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     Volume 2 Issue 87 | September 21 , 2008|


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Searching for the heritage of Bengal

Suman Biswas

AFTER the tragic event of KOTKA BEACH that took away the precious lives of some of our students three years ago, all kinds of tour, even study tours were stopped by the authorities of Khulna University. But without tours, studying Architecture cannot be effective since books can provide knowledge but cannot invigorate the creative eyes and mind of an architect. Architecture is a subject where practical knowledge matters more than theory. It is possible to get some information or learn about history by reading books or analyzing photographs of Kantajir Temple. But to feel the the temple, one must touch the terracotta. The ruins of Somapura Vihara and Mahasthangarh remind us of the legend of our glorious historical past. To explore the real vigour of our architecture that speaks of the general lifestyle of our people, we have to visit those places. When our own culture is marginalized by the advent of Western culture, our own rich architectural sites and heritage are being buried under the ruins of dilapidated pillars why digging out our roots still manifest in those ancient establishments seem very important. With this purpose in mind, the students of Architecture Discipline, Khulna University arranged a study tour on 12 August, 2008.

A team of 29 students belonging to 4th batch from Architecture Discipline left Khulna for Dinajpur by train under the careful guidance of four of our teachers ( Pro. Bijon Bihari Sarma, Dr. Anirban Mostafa, Dr. Afroza Parvin and Kh. Mahfuz-Ud-Darain). Our first aim was Kantajir Temple at Dinajpur established in 1704 by Raja Prannath where we arrived on 13 August. Although the nine ornate towers collapsed in 1897, it is still called the 'Nava-Ratna'. The terracotta of the temple was really fascinating that describes the mythological stories and battles of the Mahabharata and the Ramayana.

Then we went to Rudrapur to see Dipshikha Meti school. German Architect ANNA HERINGER and EIKE ROSWAG used mud & bamboo to form a new model for the construction of this school that won the AGA KHAN award 2007 for Architecture. The school is so nicely built with these local materials that we became aware of their uniqueness again, things which had been used for thousands of years in our local architecture.

Next day we arrived at Somapura of Paharpur under the district of Noagaon. The Somapura Vihara which was one of the largest Buddha Vihara really took us by surprise. The construction system of the vihara impressed us and also created many questions in our mind that would be the fuel of future research. Then we took off for Bogra to visit the historical Mahasthangarh, established in 300B.C. It represents our earliest civilization and the largest archaeological site known as the city of 'Pundranagara'. Not only the excavated forts and its brick walls but also the cyclopean walls of Gokul Medh still hold the glorious past of Bengal architecture.

On 15 August we set off for Chapainawabgonj to see the Rajbibi Mosque (local name- Chamchika mosjid), Shah Niamatullah mosque (known as Tahkana complex) and Choto Sona Mosque. The Choto Sona Mosque is regarded as the 'Gem of Sultanate Architecture'. Sultan Alauddin Hussain Shah, one of the Indian kings suggested in his inscription that the mosque must have been built sometime during his rule(1494-1579). But the craftsmanship of the mosque does not seem to borrow techniques from other regions; rather it appears to be at one with our own timeless architecture.

On 16 August we visited Varendra Museum, Rajshahi. Entering the Museum I became speechless. It was beyond my imagination that the biggest as well as the oldest museum could be left to such untold wretchedness. I wondered if it was a museum or debris. The administration seems to be indifferent about its misery whereas it could have been one of the greatest museums of South Asia, even the whole world. Then why is it left to utter carelessness?

Next we went to Natore and visited Rajbari and Uttara Ganabhaban. After that we went to Puthia Rajbari. The construction of the Ganabhaban still speaks of elegance and sophisticated taste while the perfection of Puthia is mesmerizing enough to make one speechless. A cluster of so many temples is hardly available anywhere in South Asia. And that was the last spot of our study tour named 'DAISHIK'. May be that explains why Raja Dighapatia accepted us with rains, and the Raja of Puthia with red rays of the setting sun. May be that was how the two Rajas gave us their heart-felt gratification at the end of our journey for being with their line of action, namely the exploration of Bengal Architeture.

Following our schedule, we got back to Khulna on 17 August. On our return, the convener of the tour said, 'The classes on Bengal Architecture always increased my thirst but could not satisfy. Moreover our temples, mosques, viharas and any of the ancient architectural sites kept tempting me for years. Thousands of time I reached Kantanagar in my dream to touch the terracotta and walk in the shrine of Paharpur to go back to that time. Eventually I came to realize that texts cannot express those formations which lay in those ruins. That's why I drew a plan that turned into this tour, this Daishik….’

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