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central temple

the central temple

The Central Temple

 

The purpose of this central structure at the midst of the courtyard remains unsolved since its discovery. Hence most of the debates generated hitherto on the architecture of Sompur Mahavihara are cantered on the identification its missing superstructure. The reason may be manifold, but the most important one is the non-availability of substantial amount of first hand resource including a comprehensive architectural documentation at the disposal of the researchers. There are different arguments regarding the terminating top of the central structure of Sompur Mahavihara.

 

Present view of the Central Temple of Sompur Mahavihara

[Present situation of the central temple]

 

Consequently, most of works done so far are mainly based on the findings of the archaeological excavation and studying the artefacts from the archaeological perspective. The first ever study on this monument with documentation was been carried by archaeologist K.N. Dikhist in his, Paharpur, Memoirs of Archaeological Survey in India (1938). Dikhsit was not concerned with documentation of the archaeological findings, but also concentrates on their interpretation and analysis. He also made an attempt to suggest a probable architectural of the missing parts of the structure through studying the archaeological remains. Till today, this study is considered as the most authentic record of the Sompur Mahavihara.

 

Prudence R. Myer published the first of such studies in 1969 as a journal paper, in which he proposed the missing superstructure as a stupa and illustrated the possible three-dimensional articulations. Myer embarked on his proposal through a diachronic study of the Stupa and Stupa shrines in India. He took Sompur Mahavihara as an example to elaborate his study and did a conjectural restoration of the central structure in support of his analysis.

 

Mayer model of Sompur Mahavihara, Please click to view in 3D

Mayer's theoritical reconstruction of the central shrine with reference to Javanese Temple (source: Artibus Asiae, Vol 23, 1969)
[To see this model in 3D, please click this link. You must have latest flash player installed]

 

The second work was published around thirty years after Myer's proposition. A team of architects from Khulna University lead by Mohammed Ali Naqi has proposed another theoretical reconstruction of the central structure as well as some parts of the peripheral block (mainly the entrance hall) in 1999. This work was also presented in the "International Seminar on Elaboration of an rchaeological Research Strategy for Paharpur World Heritage Site and Its Environment" jointly organized by UNESCO and Department of Archaeology of Bangladesh in 2004. Muhammad Ali Naqi proposed a temple like spire at the top by considering the central mound as a ‘Stupa-Shrine’ with a ‘Shikhara’ type stupa in his reconstruction.

 

Naqi's model of Sompur Mahavihara, Please click to view in 3D

Virtual reconstruction of the central temple by Ali Naqi
[To see this model in 3D, please click this link. You must have latest flash player installed]

 

In the same forum Mr. Shihabuddin Md. Akbar an archaeologist from the Department of Archaeology of Bangladesh, has presented two possible formal expressions of the central mound. The first one, as he presented, was a sketch by some anonymous Japanese architect, which he used to develop his own version of the reconstruction. He identified the structure as a Buddhist temple, like Mahabodhi temple at Bodhgaya and the temples of Nalanda, with a colossal Shikhara or spire of a typical north Indian temple.

 

Shihabuddin model of Sompur Mahavihara, Please click to view in 3D

Shihabuddin's reconstruction of the central structure of Sompur Mahavihara (source: Proceeding of the international seminar on elaboration of an Archaeological research strategy for Paharpur world heritage site and its environment, 2004)
[To see this model in 3D, please click this link. You must have latest flash player installed]

 

Dr. Mizanur Rashid published another proposal for the central temple in 2006.  Although, Sompur Mahavihara seems to be guided and ordered to cater certain religious purpose, but Rashid considered other phenomena such as vernacular architecture, as well as internal conditions of a Bengal i.e. the existing social and religious need, climate, and technology as important considerations for his proposal.

 

Rashid model of Sompur mahavihara, Please click to view in 3D

 

Reconstructed model of the ruins of the central structure (Rashid 2006)
[To see this model in 3D, please click this link. You must have latest flash player installed]

All of these above studies have been published in different journals or books. There are other scholars who are still working to resolve the mystery of the central form of Sompuer Mahavihara. Anyone who are interested to publish his/her work or model in this section please contact with the ‘contact us’ page or email to submission@bdheritage.info

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