Thursday, July 12, 2012


Despite periods of religious destruction, it is, no doubt, the liberal Sunni Muslim traditions in Bangladesh, that have for centuries encompassed the arts, especially music and architecture, perhaps a hangover from the Caliphate tradition via the Mughal rulers, that has ensured the survival of so much of the fine ancient sculpture and architectural materials.

The earliest such material appears to date from the late centuries BCE, but clearly came into flower in the later years of the first millennium of the Common Era.

The richest of this material is probably of Buddhist origin, when, from about the 7th Century Pala Dynasty of rulers in these lands, until the 12th Century, many of the estimated 400 and more Buddhist Vihara were completed.

Major museums contain a remarkable trove of this sculpture, usually made in Basalt, though granite, marble and sandstone are all to be found. None of which, incidentally, is native to the area!

Borendra museum in Rajshahi.

It is often difficult for the layman to distinguish Buddhist from Hindu icons, which tends to confirm other evidence of peaceful coexistence between the two religions, uniquely in the lands of rich international trade that was these lands of the Ganges Delta, who were, it seems, commissioned by both religious groups.

Each year, floods produce further pieces of architecture and sculpture to add to the troves, from the many unexcavated sites that lie across the lands. A positive treasure house of such work, much neglected by scholars, both in Bangladesh, and abroad!

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