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Maynamati - Golden Historical Heritage of Bangladesh
Mainamati is another historical place of Bangladesh, rich in cultural heritage and located around 8 kilometer west of the town of Comilla district. It is situated in the edge of mounds in eastern boundary of the country.
The archaeological excavations here in Mainamati disclosed many important objects.
The ridge has decorated a vast span of lower basin of the Meghna river, extending around 17 kilometers north-south from the village of Mainamati on the river Ghumti (sometimes called ‘Gomoti’) to Chandi Mura close to the railway station of Lalmai.
In the broadest part, this edge is around 4.5 kilometers across and the highest peaks are of around 45 meters. Once there were thick woods and plenty of flora and fauna in these lands, but the development works, especially the continually increasing area of Cantonment has distorted these truly natural surroundings. Also the Kotbari town which is growing steadily and in center of this area is largely responsible for altering the magnificent beauty of this ridge.
The naming of the place is quite interesting, as it has got two mirrored names, mentioned in the local ballads and folk songs. They are ‘Lalmai’ and ‘Mainamati’, which are intricately related with distant past. The ‘Chandra Epigraph’s Lalambi Vana has contributed the name of southern part of the region, now known as ‘Lalmai’. On the other hand, the northern part has got its name from the once famous Chandra Queen Maynamati.
The archaeological excavations have revealed that the region was once a center of culture, custom and politics of the Southeast region of the Bengal. This glorious past is definitely evident for immense number of memorials, mounds and excavated items that have once ruled this region. The excavations also revealed ancient Buddhist ruins, for which Maynamati is mostly known today.
According to historians, the very first historical object of Mainamati was found in 1803. The object was a plate made of copper, engraved with the description the then capital ‘Pattikera’ of Ranavankamalla Harikaladeva. It was dated back in 1220 A.D. and is well decorated with different forts and monasteries of the ancient past. The local people still bears the name their heart as today’s Patikara Pargana. During 1875, while reconstructing an old road the workers discovered a Buddhist Monastery, which was previously thought to be a small fort made of brick.
During the Second World War, the Mainamati ruins and remains were discovered again. There were 18 sites that were identified and classified by the government. Gradually, the whole ridge was defined restricted from human intrusion and disturbance and as many as 50 sites were located. Today, most of the sites were once located in the northern half is now within the cantonment. The archaeological excavation started again in 1955 and nine out of the 50 located sites have been exposed so far.
Archaeological excavations started in January 1955 and in several phases of excavation of the 50 odd sites nine have so far been exposed. So far it has provided a firm archaeological basis in terms of reconstructing the history and cultural picturesque of the olden times which were not revealed earlier.
Following is a list of sites that have been excavated so far: -
- SHALVAN VIHARA(a place where all the Buddhist monks gather also pronounced as Bihar): This is the most important site amongst all others, located in the middle of the ridge, in the surrounding area in Kotbari where Bangladesh Academy of Rural Development (BARD) is now located.
- BUDDHIST MONASTERY: The excavation also revealed a Buddhist Monastery like that of Paharpur. This grand façade along with the temple in the center was built by the fourth king of the then Deva Dynasty of the Deva Parvata. The king built this in the late 7th century or in early 8th century, A. D. A number of precious objects which dates from 7th Century to approximately 12th Century A. D. Things that were discovered from here include the following:
- Eight (08) Copper Plates
- Four Hundred (400) Gold Coins and Silver Coins
- A number of terracotta objects
- Seals made of hardened clay
- A huge quantity of Sculptures which are made of terracotta, stones and bronze.
- KUTILAMURA: This is the place where the most outstanding monuments were discovered in Mainamati. It is one of the highest mounds that were found located in the north – east part of the ridge close to Ananda Bihar. Evidence suggests that all these monuments began in 7th century and they were engaged until 13th century A.D. Following is a glimpse of the list of monuments discovered:
- Three (03) major ‘Stupas’ (Stupa is a monumental pile of earth or other materials, in memory of Buddha or a Buddhist Saint, and commemorating some event or marking a sacred spot). Some auxiliary chapels (a place to offer prayer) and halls built around these chapels. And all these are enclosed by giant boundary fence.
- An Abbasid gold coin which describes the beginning and ending of the era.
- CHARPATRA MURA: This is another lucrative little site which is located in the northern side of ridge, in the center of the Cantonment Area. A miniature Hindu Temple was discovered here which is of the period of 10th century to 11th Century or the Chandra Period. This is one of the Hindu Temples in Bangladesh known earliest. Following were found in this area:
- Four (04) Copper Plates. The name Charpatra is derived from these copper plates as Charpatra means Four Plates
- ANANDA BIHAR: Ananda Bihar is one of the prominent monuments in Mainamati. The site is located in the middle area of Kotbari which is evident for the cultural, educational and religious formation of the Bihars, Stupas and the chapels. The third ruler of this region, Shri Ananda Deva built this complex in around the late 7th century A.D. After the name Ananda, the Bihar was named. This place had the largest water tank available in the area. Later on the development works especially the cantonment building affected the site pretty much.
- BHOJA VIHARA: If Shalvan Vihara and Ananda Vihara are the two topmost monastic establishments, then BHOJA VIHARA must be the third. This too is located in the middle of the Kotbari adjacent to Bangladesh Academy of Rural Development (BARD). In the eastern side of the region, there is a huge water tank. One important analogy of this place with that of Shalvan and Ananda is the square shaped monastery with a big cruciform shrine placed in the center of the open courtyard, which was exposed by the excavations.
- QUEEN MAYNAMATI’S PALACE: The palace is located just east of the Brahmanbaria road which still bears the name of the queen. Queen Maynamati was a legendary lady and she was the mother of Govinda Chandra, the last known king of Chandra Dynasty. Excavations have suggested that the whole area is protected with massive wall around, having a palace at the center. Historians believe that this is the only place in the whole Maynamati to reveal structures of secular nature.
- RUPBAN MURA: This is located on small hill in between areas Bangladesh Academy of Rural Development (BARD) and Bangladesh Rifles (BDR) in Kotbari. Excavations have revealed three major periods when this was built and rebuilt. The place is towards south of Comilla – Kalirbazar Road. Things that were found here are: -
- An Astonishing Semi – Cruciform temple with additional structures.
- A giant Stone of Buddha
- Few gold coins of Balabhatta
- ITAKHOLAMURA: The ruins of this site are located in the small hills opposite to the Rupban Mura site which is across the road of Kotbari. Excavations have shown that here lies a grand Stupa complex with a monastery in the north. Antiquities that were found here are: -
- A stucco image
- Three round pellets Solid gold
- Copper Plate
- MAINAMATI MOUND: Another interesting place to visit. So far the excavations have revealed a number of things.
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