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Archaeology Publication


InArchCenter ID: - IACBN0030

Introduction: -

Shyamsundar Tila is a Stupa site at Tripura State. The mound locally known as Shyamsundar Tila, lies in the village South Jolaibari in Bilonia Sub-Division of the district. Once an extensive mound, it has been gradually cut and levelled up for cultivation and what remains measures approximately 45 x 45m. The entire mound was covered with plants and trees. A small-scale excavation carried out at the stupa site with a view to exposing the brick built stupa Complex. The upper part of the Stupa was missing. The mound was divided into several grids.

Excavations: -

1. 1965-66: - Led by Shri S.Banerji of the Directorate of Education, Tripura State, Sarvashri A. Ghosh and R. G. Kar noticed two defaced standing Buddha statues in the compound of the local school and two more mutilated standing statues, probably of Avalokitesvara, on a mound, evidently a ruined stupa, in village South Jolaibari in Belonia Sub-division. All of them belonged to the early medieval period. Traces of underground brick walls were noticeable at many places. A small standing Lokesvara figure in bronze found in the school-compound was recovered from a local person, chemically cleaned in the laboratory of the Archaeological Chemist and made over to the Director of Education. Other sculptures were reported to exist in the adjacent village of Pilak.

2. 1969-70: -The Secretary, Education Department, Government of Tripura, reported the discovery of several stone and bronze images, mostly of the Buddhist pantheon, at Pilak. They have been removed to the Tripura Museum.

3. 1984-85: - J.S. Nigam, assisted by Amarendra Nath, K.M. Suresh, A. Jha, M.P. Singh, P. Biswas and P.N. Biswas of the Excavation Branch (IV) and Puran Singh and Rajbir Singh of the Headquarters office of the Survey carried out a small scale excavation at the stupa site which was noticed earlier (1965-66, p.83 and 1969-70, p. 61), with a view to exposing the brick built stupa complex. The mound locally known as Shyamsundar Tila, lies in the village South Jolaibari in Bilonia Sub-Division of the district. Once an extensive mound, it has been gradually cut and levelled up for cultivation and what · remains measures approximately 45 x 45m. The entire mound was covered with plants and trees. The upper part of the Stupa was missing. The mound was divided into several grids. On the southern slope of the mound due to trees, a limited area 8 x 7 m was subjected to digging.

The excavation revealed the south-western comer and the recess on the southern face of the Stupa (STR-I), measuring 75 cm north-south, 1.53 m east-west with extant height of 2 m having thirty-eight courses of bricks laid in mud mortar. The twenty-two courses from the bottom had a layer of bricks with round edges, and the courses above were slightly inset. The recess running towards the east has seven courses of bricks. Below this level the stupa was found damaged. Various sizes of bricks that were used and laid in English bond, measured 34 x 20 x7 cm, 31 x 21 x 5 cm, 23 x 19 x 5 cm, 22 x 18 x 5 cm and 19.5 x 17 x 4.5 cm. The composition of the stupa debris suggests that the core of the stupa was filled with brickbats and brick-jelly with earth as indicated in the section. The stupa was possibly enclosed by an enclosure wall on all the sides as suggested by the two walls. The east-west oriented wall (STR-II) measuring 6.25 x 1.40 x 1.58 m has retained twenty-six courses of brick and is 1.54 m south of the stupa. Its return wall (STR-III) on the west, running south-north measuring 2.32 x 1.36 x 1.58 m has retained twenty-eight courses. The southern face of STR-II and the western faces of the STR-III and STR-IV have recess 85 cm above the paved pathways. In the recesses moulded terracotta plaques were fixed (PI. 23). The brick paved pathway (STR-V) running by the side of the walls (STR-II and IV) is 1.30 m to 1.25 m wide. It seems both complete bricks and brickbats have been used in the pavement.

A number of moulded terracotta plaques depicting sitting Buddha, flying gandharvas, warriors, dancers, chakra and lotus flowers, animals like lion, horse, bull, boar, some composite winged animals like swan, tortoise, snake, were also recovered. A few decorated bricks have also been unearthed. One of their edges bears the ornamentation which includes lotus petals, stepped pyramid pattern, honeycomb design, two horizontal wavy lines with a thick mid-band.

Moulded terracotta plaques had been recovered from Paharpur and Mainamati, the two famous Buddhist centres. The moulded terracotta plaques recovered from Shyamsundar Tila bear close resemblance with the above group. The Buddhist complex here may be assigned a date between the ninth and tenth century AD.

4. 1998-99: - K. Lourdusamy, assisted by Jitumani Das of the Guwahati Circle of the Survey, carried out scientific clearance work at the site with a view to ascertaining the nature and extent of the structure partially exposed earlier (1984-85, 1978-79).

