City of Pundranagar"
Bogra serves as the main
nerve centre of northern Bangladesh and it is the entrance
to the oldest archaeological site of the 3rd century
I. MAHASTHAN GARH
The Ancient City of Bangladesh:
Mahasthan, the present name of the ancient
city known as "Pundurunagar (Pundranagar)", is situated
in Shibganj, Bogra. About four thousand years ago Pundurunagar
was an affluent and strong settlement.
By: Aziz-ul Huq
[The Author is a licensed
professional engineer working in manufacturing engineering
management. He lived, studied and worked in five different
countries of the world. His interests include learning
and writing on Islam. Doing research on the history of
Bangladesh is his passion.] May 2002
The mighty Maurya,
and other rulers had their provincial capital there. Even the
initial capital of the Pal dynasty was Pundurunagar. The ruins
of this great ancient city is situated on the western bank of
river Korotoa, which is indeed a past glory not only of Bogra
but also of whole Bangladesh.
In the year 1808 CE (Common Era as against AD), Buchanon
Hamilton, for the first time disclosed the details of the
ruins of Pundurunagar. Later, scholars like Donnell, Cunningham,
Beveridge threw more lights on this ancient city. Sir Cunningham
is credited with identifying Mahastahan, the great Muslim
city during the glorious Muslim rule of Bangladesh including
about two hundred years of unbroken and completely independent
Bangladesh, with the ancient city of Pundurunagar.
A sense of the glory of the ancient independent Muslim sultanate
of Bangladesh can be found in the words of Ira M. Lapidus
in his book: A History of Islamic Societies, Cambridge,
where he cited the fact that independent Muslim kingdom existed
in Bengal between 1346 CE and 1576 CE and mentioned that "Muslim
scholars, scribes, Sufis, poets and intellectuals flocked
to India (from other parts of the world). He wrote further:
"In Bengal, Sufi writers and Muslim rulers adopted the local
languages. The Hindu classic, Mahabharata, and Arabic and
Persian classics, including stories from the Arabian Nights,
were translated into Bengali at the order of Muslim rulers.
Muslim poets also wrote in Bengali about Hindu deities and
myths, using Arabic and Persian loan words. This synthesis
of languages and literature was the basis for the emergence
of a new literary Bengali language."
Several ancient inscriptions belonging to the Maurya, Gupta,
Pal and Sen dynasties reveal the existence of the Pundurus
in the Pundurunagar. Unfortunately nothing much is known about
them these days. Before the arrival of the Aryans, the Pundurus
were the natives of this area. The Barendra region of North
Bengal (Bogra, Rangpur, Dinajpur, Rajshahi and Maldah) was
the original home of the Pundurus.
Inscriptions discovered in 1931 in Mahasthan reveal that
there was a massive famine in Pundurunagar, when the government
gave a decree ordering food stuff to be distributed amongst
the affected subjects which was to be returned during good
times indicating that Pundurunagar was an affluent and humanitarian
society. After the Gupta dynasty, king Shashanka formed the
powerful Gaur kingdom. After the death of Shashanka, the famous
Chinese traveler Wan Chuang came to Pundurunagar in the year
639 CE, when besides seeing different Buddhist institutions,
he saw a huge Bihar or Shangharam Bhashu Bihar and a memorial
built by Asoka over the body of Buddha. According to him Pundurunagar
was an affluent city and its perimeter was six miles. The
civilization of Pundurunagar ranks side by side with those
of Athens, Babylon, Egypt and that of the Assyrians.
Pundurunagar became Mahasthan during the glorious days of
the Muslim Sultanate of Bangladesh. A special attraction of
Mahasthan is the Mazhar on top of the Garh. Everyday thousands
of men and women come from distant places to visit the Mazhar.
Many people do “manat” which is going on for ages, there seems
to be no exception and no stop. It appears to be like a place
of major pilgrimage for both Muslims and Hindus.
Some historians and the local people are of the opinion
that this Mazhar is the Mazhar of Shah Balkhi Mahisawar. Apparently,
there are two Mazhars related to Balkhi Mahisawar, one being
in Mahasthan and the other being in Sultanganj of Godagari
In the year 1680 CE, emperor Aurangazeb appointed Zamindars
of Bihar named Syed Reza, Syed Tahir and Syed Abdur Rahman
(three brothers) as care takers of the Mazhars and Mausoleums
of Mahasthan Garh and awarded some lands for that purpose.
This award letter, written in Persian and inscribed on Bronze
is still available with Shibganj resident Mashqurul Alam Chowdhury.
In this "Farman" or "Sanad" emperor Aurangazeb referred to
this place as "Astana" of Sultan Mahmud Mahisawar and not
as a Mazhar. This makes some historians believe that this
is not his mazhar but was his astana.
On the Southern gate entrance
wall to the so called Mazhar is engraved in Bangla: "Narshingh
Roy Dashoshho" meaning "Subject". Now the question is who
is this "Narshingh" and who is he subject of? Half mile North
West of the Garh lies the houses, locally known as the palace
of Porshuram... more part-2»
Bamboo & Cane
We are preparing a Feature on
Mahasthangarh. This will be an up-to-date story of Mahasthangarh
and a documentation of the Miseum of Mahasthan We appreciate
your patience in this matter and look forward to provide you
with a colourful feature.