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8 March, 2018 00:00 00 AM

Sitakot Bihar

M Mahmud Ali
Sitakot Bihar

According to historical records, around 84,000 stupas and pillars were built throughout the Indian Subcontinent during the reign of Emperor Ashoka. Many religious and educational institutions and Buddhist monasteries were developed up to the 11th Century in Bengal. Thus, there are many Buddhist monasteries scattered across Bangladesh. Sitakot Bihar is one of them. This monastery was built during the Gupta period from 6th to 7th Centuries.

Sitakot Bihar is located at Fatehpur Marash village under Nawabganj upazila in Dinajpur district, on the northern side of Birampur-Pirganj road, some 55 km southeast of Dinajpur town. According to local legend, the site is associated with the Goddess Sita, the consort of Lord Rama. There are several stories centering the monastery. One says a kutir (hut), which is also known as ‘kot’, was built for Sita in the Panchabati forest, where she lived during her banishment. That is why the site is known as ‘Sitakot’, though there is no connection of Sita with this monastery.  

According to another local story, one Taleb Ali lived on the northern side of the monastery. One day, he found a cutting tool while tilling the land nearby. He took the tool home and used it for household work. Later, he started using it for felling trees. Any big log could be chopped up with only one or two strokes of its blade. One day, Ali was caught red-handed by the forest officials. They interrogated him and found the cutting tool. They sent it to the forest office for investigation, and found the blade was made of diamond. Hoping to find more valuable items, the Dinajpur Zila Parishad started digging at the site in 1968 and 1972. At the time, Ali was given a job as a guard at the monastery.

The site was excavated by the Department of Archaeology (DOA) in 1984 and 1993. The excavations revealed the remains of a monastery, with 41 small and large cells. The central entrance is at the centre of the north wing. Another sub-entrance is at the east wing. A central shrine was found in the middle of the south wing. No shrine or structure has been found in the open courtyard. During the excavation, different earthen objects, including two bronze idols of Bodhisattva Padmapani and Bodhisattva Manjusri, broken pieces of pots, inkpots, models of fish, decorated bricks, iron nails, rings and rods, and some diamond-edged blades were found. But no terracotta plaque or ornamentation has been found in the structure.

The DOA listed the monastery as a protected site. But without restoring the site, they just put up a notice board. They have not yet done any development work there. If the monastery could be renovated properly, it would become an attractive site for visitors from home and abroad.n

References: Eastern Bengal District Gazetters-Dinajpur, FW Strong, 1912; Archaeological Survey Report of Greater Dinajpur District, DOA, 1995; Bangladesher Protnoshompod, Abul Kalam Md Zakariya, Dibboprokash, 2007; History in Pictures- Greater Rangpur and Dinajpur, Area HQs, Rangpur, 2008; Viharas in Early Medieval Eastern India, Amit Jha, India, 2015.

Photos: Writer.

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Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman

Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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