The work undertaken towards south of the southwest corner of the mound exposed a part of a 1.00 m high and 1.30 m wide structure built of burnt-brick set in mud-mortar. Different sizes and shapes of bricks are used in construction such as square, rectangular, triangular, etc. measuring 20 cm X 25 cm X 5.5 cm, 29 cm X 18 cm X 4.5 cm and 20 cm X 30 cm X 5.5 cm. The triangular bricks are of 17 cm X 17 cm x 30 cm X 4.5 cm, 22 cm X 20/4 X 27 cm X 4 cm and 23 cm X 12 cm X 25/2 cm X 4.5 cm. Some of the bricks are decorated with geometrical and floral designs. The exposed structure appears to be the remains of a temple with mukhamandapa, arddha-mandapa and a garbhagriha on plan xvithpradakshinapatha. Garbhagriha could not be exposed in this season's work. On stylistic ground the temple may be datable to 19th century AD.

From the debris accumulated in and around the outer wall of adhishthana portion, was removed and found a series of twenty-nine moulded terracotta plaques located in situ while thirty-five were noticed in the debris. They are decorated with the motifs comprising human, animal (pls. 61-62), birds and mythological figures. Human beings are shown as warriors holding bow and arrow, sword etc. Among the other motifs, the votive stupa and seated Buddha, are noteworthy. These terracotta plaques on stylistic ground are comparable to those found at Paharpur, Mainamati, and Vikramasila.

5. 1999-2000: - G.C. Chauley and K. Lourdusamy, assisted by B.Sinha, C. Kumaran, A.K. Gupta, J.Das and D.K. Mazumdar of the Guwahati Circle, of the Survey, resumed (1998-99, pp. 159-161) excavation at Shyam Sundar Tilla. During this season, southern half of the brick-built terraced stupa was exposed of which upper portion is badly disturbed. Architecturally, the stupa is built on cruciform plan in pancharatha order (fig. 11). The basement of the brick-built stupa is punctured by entrances, measuring 4.70 m wide runs in cardinal directions, of them the southern one is fully exposed; the eastern and western entrances are partially exposed. An outer pradakshina-patha of rammed floor round the basement is observed in exposed areas. The outer walls of the basement are decorated with friezes of terracotta sculptures comprising various divinities including human figurines, scenes of contemporary socio-cultural activities, figures of animals, birds, flowers etc. The sculptural panels contain figures of Kirttimukhas, dancing human figures of both male and female, archers, warriors, peacocks, buffalo, lion, deer, seated figure of Buddha, flying gandharvas, musicians etc.

The superstructure above the basement is damaged. However, evidences suggest that the superstructure is built of similar plan in conformity with that of the basement but in reseeding rathas. An intervening, inner pradakshina-patha 1.75 m wide is observed in the exposed areas. The entrances in the cardinal directions, in exposed areas, observed to lead to the central parts of the stupa, the details of which are yet to be exposed.

Excavation in this season brought to notice a number of antiquities, mainly terracotta’s comprising human figurines, figurines, figures of lion, elephant head, pig, tortoise, makara, fish, rhino, and swan seated Buddha figures etc. Stylistically the stupa can be dated to the ninth-tenth century.

6. 2000-2001: - In continuation of the earlier work (1999- 2000, p. 155), Syed Jamal Hasan, assisted by K. Lourdusamy, C. Kumaran, J. Das, A. Kumar, of the Guwahati Circle, of the Survey, resumed excavation at Shyamsundar Tilla and exposed the complete plan of the brick-built stupa.

The stupa is cruciform on plan with pancharatha order, the superstructure of which is badly damaged. The dimension of the stupa is measured across the medhi 34.50 m long. Medhi, with an extant height of 1.70 m is measured 3.60 m radius all around. Four small cells were found attached on four cardinal directions. The walls of the cells survived only up to a height of 1.50 to 2m with extant courses of burnt-bricks 25 to 30 in number. There is a 3.60 m wide pradaksina-patha running all around, the extant side walls of which on either sides of the pradakshina-patha survive up to 1.25 m to 1.60 m and possesses twenty-five to thirty courses of burnt-bricks.

A large number of antiquities mainly terracotta plaques depicting Dhyani Buddha, Karttikeya, Kirttimukha, dancers, musicians, archers, gandharvas, kinnaras, ducks, parrots,eagles, reptiles, makaras, lotus flower, kalasas, etc were collected from the excavation. Among the notable sculpture an image of Avalokitesvara (1.70 m high) flanked by Hayagr­­­iva and Tara. Another image deserves mention here is of Avalokitesvara, was found near the medhi. No datable object could be found, but on the basis of stylistic features and structural details of the stupa the site could be dated to circa ninth-tenth century AD.

Conclusion: -

The reports the succeeding exaction is not published yet. And a lot more excavation and research is to be done at this particular site. In the Pilak region the sites excavated rather than Shyamsunder Tilla are Deb Bari, Thakurani Tilla, Balir Pathar, Basudeb Bari and many.

References: -

  • Indian Archaeology A Review(1965-2001)

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