A group of archaeologists has recently unearthed a rare Vishnu temple with a unique ‘nava-ratha’ architecture at Madhabgaon village in Kaharol upazila of the northern district of Dinajpur.
Archaeologists from Jahangirnagar University’s department of archaeology in Savar, Dhaka, including its director Prof. Swadhin Sen, Prof. Syed Mohammed Kamrul Ahsan, Prof. Seema Hoque and Sabekunnaher Sithi started an excavation at the site in April this year. They received financial assistance from the cultural affairs ministry and the Higher Education Quality Enhancement Project (HEQEP) of the University Grants Commission (UGC). They also received the support of the department of archaeology.
The 52-member excavation team included four teachers, 13 students and 13 experienced workers from Mahasthan.
They found a seven-metre-high brick-built structure and a 144-sq-metre solidly built platform, with a 4.48-metre square cell at the centre. The cell represents the ‘garbhagriha’ (sanctum) where the idol was worshipped. The external surface of the platform has ‘ratha’ or vertical offset projections at the west, north and south. There are nine ‘rathas’. That is why the temple is known as a ‘nava-ratha’ temple, according to ‘Early Temple Architecture’.
“The temple is about 1,000 years old. It was constructed in the 10th to 11th centuries. No temple of the ‘nava-ratha’ type has been discovered in Bangladesh till now,” said Prof. Swadhin Sen.
He also said radiocarbon dating of the collected samples would shed light on the precise date of the temple.
“The superstructure of the sanctum is characterised by a ‘shikhara’ or ‘rekha deul’ (curvilinear tower). Among the very few existing brick-built standing temples with ‘shikhara’ in undivided Bengal, the Siddheshwar Temple at Bahulara of Bankura in West Bengal has the closest resemblance,” said Prof. Dipak Ranjan Das, a former professor of the University of Calcutta and an expert on early eastern Indian temple architecture.