Museum, 8, 1994; Abul Hashem Miah, 'Jagaddala Viharer Sampratik Khanan', Itihas Parishd Patrika, 1404 BS.