Paharpur Buddha Vihara
By far the most spectacular Buddhist monuments, discovered in regular excavation is the gigantic temple and monastery at Paharpur in the Noagaon district. Architecturally and historically Paharpur Vihara is a treasured heritage of the world. It has been identified from a set of inscribed clay seals, as the reputed Somapura Vihara, of the great Pala emperor Dharmapala. It is the single largest Vihara south of the Himalayas. This immense quadrangular monastery with 177 monastic cells enclosing the courtyard, its elaborate northern gateway and numerous votive stupas, minor chapels and extensive ancillary buildings within the 22 acre courtyard, is dominated by a lofty pyramidal temple in the centre. A site museum houses the representative collections of objects recovered from the area. The excavated finds have also been preserved at the Varendra Research Museum at Rajshahi.
Mahasthangarh is one of the earliest urban archaeological sites so far discovered in Bangladesh. The village Mahasthan in Shibganj thana of Bogura District contains the remains of an ancient city which was called Pundranagara or Paundravardhanapura in the territory of Pundravardhana. A limestone slab bearing six lines in Prakrit in Brahmi script, discovered in 1931, dates Mahasthangarh to at least the 3rd century BC. The fortified area was in use till the 18th century AD.
Mahasthan means a place that has excellent sanctity and garh means fort. Mahasthan was first mentioned in a Sanskrit text of the 13th century entitled Vallalcharita. It is also mentioned in an anonymous text Karatoya mahatmya, circumstantially placed in 12th–13th century. The same text also mentions two more names to mean the same place – Pundrakshetra, land of the Pundras, and Pundranagara, city of the Pundras. In 1685, an administrative decree mentioned the place as Mastangarh, a mixture of Sanskrit and Persian meaning fortified place of an auspicious personage. Subsequent discoveries have confirmed that the earlier name was Pundranagara or Paundravardhanapura, and that the present name of Mahasthangarh is of later origin.
Mahasthangarh is a notable historical tourist attraction of Bangladesh. Many tourists come here to see the glory of Mahasthangarh.
Mainamati once known as ‘Samatata’ denotes a land lying almost even with the sea-level. An isolated eleven-mile long spur of dimpled low hill range known as the Mainamati- Lalmai range runs through the middle of Cumilla district from north to south.
Excavation on this range has revealed over 50 ancient sites dotting the hills, mostly containing various types of Buddhist remains of the 8th to 12th centuries A. D. Excavations at a number of sites, locally known as Salban Vihara, Kutila Mura, Ananda Rajar Badi, Chaarpatra Mura, Mainamati Ranir Badi from 1955 till todate, besides exposing many Buddhist monasteries temples and stupas, have also yielded a rich collection of stones and bronze sculptures of various gods and goddesses, coins, reliquaries, royal copper plate grants, terracotta plaques, jewellery, pots and pans and other miscellaneous objects of daily use which eloquently speak of the glorious cultural attainments of the period.
Salban Vihara was an extensive centre of Buddhist culture of 7th to 12th century. The attractions include Buddhist Vihara (monastery) with imposing central shrine, Kotila Mura, another Buddhist establishment 5 km. north of Salban Vihara. Chaarpatra Mura an isolated shrine about 2.5 km north-west of Kotila Mura and Bangladesh Academy for Rural Development, known for its pioneering role in co-operative movement in the country.
Mainamati is only 114 km from Dhaka city and is just two hours’ drive on the way to Chattogram.
Sixty Dome Mosque
The Sixty Dome Mosque (more commonly known as Shait Gambuj Mosque or Saith Gumbad Masjid), a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is a mosque in Bangladesh- the largest in the country from the Sultanate period. It has been described as “the most impressive Muslim monument” in the whole of the Indian subcontinent.
In mid-15th century, a Muslim colony was founded in the unfriendly mangrove forest of the Sundarbans near the coastline in the Bagerhat district by an obscure saint-General, named Khan Jahan Ali. He preached in an affluent city during the reign of Sultan Nasiruddin Mahmud Shah, then known as ‘Khalifalabad’. Khan Jahan adorned this city with more than a dozen mosques, the spectacular ruins of which are focused around the most imposing and largest multidomed mosque in Bangladesh, known as the Shait-Gumbad Masjid (160’×108′). The construction of the mosque was started in 1442 and it was completed in 1459.The mosque was used for prayer purposes. It was also used as a madrasha and assembly hall.
The ‘Sixty Dome’ Mosque has walls of unusually thick, tapered brick in the Tughlaq style and a hut-shaped roofline that anticipates later styles. The length of the mosque is 160 feet and width is 108 feet. There are 77 low domes arranged in seven rows of eleven, and one dome on each corner, bringing the total to 81 domes. There are four towers. Two of four towers were used to call azaan. The interior is divided into many aisles and bays by slender columns, which culminate in numerous arches that support the roof.
