Excavation restarts at monastery

Times of India
Sujoy Khanra & Jhimli Mukherjee Pandey, TNN | Jan 29, 2015

KOLKATA: A dot on the map of south Bengal is gradually emerging from the sands of time and has the potential to change the course of history as it stands now.

Archaeologists who are excavating a Buddhist vihara out of the mounds at Moghalmari near Dantan in West Midnapur, are likely to fix the dates of the vihara between 5th and 7th century AD.

On Wednesday, the state archaeology department restarted excavation at the site, which is 180km away from the city, after a gap of a year as it received a fresh permission from the Archaeological Survey of India.

The excavation is expected to be complete within the year and archaeologists would be able to lay their hands on the precious seal that holds the secret to the date of the origins of the vihara and its name, going by Buddhist traditions. All along the history of Bengal suggests that Raktamrittika vihara of the erstwhile Karna Subarna or Murshidabad is the oldest in Bengal dating back to the 6th and 7th centuries AD.

Archaeologists have been working at the site for the past 12 years. In 2003, faculty and students of the archaeology department of Calcutta University started excavating the site after they were shown the mound by locals who also had an accompanying lore to share. Gradually a boundary wall, potsherds, figures and finally cells in which monks lived were unearthed, convincing archaeologists that they were indeed excavating a vihara. In 2009, the entrance gate came up during excavation.

The archaeology department of Calcutta University did not have the required funds to proceed with the vast excavation requirement and it requested the ASI to step in. Last year, archaeologists found gold coins, pendants with inscriptions and several tablets that virtually ascribed a date to the vihara.

“We are quite sure from the inscriptions that the vihara was fully operational during the time of King Samachar Dev, who ruled in Bengal during the time of Kumara Gupta. There are some Burmese inscriptions and also some in Pali to the effect Yeh Dharma Hetu….Saman. These are being tested now,” said state archaeology department official and director of Moghalmari excavation project Prakash Maiti.

The local club, Moghalmari Tarun Seba Sangha, which had been zealously protecting the mound and networking with archaeologists for years together in an urge to draw their attention, is helping the state archaeology department in the excavation and keeping records.

“There were several artefacts that we had collected over the years, we have handed them over to the department which is now building a museum here to preserve these fragments of history,” said Atanu Pradhan, spokesperson for the club.

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