[Reader-list] Pilak , key to Tripura's history (D . Shekharan) (Courtesy: www.tripurainfo.com)

Sagnik Chakravartty sagnik_chakravartty at yahoo.com
Tue Jun 4 20:48:19 IST 2002

Pilak, key to Tripura's history
By D. Shekharan 

Nestled in the lush green valley dotted with
paddy-fields, sparse human habitation and occasional
uplands, Pilak in South Tripura's Belonia subdivision
holds the key to Tripura's ancient history. Lying
uncared for over the past many decades this
archaeological site which gives conclusive proof of
the peaceful existence of Hindu-Buddhist culture
spanning over 8th to 12th century is all set to
catapult Tripura on top of the country's
archaeological and tourist map. Pilak first hit the
headlines in the seventies with the finds of
archaeological artefacts, antiques including sandstone
images of Lord Buddha, Mahisasur Mardini, Surya Deb,
Avolokiteswar and exquisite terracotta images of Lord
Buddha inscribed on it. Speaking on the site, local
resident Sanjit Biswas who has saved a lot of
archaeological materialsfrom ruin said 'in our boyhood
in the mid sixties many people flattened mounds and
uplands containing relics of temples and stupas to
extend paddy fields and the attempts at preservation
of the materials started only since 1973 when the then
Chief Minister Mr Sukhamay Sengupta visited the site'.
Pilak, located more than a hundred miles south of
Agartala, drew the attention of historians and
researchers in 1927 when Mr Samarendra Debbarma, a
scion of Tripura's royal family, gave detailed
references to the glorious antiquity of the place in
his book entitled 'Tripura Smriti'. Mr Debbarma's
views were later echoed more authoritatively by German
scholar Dr H.B.Beshart who spoke highly of the wealth
of archaeological matters contained underground. Mr
Thaikhai Chowdhury, a Mog tribal and officer of the
information department who took a media team on a tour
of the site said 'there is reference to Pilak as
'pilakko' in a stone inscription at Mruhang (old and
big city), the capital of the old Arakan kingdom in
present Myanmar. He asserted on the basis of Mog
folklore and tradition of oral history that in remote
past there was close cultural link between 'pilakko'
and Arakan via Chittaong hill-tracts of present
Bangladesh. 'The sculptural and architectural remains
of Pilak closely resemble those found in the
Maynamoti-Paharpur area in Comilla district of present
Bangladesh' Mr Thaikhai Chowdhury added. What,
however, has brought Pilak into limelight afresh is
the excavation of a full-sized Buddhist stupa in the
'Shyamsundar tilla' area. Explaining the importance of
the newly excavated site Mr Narayan Chandra Debnath, a
senior conservation assistant of the Archaeological
Survey of  India (ASI) said' this is a full-size
Buddhist stupa built in 11th century on the pattern of
architecture during the reign of palas of Bengal '. Mr
Debnath who has been in charge of the Pilak site since
1999 said the stupa had been excavated under the
supervision of ASI superintendent Mr P.Kumaran since
January 1999 and completed in March this year. He
pointed out that the stone image of meditating Buddha
found in the sanctum sanctorum of the stupa had 'very
close affinity to tribal features on the mouth'. He
said that Pilak archaeological site was spread over
three square kms of land west of Jolaibari market area
in Belonia subdivision .' The sites are known as
'Shyamsundar tilla', 'Thakurani tilla', 'Sagar doba',
'Debdaru' 'Basudebbari' around Jolaibari market' Mr
Debnath added. Regarding the preservation of the site
and its potential as a tourist spot Mr Thaikhai
Chowhdury said the ASI had taken over the site since
1999 and its treasure trove was now under protection
according to the provisions of government of India's
relevant Act of 1958. He asserted that the state
government had plans to develop the site for Buddhist
tourists of South East Asia and other places' and for
this we have submitted a project of Rs 150 crores to
centre '. The centre will seek financial assistance
from the government of Japan , he added. The state
government has already developed the site as a tourist
spot by setting up a cafetaria and providing other
facilities for visitors from outside. Both Mr Narayan
Debnath and Mr Thaikhai Chowdhury said 'it is evident
from the excavations and recovery of archaeological
materials that between 8th and 12th century Pilak used
to be a temple town and a centre of learning where
Buddhists and Hindus co-existed peacefully.' The place
also lies in a strategic location near the trijunction
of Tripura, Chittagong hill-tracts of Bangladesh and
present Myanmar' they added. Mr Jawhar Lal Acharjee,
an authority on Tripura's history and a prominent
numismatist, said 'Pilak is a treasure house of
history which is just waiting to be unearthed'.


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