Venerable Atish Dipankar had trekked to Tibet in China to preach Buddhism and immensely contributed to the studies of medicine and irrigation there, reads an inscription on a white marble stone found at Bajrojogini village.
The inscription reminds of the glorious and prosperous past of Bikrampur in Munshiganj district. Atish Dipankar, the most famous scholar from Bangladesh, was born a thousand years ago at Bajrojogini in Bikrampur.
However, except some scripts mentioning the names of Bajrojogini and Bikrampur, no other evidence like archaeological sites or reliable relics was found earlier until yesterday when a group of archaeologists revealed their discovery, a Buddhist Vihar, after three years of excavation.
“This is an incident of huge importance to all of us. Many historians have mentioned about a Vihar at Bajrojogini in Bikrampur, but we are lucky to find it just within three years,” Prof Sufi Mustafizur Rahman told The Daily Star.
Sufi Mustafiz, executive director of Oithya Onneswan and a faculty member of archaeology department at Jahangirnagar University, led the excavation.
The archaeologists found the maiden Buddhist Vihar of Bikrampur after excavating the site for three years just one kilometre off the ancestral home of Atish Dipankar.
Dhamma Pala, the second king of the Pala Dynasty (900-1100) established at least 30 Buddhist Vihars in Samatata area. Only seven to eight of those Vihars have so far been discovered, Mustafiz informed.
“I think this is one of those Vihars established during the Pala Dynasty,” he said.
Historians say Atish Dipankar himself was the chancellor of the Vikramshila, one of the Vihars founded by the Pala king, from where he had headed for Tibet. Around 8,000 students studied in this university under 108 teachers, who were eminent scholars under the preceptorship of Dipankar Srigyan.
“We have the name of another Vihar called Bikrampuri which was also founded by Dhamma Pala. But we don't know its location. I think this is the Bikrampuri Vihar,” Prof Mustafiz said.
“The similarity between the names of the Bihar and this area also suggests so,” added Sufi Mustafiz.
He claims the latest Vihar is the oldest archaeological site in Bikrampur.
All the antiquities and archaeological sites found in Bikrampur include the mosque of Baba Adam Shah of pre-Mughal Sultani era, Idrakpur Fort and Mirkadim Pul (bridge) of the Mughal era and the Golden Temple of the British era, said Mustafiz.
Besides those, archaeologists and historians collected more than 100 idols and sculptures of different gods and other relics including beads and masks from Bikrampur. All these are preserved at the National Museum, Kolkata Museum and Barendra Museum.
Moreover, copper plates of different dynasties including Chankra, Barman, Sena, Deva have been found in and around Bikrampur. The name of Bikrampur appeared on those plates several times.
“But no systematic excavation has been taken in Bikrampur in recent years,” said Sufi Mustafiz who worked as the research director of the excavation project.
Historians say the name Bajrojogini was derived from Tibetan scripts written by Tibetan scholar Taranath and others where they mentioned it as the birthplace of Atish Dipankar Srigyan who is treated as the second Buddha in Tibet.
Though Dipankar earned the title the Light of Asia, his name and birthplace were in the dark until Sarat Chandra Das (1849-1917), a scholar as well as diplomat from Chittagong, had visited Tibet as an envoy of the British ruler.
Sarat Chandra resurrected the name of Atish Dipankar and his birthplace from Tibetan Tanjur inscription.
In the inscription it was said Dipankar was born in a royal family of Guada in Bikrampur of Bengal, which was on the east of Bajrasana. His father's name was Kalyansri and his mother was Prabhavati.
Dipankar wrote 175 books on Buddhist theology, medicine and engineering in Tibetan language and was given the prestigious title “Atish” for his immense contribution to these fields of studies. He stayed in Tibet for more than a decade until his last breath at the age of 72. He was buried in Krethang near Lama.
The Agrashar Bikrampur Foundation had earlier invited the archaeologists, who selected nine sites in Bajrojogini and Rampal in Munshiganj sadar upazila. They conducted a number of primary excavations at Sukhbaspur-1, Raghunathpur-1 and 2, Guhapara-1, Jeorgebari and Manasabari and three sites at Bajrojogini, said Nuh-Ul-Alam Lenin, chairman of the foundation.
“Many people say the Padma river has destroyed all the signs of prosperous Bikrampur. But we can still find many things if we look for it,” Alam told journalists yesterday after revealing the discovery.