Jain Remains of Ancient Bengal
by Shubha Majumder | 2017 | 61,684 words
This page relates ‘Archaeological sites in District South Twenty Four Parganas’ of the study on the Jain Remains of Ancient Bengal based on the fields of Geography, Archaeology, Art and Iconography. Jainism represents a way of life incorporating non-violence and approaches religion from humanitarian viewpoint. Ancient Bengal comprises modern West Bengal and the Republic of Bangladesh, Eastern India. Here, Jainism was allowed to flourish from the pre-Christian times up until the 10th century CE, along with Buddhism.
Archaeological sites in District South Twenty Four Parganas
These are the twin villages on the bank of the Bhagirathi under the aforementioned PS. This locality seems to have been a Jain religious centre. The Bisalakshmi temple of this village has an image of the 23rd Jain Tīrthaṅkara, Pārśvanātha. This image of black basalt measures 3.5 feet in height. The Jina is depicted standing below a sevenhooded snake canopy and is in kāyotsarga posture. The image is executed with a high quality of craftsmanship. A good number of Jain images were recovered from the place. Besides, this well-known locality has also yielded noticeable remains and antiquities on the flat and rolling mounds belonging to the early mediaeval and mediaeval periods.
136. Dakshin Barasat:
This village on the banks of the Adi Ganga yielded numerous antiquities found at different places of this locality. It is very difficult to trace the old habitational areas as the village is more or less covered by modern habitation. However, a few stone sculptures including a Jain Tīrthaṅkara image have been reported from Senpara of this village.
Along the bank of the river Mani, Kankandighi is a well known archaeological site for the discoveries of numerous archaeological objects, particularly stone and metal sculptures and pieces of architectural members, besides the huge structural mounds which are locally known as Pilkhanar Dhibi (Pl.VI.B) and reports of other terracotta objects, potteries etc. Three Jain antiquities were also reported from this site. Recently (2013-2014 field season), the site was subjected to excavation by the Department of Archaeology, University of Calcutta. Since the report of excavation is in progress, the personal experience of the present author with the excavated findings include massive structural remains exposed on the Pilkhana mound, a few “cell” type complexes apparently religious edifices (according to the excavator, a monastic complex), a few fragmentary pieces of stone sculptures, good number of potteries and other minor terracotta objects. Here, one may note that two other structural mounds in the nearby area, i.e., Jatar Deul and Mathbari were most probably associated with Kankandighi both in terms of character and chronology. Hence, the river bank of Mani certainly played an important role not only for its water sources but also it was a remarkable connecting water route between the inner Sunderbans and the outer one, linked with both the settlements in and around the Diamond Harbour-Kakdwip-Sagar region (Deulpota, Harinarayanpur, Mandirtala, etc.) and the settlements like Kashinagar, Khari-Chhatrabhog, Barashi, Mayda, Joynagar, Tilpi, Atghara and the settlements along the Adi-Ganga in South Twenty Four Parganas.
Nalgara is located in the eastern side of the river Mani. There is a big mound in the south-eastern part of the village and it is locally known as Mathbari Dhibi. Earlier it was a massive mound and was repeatedly disturbed by casual diggings for bricks. This mound was apparently a religious establishment as it yielded a large number of metal and stone images, potsherds, etc. The stone icons include those of Viṣṇu, Viṣṇupaṭṭa, Mahiṣāsuramardinī, Natarāja, Gaṇeśa, Manasā and a few stone images associated with the Jain pantheon were also recorded. A metal image of Yakṣiṇī Ambikā was also recovered from this site.
This site is lies on the south banks of a channel known as the Mani river. The site shows the remains of a tank which is said to have originally covered about 36 acres of land. An image of Pārśvanātha was hauled out from a river channel. This image is now installed under a tamarind tree at Bolbamni under Matla P.S and worshipped as Dharmathakur.
The site is located about 11miles to the north-west of Raidighi, under the Mandir Bazar police station. During the reconstruction of a pond an image of Ṛṣabhanātha was recovered from this site and is presently displayed in the Asutosh Museum of Indian Art, University of Calcutta.
141. Damodar Pur:
This site is situated near to the site of Katabenia under the same police station. An image of Pārśvanātha was discovered from this village.
142. Sagar Island:
Sagar Island is the southern most point of South Twenty Four Parganas. The island is famous for the temple of Kapilmuni and the annual pilgrimage in connection with Makar Sankranti. Some of the major sites in the Sagar Block include Gangasagar, Prasadpur, Manasadip, Rudranagar, Harinbari, Rathbari and Mandirtala. Evidences of structural ruins in the form of brick-built houses, temples, wells, besides a number of sculptural specimens including some Jain images, were recorded during periodical explorations at different localities of the region. This entire area is formed by a cluster of settlement sites like Mandirtala, Dhablat (Prasadpur), Chakfuldubi, Harinbari, etc., of which the site of Mandirtala shows the existence of a religious complex datable to the early mediaeval period. Sculptural specimens have also been recovered from the place.
