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that the pillar was built by the Kaivarta ruler Divya who usurped the Pala throne after defeating and killing Mahipala II (c. 1075-1080 CE), and it was to celebrate the occasion and mark the glory of his reign that the pillar was sculptured and raised. The pillar ‘30 ft. in height in the midst of a large tank covering an area of about 100 acres of land’ is a land mark in the vicinity, and may be taken as a rare type of secular structure of the time.

3.2 Religious Buildings

Building remains of religious character although at present cannot be said to be many, quite a few of them are now known from archaeological discoveries, and comparatively, therefore, a better picture of them is now available. Religious buildings are generally divided into three classes: 1) Stupa; ii) Monastery; and iii) Temple. From the available evidences it appears that they were sometimes erected independently, but mostly they are found to have been associated with urban settlements. Monastery by itself although is classed as a religious building, it’s secular character cannot be denied when we regard it as a large dormitory associated with such buildings as dining halls and kitchens.

3.2.1 Stupa

Stupa is regarded as the most important form in early Indian architecture. From the point of view of purpose for which they were raised, the stupas are divided into three kinds: i) the Relic Stupa; ii) the Commemorative Stupa; and iii) the Votive Stupa. The Relic Stupas are those which were erected for enshrining the relics of Lord Buddha or of his chief disciples. The Commemorative Stupas are those which were built to commemorate the particular events concerning the life and teachings of Buddha. And the Votive Stupas are those which were made just as an object of veneration. The last appears to be the latest in point of time, and, in fact, cannot always be classed as architectural work. In many instances they are miniature artistic works, made not only in brick or stone, but also in clay and metal.

It is difficult to get an exclusive example of the first and second kinds of stupa.

Although Hiuen Tsang speaks of several stupas of the second kind which he saw in different parts of Bengal, none appears to be surviving at present. It is only of the third variety that we have now a few examples, and from which some generalisations about the stupa architecture are possible.

A stupa was generally built on a square, octagonal or circular foundation, occasionally decorated with horizontal mouldings. The square base was sometimes transformed into a cruciform shape by adding successive diminishing projections on each side. The circular base is also sometimes seen to have been changed into a sixteen sided star. Over the base was erected the hemispherical dome (anda) occasionally ornamented with sculptured garlands towards the top. The dome, sometimes raised over a drum (medhi), is surmounted by a square capital (harmika) in the form of a box. Over the


latter was the round disk (chhatra), the emblem of universal dignity. As time passed on, however, the entire structural form began to be elongated and greater emphasis started to be given to each and every component part of the stupa. The result was that the stupa lost it’s original appearance and was reduced to a spire-like structure with the addition of a number of chhatras (chhatravali) in a tapering row.

The bronze votive stupa from Ashrafpur in Dacca district, now preserved in the Asiatic Society of Bengal, and another from Mainamati in the site museum can be taken as examples of the latter type. Both these replicas are known to have been made during the time of the Khadga-Deva rulers of Samatata in the 7th-8th century CE. The stupas consist of a square base with one offset projection on each side and a cylindrical drum with a hemispherical dome supported on lotus. The basement and the drum are decorated with figures, while the dome bulges a little towards the top making them comparable with the ‘bell-shaped’ stupas of Burma. Over the dome is the square harmika surmounted by the diminishing chhatravali of which now only parts remain. Two other bronze stupas– one from Paharpur in Rajshahi district and the other from Jhewari in Chittagong district are also known to exist. They consist of a bulging dome on a cruciform base, and show much similarities with contemporary stone examples from Bihar, at least eight of which are now preserved in the Varendra Research Museum.

Remains of a good number of votive stupas in bricks have been discovered in Mainamati and Paharpur. The example discovered at Raktamrttika Mahavihara in Murshidabad District has been described as offering ‘no legible plan’. The early Mainamati examples are to be seen in the Itakhola Mura, Rupban Mura and Kotila Mura, and the latter ones within all the great viharas: Salban Vihara, Ananda Vihara, Bhoja Vihara and Rupban Vihara. Since a large number of sites have not yet been uncovered, it is likely that similar examples might also be found if excavated in future. The Paharpur examples, like those of Salban Vihara are within the courtyard of the monastery. But it is unusual that the courtyard of the Sitakot Vihara in Dinajpur District (Bangladesh) although similar in plan to those mentioned above does not have any similar ones within it. The Itakhola stupas are to be seen on the south-east and north-east corners of the enclosure of the shrine, and are described as the most important and constructionally the most complicated structure so far discovered in Mainamati. The foundations of the stupas are square but above they are cruciform although less pronounced. Behind the shrine is the foundation of a cruciform stupa, now appearing irregular because of several reconstructions. In front of the Rupban Mura are the remains of two stupas, one on the left is octagonal, and the other on the right square.

The three principal stupas in the Kutila Mura dated 7th/8th century CE, are placed in a line and consist of square basements, circular drums and hemispherical domes. The crowning harmika, and the chhatravali no longer remain. The size of the stupas is not equal: the largest one on the southern side measures 12.65m, the middle about 11.28m


and the third on the north a little less than 10.35m a side. The front of these stupas on the eastern side is occupied by oblong halls which together with the stupas at the back are surrounded by circumambulatory passages. The ground plan of the middle stupa is in the form of the Dharma Chakra (Wheel of Law), the hub being represented by a central shaft around which are spokes of brick walls forming eight small cells. Inside the shaft and the cells were found hundreds of miniature clay stupas, sometimes encasing clay sealings inscribed with the sacred formula1. Needless to say that the presence of such a large number of votive stupas represent the spirit of the time which regarded the making of such stupas as acts of great piety.

Behind these large stupas lie a number of nine stupas which, as it appears, were of somewhat later dates.


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