Cabbage field at Bangladesh’s Buddhist temple site

Thursday, February 17, 2011

DHAKA - A cabbage field has replaced a Buddhist temple at an archaeological site built around 1,500 years ago during the rule of the Pala dynasty in northwestern Bangladesh, a media report said Thursday.

The ancient Mahasthangarh complex in Bogra district, the country’s oldest archaeological site, is at risk of destruction, The Daily Star said.

One of the many, the cabbage field is located at Mathura in Sadar upazila (sub-district) of Bogra district.

At least 50 sites bearing the legacy of Maurya, Gupta and Pala dynasties in Bogra are now at the risk of destruction as the archaeology department falls short of manpower to protect them, the daily reported.

The construction of a mazar (Sufi shrine) on the Mahasthangarh premises began recently threatening the integrity of the archaeological site. Two committees, the Mahasthan Mazar Committee and the Mahasthan Mazar Development Committee are jointly working on the project.

A court last week directed the authorities to maintain the integrity of the heritage site and remove the construction of the mazar.

Officials said the Mahasthan Mazar Committee does not have any valid document to prove its ownership of the land. Relevant documents and map show that the committee has illegally occupied at least 20 acres of land, the report said.

The local administration remains indifferent to the issue as the deputy commissioner is himself president of the mazar committee that also includes influential local politicians.

M. Abdul Khaleque, regional director of the archaeology department for Dhaka Division, said: “Mahasthangarh is the only archaeological site where we have found so many archaeological objects from the pre-Mauryan to the Mughal period.”

“The mazar committee’s recent digging for constructing a multi-storey building in the area has destroyed the integrity of the site. It was done in violation of the Antiquity Act and the high court rulings.”

He said architectural stone structures, terracotta and other archaeological objects that date back to 5th-6th century AD, had been demolished and broken.

Swadhin Sen, who teaches archaeology at Jahangirnagar University, said, “Despite efforts from local government officials, the destruction of the archaeological site continues with the support of a powerful leader in the ruling party and the district administration. The people responsible must be brought to book.”

A Franco-Bangladesh joint excavation team discovered an earthen stove dating back to 400 BC in Mahasthangarh a few years ago. A French team also discovered a brick wall built there in 300 BC.

The historic Pundranagar popularly known as Mahasthangarh and other 33 archaeological sites in the district were declared protected in 1922 under the Ancient Monuments Preservation Act, 1904 during the British rule.

Filed under: Religion

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