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Odantapuri and Jagaddala Mahavihara

By Gaurav Manandhar at

Introduction

In the ancient Magadha and Bengal, a range of Monasteries or Mahavihara were constructed gradually with the objective to preserve and spread the teachings of Buddha. As mentioned in Tibetan sources, five great Mahaviharas were stood during the Pala period. These Mahaviharas were Vikramshila, Nalanda, Somapura, Odantapura, and Jaggadala. Nalanda, Vikramshila, and Odantapura have constructed in present-day India while remaining two, Somapura and Jaggadala were constructed in the Present day Bangladesh.

As these Mahaviharas were established, they formed a network and regulated coordinating each other. All of these Mahaviharas were under state supervision and hence the coordination was possible. It seems from the evidence that the different seats of Buddhist learning that functioned in eastern India under the Pala were regarded together as forming a network, an interlinked group of institutions. It was also common for great scholars to move easily from position to position among theme.

In earlier posts, there had been already discussed Nalanda, Vikramashila, and Somapura Mahavihara, therefore we would be going after the Odantapuri and Jagaddala Mahavihara.

Odantapuri Mahavihara

Odantapuri is also known as Odantapura or Uddandapura Mahavihara which is located in Bihar, India. This Mahavihara was established by the Pala Emperor Gopala I in the 8th century. Therefore, this vihara is considered the second oldest vihara in India.

Brief History of Odantapuri

As mentioned in Kalachakra Tantra by Ngakwang Kunga Sonam, 27th Sakya Trizin, it is mentioned that Odantapuri was administered by Sendh-pa, the Tibetan referent for a Sravakayana Buddhist school. King Mahapala also supported 500 monks. Therefore, he added up a monastery to Odantapuri. Later the added division of the vihara was called Uruvasa.

During the reign of King Ramapala, another thousand monks, belonged to Mahayana and Hinayana tradition lived in this monastery. It is recorded that in occasions, even twelve thousand monks gathered in this monastery to venerate the Buddha.

The Mahavihara perished along with Nalanda under the responsibility of Muhammad bin Bakhtiyar in 1193. The Mahavihara was also declined later and the immediate cause was the invasion of Muslim.

Jagaddala Mahavihara

Jagaddala Mahavihara was founded by the later kings of the Pala dynasty, probably Ramapala. Since there is very little knowledge of Jagaddala, the location was doubtful for many years. Hence, A.K.M. Zakaria had inspected five likely locations. These locations were all called Jadgal or Jagadal in the Rajshahi-Malda region, in Haripur Upazila of Thakurgaon, in Bochaganj Upazila in Dinajpur, in Dhamooirhat Upazila of Naogaon, and in Bamangola block of Malda, India. Among these locations, ancient ruins were excavated only in Dhamooirhat Upazila of Naogaon.

The Buddhist monks at Jagaddala Mahavihara emphasized in Vajrayana Buddhism. It is believed that the number of texts that appears in the Kanjur and Tengjur was copied or composed through the texts of Jagaddala. It is also likely that the earliest dated anthology of Sanskrit verse, the Subhasitaratnakosa was compiled by Vidyakara at this monastery. While excavation at the site by UNESCO, it has revealed an extensive mound, 105 meters long by 85 meters, which represents the archaeological remains of the Buddhist Monastery. The same excavation project found that these have included terracotta plaques, ornamental bricks, nails, a gold ingot and three stone images of deities.

When Muslim invaded India, most of the Buddhist monks fled to near countries. The last abbot of Nalanda Mahavihara, Sakyasribhadra first took shelter in Jagaddala Mahavihara. He then fled to Tibet in 1204. Historian Sukumar Dutt confirms that the tentative date of the final destruction of Jagaddala to 1207 and is believed in have been the last Mahavihara to be overrun.

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