'Sompur Kathan' brings to life the Buddhist heritage of Ancient Bengal

By Buddhistdoor International BD Dipananda
Buddhistdoor Global | 2014-04-30 |
Friezes of Somapura Mahavihara, Bangladesh. By Mahran Fadlullah.Friezes of Somapura Mahavihara, Bangladesh. By Mahran Fadlullah.
Paharpur Buddhist Monastery. From BD Dipananda.Paharpur Buddhist Monastery. From BD Dipananda.
Model of Sompura Mahavihara by Mohammed Ali Naqi, Wikipedia.Model of Sompura Mahavihara by Mohammed Ali Naqi, Wikipedia.
'Sompur Katha', a play based on Bangladesh’s archaeological artifacts, was performed at Paharpur Sompura Mahavihara in Naogoan district on April 20, 2014. The play (dir. Debashish Ghosh) depicts the story of Somapura Mahavihara, a monument built by Dhammapala, the second Pala king of Bengal.* The performance was produced by the Movie and Theatre Department of the Bangladesh Shilpakala Academy to introduce the archaeological site and its history to the people of Bangladesh.
The Sompur Mahavihara was an educational center with residential facilities consisting of 177 rooms, 45 rooms on the north side and 44 in the south, east, and west. It was built around a spacious courtyard with a cruciform stupa in the center. The site covers an area of 27 acres of land that includes a quadrangular court measuring more than 900 feet. The external walls on each side stand about 16 feet in thickness, and measure 12 feet to 15 feet in height. It is said that it was so glorified in Tibet during the 9th to 12th century CE, that many influential Tibetan monks visited the Mahavihara. The world famous Buddhist scholar Atish Dipanka Srijnan (Atisha; 11th century CE) stayed at the Mahavihara for many years.
Historically, the Pala Dynasty, a line of Buddhist rulers spanning the 7th to 12th centuries CE, dominated Bengal. Under their patronage, many world famous monasteries like Sompura Mahavihara were built. The remains were first excavated in 1922-23 and its original structure is considered to be the largest monastery in the Indian sub-continent. Excavation continued until 1934 and a report was published in 1938 as Memories No. 55 of the Archaeological Survey of India. The excavated findings have been preserved at the Varendra Research Museum in Rajshahi. It is interesting to note that the Borobudur temple in Indonesia was the contemporary of Paharpur Buddhist Monastery.
Sompura Mahavihara was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1985. Since then, a series of UNESCO missions has regularly visited the site and helped with the project. Moreover, the UN body prepared a master plan for excavation of the site totalling US$5.6 million.
In the presence of a thousand people in the audience, the program was presided over by Laiquat Ali Lucky, the Director General of Bangladesh Shilpakala Academy. The special guests were Dr. Ranjit Kumar Biswas, Cultural Secretary, Shirin Akhter, Director General of Department of Archaeology, Mohammad Yasin, Deputy Commissioner of Joypurhat and others.
The Director General of Department of Archaeology Shirin Akhter said, The play 'Sompur Kathan' has been organized for the people of Bangladesh in order to raise awareness about the heritage and history in their area, and periodically each phase like' Sompur Kathan ' will be staged in other historical places also.
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* The cast of the play includes Jagannath Roy, Aminul Islam Dulal, Julfiker Ali, Tanvir Tareque, Suman, Sajib, Sifat, Asif, Akash, Ramu Chandra, Sabbir, Sekender Ali, Jafar Imam, Shuvo, Tapan Chandra, among others.

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