Mahasthangarh, Bangladesh

Successful Mission at Mahasthangarh — October-November 2020


The site of Mahasthangarh (located in Bogra district in Bangladesh) was identified as the ancient Puṇḍranagara, one of the main cities (if not the capital) of the ancient province (bhukti) of Puṇḍravardhana, also known as Varendra (Barind in modern Bengali) in northern Bengal.

Perched on a small hill on the right bank of the river Karatoyā, the ancient site is surrounded by an imposing rampart (1.5 km from north to south, 1 km from east to west). Inside the citadel are remains of “Hindu” temples, a palace-complex as well as different sorts of dwellings and urban infrastructure. The surroundings are scattered with numerous archaeological sites of varying size: mostly “Hindu” temples and Buddhist monasteries (especially Basu Bihar), while two very important monasteries lie further to the northwest: Paharpur (ancient Somapura Vihāra) and a more recently found site near Dhamuirhat which has been tentatively identified as Jagaddala Vihāra by Bangladeshi archaeologists. Digs at Mahasthan and its surroundings started in the 19th century and continue up today.

Since 1993, the France-Bangladesh joint archaeological mission has conducted the longest continuous excavation of the site. Its first aim was to establish a precise chronology of the citadel, which is now known to have been founded around the 4th century BCE and to have lasted beyond the 13th. Current excavations focus on the urban organization and on the relationship between a religious complex called Bairāgīr Bhiṭā and secular areas.

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