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Author:Laxman Burdak, IFS (Retd.)

Mahasthangarh is an ancient site in Shibganj thana of Bogra District, Bangladesh. The place was known earlier as Pundranagara also. This region is also known as Rarha.[1] There was a Brahmin densities at Devikota.[2]

Variants of name


The village Mahasthan in Shibganj thana of Bogra District contains the remains of an ancient city which was called Pundranagara or Paundravardhanapura in the territory of Pundravardhana.[3][4]

Mention by Panini

Pundranagara (पुंड्रनगर) is mentioned by Panini in Ashtadhyayi. [5]

Mahanagara (महानगर) is mentioned by Panini in Ashtadhyayi. [6]


V. S. Agrawala[7] writes that Panini refers to Nagara (IV.2.142), e.g. Mahanagara and Navanagara as names of towns 'not in the north' but in the east. Mahanagara is to be identified with Mahasthana, the capital of north Bengal or Pundra and Navanagara with the Navadvipa, the capital of west Bengal or Vanga. In between Mahanagara and Navanagara lay Gauḍapura (VI.2.100), modern Gauḍa, an important town in route from Champa to Mahasthana and an important centre of guḍa manufacturing in the Pundra Country.

V. S. Agrawala[8] writes that the Kashika gives the following examples of towns with the ending nagara: Suhmanagara (सुह्मनगर) and Pundranagara (पुंड्रनगर) (the capitals of Suhma (सुह्म) and Pundra (पुंड्र) provinces in eastern India, VI.2.89);

Alexander Cunningham was the first to identify the place as the capital of Pundravardhana. He visited the site in 1879.[9]

A limestone slab bearing six lines in Prakrit in Brahmi script, discovered in 1931, dates Mahasthangarh to at least the 3rd century BC.[10] The text appears to be a royal order of Magadha, possibly during the rule of Asoka.

Silver punch marked coins are datable to a period between the 4th century BC and the 1st–2nd century AD. Some uninscribed copper cast coins have been found. Two Gupta period coins have been reported from a nearby village named Vamanpara. A number of coins belonging to the sultans of 14th–15th century and British East India Company have been found.[11]

From the present findings it can be deduced that there was a city called Pundravardhana at Mahasthangarh with a vast suburb around it, on all sides except the east, where the once mighty Karatoya used to flow. It is evident that the suburbs of Pundravardhana extended at least to Baghopara on the south-west, Gokul on the south, Vamanpara on the west, and Sekendrabad on the north.[14]

Mahasthangarh dates back to at least 3rd century BC and is acknowledged as the earliest city-site so far discovered in Bangladesh. Somapura Mahavihara at Paharpur in Naogaon District was once the biggest Buddhist monastery south of the Himalayas. It dates from the 8th century AD.

Narapatir Dhap: Situated in the village Basu Vihara, 1.5 km north-west of Totaram Panditer Dhap. Base remains of two monasteries and a temple have been exposed. Cunningham identified this place as the one visited by Xuanzang (Hiuen Tsang) in the 7th century AD.[12]


Tej Ram Sharma[13] provides us following information from Gupta inscriptions:

Pundravardhana (पुण्ड्र वर्धन) (No. 28, L.I; No. 33, LL .1-2; No. 34, L. 2 ; No. 35, L.2; No. 36, L. 2;- No. 37, L. 2; No. 43, L. 14) :

This bhukti is mentioned in the Gupta epigraphs ranging from the years 124 to 224 of the Gupta era, i.e. from A.D. 443 to 543. It formed an integral part of Gupta empire during this period. According to Inscription No. 37, a noble man (kula- putra) Amrtadeva by name belonging to Ayodhya approached the local government of Kotivarsa of which Svyambhudeva was the governor, under the provincial government of Pundra- vardhana-bhukti, during the reign of Bhanugupta, and prayed that he might be given, by means of a copper-plate document in accordance with the prevailing custom, some rent-free waste lands. His prayer was granted.

