Earth : Asia : Southeast Asia : Bangladesh : Rajshahi Division : Naogaon District
Naogaon is an important farming region, with extremely fertile soil and one of the highest cultivation rates of rice than any other district. 90% of the population is Muslim and majority live a simple, farming lifestyle.
The ruins at Paharpur are situated just off the Naogaon-Jaipurhat Road. There are regular buses from Jaipurhat between 7am and 4pm to Paharpur for Tk 10. The journey is 9km, taking about 25 minutes.
Another option is to catch a train to Jamalganj Railway Station, located only 4.5km down the road (about 10 minutes). A rickshaw can be waved down for the short trip from the station to the Paharpur ruins.
Buses can be used to get between major towns, or else rickshaws for small distances.
Probably the most renowned monument in the region is the ruins of a major Buddhist vihara: Somapura Mahavihara. Also known as Paharpur Vihar, it is located in the tiny town of Paharpur, 5km west of Jamalganj. The shrine is estimated to have been built sometime during the 7th or 8th century. It formed part of a network of five major monasteries across the Indian subcontinent, and scholars would regularly travel between the sites as part of their lifelong learning. The monastery was destroyed by fire during a conquest, but rebuilt about a century later. When the area came under Muslim occupation in the 13th century, Paharpur went into decline until it was finally abandoned in the 13th century when the Buddhist population fled the region. It's ruins today are not the result of any conquest, but of centuries without maintenance or use.
The architecture is not particularly Indian, but influenced by similar sites in Myanmar and Java. To the north is an elaborate gateway complex, with other sites surrounding the temple. The temple is raised upon a pyramid structure, which is all that really remains of the original building. On the walls, various pictures and script can be observed.
A site museum is located right near the structure. It houses a collection of interesting objects collected from excavations in the area. Some valuable artefacts are housed at the Varendra Museum in Rajshahi, while others are on what seems like a permanent world tour. Artefacts on display include terracotta plaques, images of various gods and goddesses, Buddha heads, pottery, coins, ornamental bricks and other clay items. Admission to the museum is Tk 50. Opening hours from April to September are: Mon 2:30-6pm, Tue-Thu & Sat 10am-1pm & 1:30-6pm, Fri 10am-12:30pm & 2:30-6pm. From October to March: Mon 1:30-5pm, Tue-Thu & Sat 9am-1pm & 1:30-5pm, Fri 9am-12:30pm & 2-5pm.