Old Heritage in Bangladesh: In search of a lost time | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, April 27, 2019 / LAST MODIFIED: 04:49 PM, May 02, 2019

In search of a lost time

Archaeologists say they found brick structure in Sirajganj believed to be 1,000-year-old

Archaeologists in Sirajganj have unearthed a brick structure which they claimed could be more than 1,000 years old.

“We’ve also collected samples of bricks, soil and pieces of terracotta pots from the structure in a village of Raiganj upazila. We believe there are at least five such structures in the area,” Rifat Ur Rahman, lecturer of Rabindra University’s cultural heritage and Bangladesh studies department, told The Daily Star recently.

Rifat led a 36-member team from the department, including students, which carried out surveys in Tarash and Raiganj upazilas of the district between January and April. 

“The samples of the bricks and others resemble the ones from the Pal Dynasty. We believe those are from between the eighth and 10th centuries … we are examining those to determine the exact time,” he said, adding several other sites in the areas need to be excavated.

Meanwhile, due to a lack of awareness, some villages have removed bricks from similar structures and used them in their houses, an act which archeological experts termed a painful destruction of what could be a heritage site.

The archaeological team found suspected traces of the structures and believes bricks were taken from the surface portions.

Enter Khirtola village in the district, you will be surprised to see beautiful mud houses with antique bricks.

Some locals said using tools like crowbar, the villagers have been collecting those bricks from huge structures -- covered by mud and old trees -- for decades, in the absence of monitoring from the authorities concerned.

Locally, those structures are called dhibi.

“I have constructed my house of three rooms taking bricks, digging the nearby Dhibi three months ago,” Sunil Chandra Mahato, a resident of Raiganj’s Khirtola village, told this reporter recently.

Like Sunil, hundreds of other villagers have also built houses with those bricks.

Archeological experts and locals said Khirtola in Dhamainagar union and nearby Nimgasi in Sonakhora union faced similar “destruction” over the last three decades.

“In my childhood I saw many old structures in the jungles of Khirtola and adjoining villages. Most of the structures have been destroyed with time,” said Gonesh Mahato, a 60-year old man.

There were about 100 to 150 houses in Khirtola three decades ago. The number has almost doubled and most of the new houses have antique bricks in them, he said.

It was only recently when the local administration asked the villagers not to destroy archeological structures, the locals said.

According to the “1990 District Gazetteer of Bangladesh’, Pabna, there was an old city spanning over eight-square mile area at the west bank of the old Korotoa river.

The gazetteer said there were nearly 50 structures (dhibi and ponds) in eight kilometres of Nimgasi (and adjoining villages). “There are huge artifacts hidden in the structures,” it read.

Talking to The Daily Star, Rifat, the leader of the archaeologists’ team, lamented lack of government steps for the preservation of the archaeological sites.

Rifat feared only a few of those 50 dhibis now barely exists while the rest were damaged by villagers.

Contacted, director of Bogrua regional archeology department Nahid Sultana said if any structure reaches 100 years of age or any structure carrying the history of culture of early ages can be considered to be archeological assets, but archeological research is needed for that.

“Nimgasi archeological site had the historical evidence. Physically the existence of the site was mostly damaged. Villagers destroyed huge historical site many years ago, so we could not run archeological survey,” Sultana said.

But Rifat said, “Still we have many archeological resources in those sites and we can find and preserve those if we are allowed to excavate them.”

The young archeologist also said the department of cultural heritage and Bangladesh studies of Rabindra University has started archeological research on those sites.

“We are conducting the historical and surface surveys for spotting the entire site. We are likely to make an archeological map of the site within December before seeking the permission for excavation of the site,” said Rifat.

Contacted, Raniganj UNO Shamimur Rahman said, “The destruction of the historical site took place many years ago. We are now trying to protect a few remaining of them for the sake of archaeological research.”

He did not elaborate on the matter.

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