Nandadirghi Vihar

Rangan Datta ( www.rangan-datta.info)

Discovery of a Copper Plate::

On 13th March 1987, the residents of a Jagjivanpur stumbled upon a copper plate. Jagjivanpur is a non-descriptive village 36 Km east of Malda town on the Bangladesh (Rajshahi) border. The plate measuring 52.5 cm X 37.5 cm X 0.75 cm and weighing 11.8 kg contains inscription on both sides (40 lines on the front and 30 lines on the back) in Siddhamartika script. It has a royal seal attached to the top containing the dharmachakra flanked by two deers and inscription in Sanskrit “Srimahendrapaldevah.”.




Portion of the vihar with the base of a stupa.

This copper plate is an important historical document as for the first time it referred to the name of Mahendrapala (Circa AD845 – 860) as a son of Devapala (Circa AD840 – 845) and included him in the Pala genealogy, which was hitherto unknown.




A well at the vihar complex.

The plate, which was actually a land grant charter, was issued by the Pala king Mahandra Pala for the dedication of the land near Nanda – Dirghi – Ordang on the 2nd day of Vaisakh of his army chief Vajradeva, for the erection of a Buddhist Monastery and other ritualistic activities for the attainment of religious merit of his parents and all people on earth..

Survey and Excavation:

The chance discovery of the plate lead to the extensive survey of the area around Jagjivanpur. Five mounds (locally called Bhita or Danga) were identified
• Tula Bhita or Salai Danga (78.58 ´ 78.33 m)
• Akhari Danga (72.29 ´ 28.28 m)
• Nim Danga (40.86 ´ 28.28 m)
• Mai Bhita (110.01 ´ 78.58 m)
• Laksmi Dhipi
Apart from these there were several other minor mounds.


A portion of the inner sanctum.

The square structure had four circular structures at the four corners, two of which exists to this day. Beautiful terracotta panels adorned the four walls. The panels have been removed to the State Archaeological Museum in Behala, Calcutta. The structure has a courtyard in the middle, surrounded on all sides by two lines of square identical cells, which were probably used as students’ residence or classrooms.

The sanctum sanctorum lies on the Western side behind the cells. The Northern side contains a bathroom with elaborate drainage system. The entrance, well, balcony and several flights of stairs add a special dimension to the ancient structure.


A cell probably used for students residence.

Travel Trips:

Getting there:
It is best to take the Gour Express, which reaches the Malda town at the crack of dawn. There is no regular service for Jagjivanpur from there, so it is best to rent a car.

Places to eat:
There are no eateries in Jagjivanpur, so it is best to eat in Malda.

Other Excursion:
The trip can be combined with trips to the more famous historical sites of Gour & Paundooah.

Photographic Restriction:
A blue board at the site declares it as a protected monument. Another crude unauthorized board says the entry and photography is prohibited. So to avoid unwanted problem it is best to obtain permission from the State Archeological Museum.

Jagjivanpur Gallery, at the State Archeological Museum: :
The State Archeological Museum in Behala, South Calcutta has an entire gallery dedicated to the Nandadirghi Vihar of Jagjivanpur. It includes
• The scale model of the unearthed vihar
• Replica of the copper plate (the original is at the vault of the Malda Museum)
• Bronze statue of Buddha in earth touching gesture (bhumisparsha mudra)
• A bronze statue of Marich (175cm high)
• Several terracotta items of everyday use such as beads, lamp, weights, dabber, playing beads, votive stupa, etc.
• A large amount of potteries (glazed, red, decorated) are also on display.
But the star attraction is the terracotta frieze from this Buddhist vihar running from one wall to the other with plaques depicting wild animals, lions, zodiac signs, serpents, rutting rams, whirling dancers in skirts and Shiva.




Courtyard of the vihar.

Reference:

• Showcase of Bengal Past by Soumitra Das (The Telegraph, Kolkata 8th July 2007) Link
• Next weekend you can be at Nandadirgi Vihar by Rangan Datta (The Telegraph, Kolkata 8th July 2007) Link
• www.banglapedia.com Link




Intricate brick work on the vihar wall.

Personal Trip Report

Participants: Saurab Basu & Rangan Datta
Date: 17th March 2007
Train: Gour Express Sealdah (Departure 21:15) Malda Town (Arrival 06:45, next day)
For return journey: Gour Express Malda Town (Departure 20:45) Sealdah (Arrival 05:15, next day)

Our train arrived 15 minutes late. Without wasting time we jumped in our rented car (it was rented from Calcutta) and headed out for Jagjivanpur. After about one and half hour of bumpy ride (which included a short breakfast stop) we reached the site.

The site, a protected monument under ASI, was enclosed by barbed wire. The gate was locked and a crude unauthorised board in Bengali said photography and entry prohibited. There was no one around, so Saurab and I sneaked inside through a gap in the barbed wire. As soon as we started taking our shots we found a crowd running towards us. The accused as of in filtering into private territory, even a lady claimed that her husband discovered the site and it was their property.

Long discussion lead to no solution and the caretaker was away to Malda Town and no one knew about his time of return. I tried to contact the keeper of State Archeological Museum but he was not at home, finally a young guy in the crowd gave us the phone number of ASI representative in Malda Town. We got him over the phone, and he spoke to one of the locals and finally after almost half an hour permission was granted.

At last we went on with our work. The entire Tulabhita mound have been excavated, there is no mound-like structure at all. (It is quite different from Khana–Mihirer Dhipi or Rajbaridanga Dhipi, where only a portion of the mound have been excavated) The next hour was spent exploring the central courtyard, inner sanctum, balconies, cells, wells, balconies, flights of stairs, intricate brick stucco works and the elaborate drainage system. Bidding farewell to the site we went for the other four mounds. Strangely the locals were totally unaware of their existence and it seemed that they never heard the names of the mound also. We also didn’t spot any towering mound in the almost flat landscape. After a long search we did find a small mound, with traces of long forgotten excavation. Only a small portion of a brick wall was all that can be seen inside the trench. Finally we gave up our search and headed for Malda Town.

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Links in this site:

Rangan Datta's Contributions

Chandraketugarh - First Page

Chandraketugarh - Second Page

Exclusive Articles

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State Archeological Museum Exhibition

Collection of Dilip Kumar Maite

Collection of Asad-uj Jaman

Photos from ASI Reviews

Temporary Exhibition at Indian Museum

My photos of Khana-Mihirer Dhipi

My photos of Chandraketugarh area (trees, ricefields...)



Courtesy: Asad-uj Jaman
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Ambarish Goswami
Last Revised April 25, 2007