It is located in Bagerhat district in southern Bangladesh which is in the division of Khulna. It is about 3 miles far from the main town of Bagerhat. Bagerhat is nearly 200 miles away from capital city Dhaka.
This Temple near Dinajpur town was built in 1752 by Maharaja Pran Nath of Dinajpur. The temple, a 50′ square three-storeyed edifice, rests on a slightly curved raised plinth of sandstone blocks, believed to have been quarried from the ruins of the ancient city of Bangarh near Gangarampur in West Bengal from where the now stolen Radha-Krishna idols are said to have been brought. It was originally a nava-ratna temple, crowned with four richly ornamental corner towers on two storeys and a central one over the third storey. Unfortunately these ornate towers collapsed during an earthquake at the end of the 19th century.
Every inch of the temple surface is beautifully embellished with exquisite terracotta plaques, representing flora, fauna, geometric motifs, mythological scenes and an astonishing array of contemporary social scenes and favourite pastimes. The Maharaja’s palace with relics of the past centuries and local museum are worth a visit.
Wari-Bateshwar is the site of an ancient fort city dating back to 450 BC situated in the north-eastern part of Bangladesh. This 2500 years old site is a significant archaeological discovery. It challenges the earlier notions about the existence of early urban civilization in Bangladesh.
The place is about 75km from Dhaka situated near the Wari and Bateshwar villages in the Belabo Upazila of Narsingdi District. It was discovered in the early 1930s. However, formal excavation started only recently in 2000. The researchers believe that Wari-Bateshwar is the rich, well planned, ancient emporium (a commercial city) “Sounagora” mentioned by Greek geographer, astronomer, mathematician Ptolemy in his book Geographia. The other emporia mentioned in Ptolemy’s work include Arikamedu of India, Mantai of Sri Lanka, Kion Thom of Thailand. All of them were the most ancient civilisations in their respective regions, each was a river port, and all of them produced monochrome glass beads. The artifacts found at Wari-Bateshwar bear similarity with those found in the other emporia sites.
According to researchers, the discovery of Rouletted Ware, Knobbed Ware, stone beads, sandwiched glass beads, gold-foil glass beads, Indo-Pacific monochrome glass beads and importantly its geographical location indicates to Southeast Asiatic and Roman contacts.
Excavation also unearthed the presence of pit-dwelling. The discovery of a pit-dwelling is the first of its kind in Bangladesh. People used to live in these small ditches. The pit-dwelling is a Copper Age or Chalcolithic artifact. Similar pit-dwellings have been found in India and Pakistan which are believed to be 4000 years old. The unearthing of a 180-meter long, six-meter wide and 21-35cm thick road with a by-lane points to very early urbanisation in this area.
Sonargaon – the Old Capital of Bengal
Sonargaon originally Svarnagrama or Suvarnagrama, denotes an ancient janapada (territory) of Vanga stretched on both banks of the Brahmaputra, which is said to have originally been inhabited by a race called Svarna-bhushita, literally meaning ‘dressed up with gold’ and signifying a people traditionally adorned with gold-wear. The antiquity of this region may be traced back to the period of Kuru-Pandava war described in the Mahabharata, and even earlier. Its importance in ancient time is borne by the traditional holy bathing places of Langalband and Panchamighat on the west bank of the Old Brahmaputra river.
The most glorious period of Sonargaon began in 1338 AD when it emerged to have been the capital of the earliest independent sultanat of Bengal founded by Fakhruddin Mubarak Shah. After the fall of Musa Khan (1611) in the hands of the Mughals, Sonargaon lost its political pre-eminence, and survived as the headquarters of one of the sarkars of Bengal subah. With the establishment of Mughal capital at Dhaka, the city of Sonargaon must have fallen fast into decay.
Bangladesh Folk-Art Museum is also situated at Sonargaon. It is open for the tourists from Friday to Wednesday from Morning 10-00 am to afternoon 5-00 pm.
Ahsan Manjil (The Pink Palace)
Ahsan Manzil situated at Kumartoli of Dhaka on the bank of the Buriganga, was the residential palace and the kachari of the Nawabs of Dhaka. It has been turned into a museum recently. It was said to be the Rang Mahal of Sheikh Enayetullah, a zamindar of Jamalpur Pargana (Barisal) during the time of the Mughals. Having purchased it from his son Matiullah, the French made it their trading centre. Khwaja Alimullah bought it from the French in 1830 and converted it into his residence, effecting necessary reconstruction and renovations. Nawab Khwaja Abdul Ghani engaged Martin and Company, a European construction and engineering firm, to make a master plan for their residence. The construction of the palace was begun in 1859 and completed in 1872.
Mughal Eidgah (Dhanmondi Eidgah)
Popularly known as “Dhanmondi Eidgah”, near about 400 year-old structure, located at Dhanmondi 6A, Dhaka, is a listed archaeological site of the Department of Archaeology. It was built during the Mughal era and has historical, architectural and heritage value.