General Cunningham 52 identifies Pundravardhana with the extensive ruins known as 'Mahāsthāngarh', 8 miles north of the town of Bogra. The river Karatoya was the dividing line between Pundravardhana-bhukti and Kamarupa. 53 According to Wilson, the ancient kingdom of Pundradesa included the districts of Rajshahi, Dinajpur, Rangpur, Malda, Bogra and Tirhut. 54 It seems to have been the biggest administrative division or province of the Gupta empire, divided into several visayas and mandalas of which twenty-four 55 are mentioned

Personal and geographical names in the Gupta inscriptions 213

in known epigraphs. In short Pundravardhana signified North Bengal

Pundravardhana, as the name suggests, was a settlement of the Pundras. 56 The first reference to the Pundras is found in the Aitareya Brahmana. 57 The earliest literary reference to Pundravardhana is to be traced in the Buddhist work, the Divyavadana, where it is mentioned as the easternmost city of India. 58 The Paundra country is mentioned also in the Brhat-sarhhita, 59 as situated in the east. 60 The Kavyamimamsa also mentions it as a Janapada in the east. In the inscriptions of Bengal the name Pundravardhana was changed into [[Paundra- vardhana]] in the early part of the 12th century, when it occurs first in the Manahali grant of Madanapala and remained in use till the end of the Sena rule. The Rajatarangini mentions Pundravardhana as the capital of Gauda which is also proved by a reference in Purusottama's lexicon (llth century A.D.) 61

The city lost its importance from the third quarter of the 12th century A.D. as the later Sena kings shifted their capital to Gauda in the Malda district. Towards the end of the 13th or the beginning of the 14th century A.D. Pundravardhana was occupied by the Muhammedans. 62

Visit by Xuanzang 639 AD

Alexander Cunningham[14] writes that From Kankjol the pilgrim Xuanzang crossed the Ganges, and travelling east-ward for 600 li, or 100 miles, he reached the kingdom of Pun-na-fa-tan-na[15] This name M. Stanislas Julien renders as Paundra-Varddhana, and M. Vivien de Saint-Martin identifies it with Bardwan. But Bardwan is to the south of the last station, and on the same side of the Ganges, besides which its Sanskrit name is Varddhamana. The difference in the direction of the route might be a mistake, as we have found in several previous instances ; but the other differences are, I think, absolutely fatal to the identification of Bardwan with the place noted by Hwen Thsang.

I would propose Pubna, which is just 100 miles from Kankjol, and on the opposite bank of the Gauges, but its direction is nearly south-east instead of east. The Chinese syllables may represent either Punya Varddhana, or Paundra Varddhana ; but the latter must be the true name, as it is mentioned in the native history of Kashmir[16] as the capital of Jayanta, Raja of Gau., who reigned from A.D. 782 to 813. In the spoken dialects the name would be shortened from Pon-bardhan to Pohadlian, from which it is an easy step to Pubna, or Pobna, as some of the people now pronounce it. Hwen Thsang estimates the circuit of the kingdom at 4000 li, or 667 miles, which agrees exactly with the dimensions of the tract of country bounded by the Mahanadi on the west, the

[p.481]: Tista and Brahmaputra on the east, and the Ganges on the south.

External links


  1. Majumdar, Dr. R.C., History of Ancient Bengal, First published 1971, Reprint 2005, p. 10, Tulshi Prakashani, Kolkata, ISBN 81-89118-01-3.
  2. Majumdar, Dr. R.C., p. 457
  3. Hossain, Md. Mosharraf, Mahasthan: Anecdote to History, 2006, Preface, Dibyaprakash, 38/2 ka Bangla Bazar, Dhaka, ISBN 9844832454
  4. Majumdar, Dr. R.C., History of Ancient Bengal, First published 1971, Reprint 2005, p. 10, Tulshi Prakashani, Kolkata, ISBN 81-89118-01-3.
  5. V. S. Agrawala: India as Known to Panini, 1953, p.72
  6. V. S. Agrawala: India as Known to Panini, 1953, p.63, 71
  7. V. S. Agrawala: India as Known to Panini, 1953, p.63-64
  8. V. S. Agrawala: India as Known to Panini, 1953, p.72-73
  9. Hossain, Md. Mosharraf, pp. 16–19
  10. Hossain, Md. Mosharraf, pp. 56–60.
  11. Hossain, Md. Mosharraf, pp. 56–65.
  12. Hossain, Md. Mosharraf, pp. 25–46.
  13. Personal and geographical names in the Gupta inscriptions/Place-Names and their Suffixes,p.212
  14. The Ancient Geography of India/Champa, p.480-481]
  15. Julien's ' Hiouen Thsang,' iii. 74. See Map No. I.
  16. ' Raja Tarangini,' iv. 421. See also the Quart. Orient, Mag. ii. 188, for an account of Pundra-desa, taken by H. H. Wilson from the Brahmauda section of the Bhavishya Purana. The greater part of the province was to the north of the Ganges, including Gauda, Pubna, etc.