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ARCHITECTURAL REFERENCES IN INSCRIPTIONS AND LITERARY WORKS

In Bengal during the ancient period many secular and religious buildings were constructed. But many of these are at present not extant or could not be yet traced. Remains of some monuments have been discovered. These are mainly viharas or monasteries, remains of Brahmanical deities and ruins of ancient cities like Pundranagara and Devikot. Apart from these discoveries we also get some knowledge about secular and religious buildings in contemporary inscriptions and literary works. Especially the copper-plate inscriptions, which were charters of land grants, constitute an important source for gathering scattered information about secular and religious buildings and urban settlements of ancient Bengal. These inscriptions’ principal find spots are situated mostly in north Bengal, west Bengal and east and southeast Bengal. In ancient period these regions were known as Pundravardhana, Radha, Samatata, Vanga and Vangala respectively. These were names of janapadas into which the region of Bengal was divided by the two mighty rivers namely the Ganges, and the Brahmaputra. The whole area had no common name and Vangala, Vanga were first used in the medieval period to denote this area. Here by the term Bengal we mean the area comprising the province of Bengal in the British ruled India: The main administrative units were bhukti (province), mandala (division), and visaya (district).

Among the literary works containing architectural references are the Ramacaritam of Sandhyakaranandi, a historical kavya of 12th century CE and two anthologies of Sanskrit verses namely, Vidyakara’s Subhasitaratnakosa and Saduktikarnamrtam of Sridharadasa. Other literary works are Govardhanacarya’s Arysaptasati and Dhoyi’s Pavanaduta. Both Govardhanacarya and Dhoyi were king Laksmanasena’s court poets. The earliest literary work written in Bengali and dateable to the Pala period (c. 8th to 12th century CE) is the Caryapada. In the caryas or songs contained in this work we sometimes find architectural references. Another category of literary works which may be taken into account in this connexion are accounts of Chinese travellers like Fa-Hien (5th century CE), Hiuen Tsang (7th century CE) and I-tsing (latter half of the 7th century CE). They came to India on pilgrimage to the holy land of Buddhism. In their accounts of travels we find incidental references to Buddhist monasteries and temples along with temples of Brahmanical religion.


 

Inscriptional EvidenceLiterary Evidence

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