The site is not far away from Sagar Island and is also known as Lat No. 36. A unique Jain caumukha was recovered from this site and presently, the specimen is displayed in a local museum of Dr. Tulsicharan Bhattacharya Smriti Sangrahasala, South Bishnupur, South Twenty Four Parganas district.
144. Baishata-Ghosher Chak-Jauthiya-Kacharipara:
Baishata is a large modern locality and Ghosher Chak, Jauthiya and Kacharipara are situated in and around it. The archaeological remains are scattered over the localities mentioned above. Any archaeological report with reference to these localities signifies the distribution pattern of structural mounds, non-structural habitational areas and the occurrence of habitational debris and artefacts (Pl.VI.C). Mathbari is an abandoned structural complex virtually covered by two moderate mounds (one small and the other relatively big) in Ghosher Chak-Baishata locality. Another structural mound also known as Mathbari is located in Kacharipara. The Kacharipara Mathbari mound has yielded structural remains and other antiquities including a Jain āyāgapaṭa and a fragmentary Tīrthaṅkara image. The village was extensively explored by Sudhin De and his co-investigators during 1986. They found that the southern mound was covered by a dense spread of bushes. A part of the northern mound was being dug for cultivation. From this part of the northern mound, De reported some medieval potsherds. While exploring this village, De came to know that earlier a gold coin of the Gupta dynasty was found from the southern mound. The Directorate of Archaeology & Museum, Government of West Bengal conducted a small scale excavation at the mounds during 1989 but failed to unearth diagnostic findings. Excavations at the trial trench (3 x 3 m.) at Mathbari I or the southern mound exposed a massive wall. Remains of another wall in east-west alignment were found on the northern part of the earlier wall. According to De, this wall was a part of a larger structure. Adjacent to the outer part of the wall, remains of a continuous paved way made of tile-like bricks were unearthed. It is vey unfortunate that not much is known about the other details of the excavation at Mathbari I. However, on the basis of exposed structural remains, the excavator suggested that the structural complex including the walls was either associated with a Jain establishment or a Buddhist one (De 1994: 38-39).
Unfortunately, the absence of large-scale horizontal excavation, increasing encroachments of cultivated land in and around the site and other factors have virtually obscured the heritage of the site especially in the context of reconstruction of the settlement history of the region concerned. Therefore, it may be surmised that the structures encountered at Ghosher Chak were probably the remains of a religious complex/establishment, contemporary to Jatar Deul and the probable religious centres of the Khari-Chhatrabhog region.
The site, situated very close to Atghara, is another important archaeological complex and had previously attracted the attention of scholars like N. Mukhopadhyay, P.G. Ghosh and others who carried out intensive exploration work at the site (Mukhopadhyay 1980: 39; Ghosh, 1980: 32). This resulted in the discovery of a large number of grey wares with elongated neck, Roman amphorae, terracotta figurines including YakṣaYakṣiṇī, plaque with erotic scene, plaque depicting Jataka story, cast copper coins, silver and copper coins with numerical symbols, Kusāna coins, Gupta gold coins, terracotta seals with Brahmi and Kharoshti, etc. A miniature seated Tīrthaṅkara image was also reported from this site.
146. Chhatrabhog Area:
The village of Chhatrabhog is famous for the modern temple of Tripureswari situated on its western edge, possibly along the original river bank. The temple stands over a structural mound scattered with architectural fragments. The remnants of the old occupation are also found spread over the entire village. Among the sculptural remains a medallion with lotus design may be taken as an example of the survival of ancient or mediaeval architecture. Its resemblance with those found from Lal Masjid at Haroa, help in dating this specimen to the 14th -15th century CE. Several objects found from this place are presently in the collection of different local museum of South Twenty Four Parganas. Among the sculptural specimens recorded from this area an image of Jain Śāsanadevī or Yakṣiṇī Ambikā deserve special mention and this one is presently displayed in the Kalidas Dutta Murti Samgrahalay, Jaynagar Maljilpur.
Lying on the eastern bank of the Hooghly, the site is about 6 kms from Diamond Harbour town and archaeologically wellknown. The richness of the site, in terms of antiquities, have already been highlighted by previous explorations, organized by either individuals or various institutions (IAR 1956-57: 70; 1957-58: 70; 1960-61: 68). In the site different types of early historic potteries terracotta figurines, punch marked coins, cast copper coins, beads and other antiquities were reported. A very fragmented Jain Āyāgapaṭa was also collected from this site and is presently displayed in a local museum of Dakshin Bishnupur, District South Twenty Four Parganas.