Excavated site Vikramshila, Antichak
Vikramasila (village Antichak, district Bhagalpur, Bihar) is located about 50 kms east of Bhagalpur and about 13 kms north-east of Kahalgaon, a railway station on Bhagalpur-Sahebganj section of Eastern Railway. It is approachable through 11 kms long motorable road diverting from N.H.80 at Anadipur about 2 kms from Kahalgaon.
Excavated remains represent the ruins of Vikramasila Mahavihara the celebrated university founded by Pala king Dharmapala in late 8th or early 9th Century A.D. It prospered for about four centuries before it collapsed in the beginning of 13th Century A.D. It is known to us mainly through Tibetan sources specially the writings of Taranath, the Tibetan monk historian of 16th-17th Century A.D.
Vikramasila was one of the largest Buddhist universities having more than hundred teachers and about one thousand students. It produced eminent scholars who were often invited by foreign countries to spread Buddhist learning, culture and religion. The most distinguished and eminent among all was Atisa Dipankara, the founder of Lamaism in Tibet. Subjects like theology, philosophy, grammar, metaphysics, logic etc. were taught here but the most important branch of learning was tantrism.
Meticulous excavation at the site conducted initially by Patna University (1960-69) and subsequently by Archaeological Survey of India (1972-82) has revealed a huge square monastery with a cruciform stupa in its centre, a library building and cluster of votive stupas. To the north of monastery a number of scattered structures including a Tibetan and a Hindu temple have been found. The entire spread is over an area of more than hundred acres.
The monastery, or residence for the Buddhist monks, is a huge square structure, each side measuring 330 metres having a series of 208 cells, 52 on each of the four sides opening into a common verandah. A few brick arched underground chambers beneath some of the cells have also been noticed which were probably meant for confined meditation by the monks.
The main stupa built for the purpose of worship is a brick structure laid in mud mortar and stands in the centre of the square monastery. This two terraced stupa is cruciform on plan and about 15 metres high from the ground level accessible through a flight of steps on the north side. On each of the four cardinal directions there is a protruding chamber with a pillared antechamber and a separate pillared mandapa in front. In the four chambers of the stupa were placed colossal stucco images of seated Buddha of which three were found in situ but the remaining one on north side was possibly replaced by a stone image after the clay image was somehow damaged.
The walls of both the terraces are decorated with mouldings and terracotta plaques which testify the high excellence of terracotta art flourishing in the region during Pala period (8th to 12th Century A.D.).
About 32 metres south of the monastery on its south west corner and attached with the main monastery through a narrow corridor is a rectangular structure identified as library building. It was air-conditioned by cooled water of the adjoining reservoir through a range of vents in the back wall. The system was perhaps meant for preserving delicate manuscripts.
The architecture of the stupa and the themes of terracotta plaques of Vikramasila Mahavihara are comparable to the contemporary Somapura Mahavihara, Paharpur (Bangladesh). On plan both are very much alike except that Vikramasila monastery is larger and has fort like projections on its outer wall.
A large number of antiquities of different materials were unearthed from this place in course of excavation are displayed in the site museum maintained by Archaeological Survey of India.
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