Salinity and neglect ruin Paharpur terracota | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, December 15, 2007 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, December 15, 2007

Salinity and neglect ruin Paharpur terracota


Terracotta on the Paharpur Bihar of Naogaon erodes because of lack of proper maintenance measures due to neglect and 'fund constraint'.Photo: Hasibur Rahman Bilu

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Paharpur Bihar of Naogaon or the Somapura Mahavihara, designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1985, has been in ruins for a long time due to poor maintenance and fund constraint, said officials at the Department of Archaeology.
Apart from that, high salinity in the soil and poor drainage system cause decay to the ornamental terracotta plaques, the walls and embellishments of this ancient Buddhist monastery, among the best-known and second largest vihara in South Asia, they added.
Built by Dharmapala (770-810 AD), the 2nd emperor of the Pala Dynasty, the Paharpur Bihar, one of the most important archaeological sites in the country, still remains neglected and uncared for, leaving it to the mercy of vandals and thieves who are prying terracotta plaques off the walls or stealing other priceless relics from the site.
High salinity coupled with absence of proper maintenance has already ruined a large number of the terracotta plaques, said Shafiqul Alam, director of the Department of Archaeology.
Consultants are currently working to protect the structure from salinity, Alam said adding that a project proposal, submitted a year ago to the authorities concerned, to protect the antiques and the ancient monument is still pending for approval.
A large number of beautiful terracotta plaques, not less than 500, have been destroyed or stolen, said an archaeology department official. Although over 1,800 terracotta plaques are still in place, most of them are in dilapidated condition, he added.
Mahabub-Ul-Alam, former custodian of the site, said at least 500 terracotta plaques were preserved in a storage area to save them from salinity.
However, high salinity and water-logging inside the central area of the structure have caused parts of the major walls of the structure to collapse, said a high official at the Department of Archaeology.
A publication of the archaeology department mentioned that there used to be a network of 22 channels that drained the surface or rainwater out of the site. In course of time, these channels had been clogged up or do not exist any longer.
The drainage system has gone out of order and the higher elevation of surrounding areas is adding to the water-logging problem, said another archaeology department official.
Thieves have stolen many of the ornamental terracotta plaques from the walls and some of those have been damaged due to high salinity, heavy rainfall and damp climate during the last few years, said the director of the archaeology department.
Bricks in the walls are also disappearing or decaying over time due to the same reasons, according to the officials.

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