A temple dating back to a period sometime between 1000 and 1200 AD has been unearthed by archaeologists in Madhabgaon village in Kaharol division of Dinajpur in Bangladesh.
According to the archaeology team from Jahangirnagar University, the temple remains indicate that it was a navaratha temple built in Kalinga-style of the 11th and 12th century eastern India and is the only such temple in Bangladesh.
When the team consulted Indian archaeologist Dipak Ranjan Das, they were told that the upper portion of the temple was similar to the Siddheswara Shiva Temple in Bankura, West Bengal.
The team led by JU Assistant Professor Dr Shadhin Sen took three months to excavate the site.
Among the artefacts is an idol of Mohini, the avatar of Lord Vishnu, a Shankha, a Sudarshana Chakra, a mace and a part of the idol’s foot adorned in garland.
What makes the discovery very interesting is the fact that it will change the current historic discourse of Bangladesh, which usually begins with the Islamic conquest of the region, and its ancient traditions.
Bangladeshi media reports that South Asian iconography expert Professor Claudine Bautze Picron has said that the depiction of Vishnu in feminine Mohini form is the rarest avatar to be observed in eastern India.
In its existing form, the temple foundation runs almost 8 metres deep and a 2 metre high structure stands above land level. An assembly hall having four pillars and the square sanctum sanctorum has been discovered.
“The sanctum was a superstructure featuring a curvilinear tower,” says Professor Seema Haque of the team. “This too is a very rare feature among the ancient brick temples that have been found anywhere in both parts of Bengal.”
Archaeologists believe that the temple was used till the 16th century before it was abandoned for unknown reasons.
Bengal was till the 12th century a centre of Buddhist and Hindu religions. The temple’s location and dating indicates that it was constructed at the time when the Sena Dynasty ruled over the region. In early 13th century, Bakhtiyar Khilji invaded Bengal and began the Islamic conquest of the region.