Mahasthangarh is one of the primeval antiquities in Bangladesh. It’s also known as Pundravardhana or Pundranagar in history. Mahasthangarh was once the capital of Bengal. Archaeological evidences show that a civilized society established here about two and a half thousand years before the birth of Jesus Christ. Hiuen Tsang, a famous Chinese tourist traveled to Pundrunagar i.e. Mahasthangarh in 638 AD. He noticed many Buddhist temples and monasteries built by Emperor Ashoka. According to his description, Pundranagar was a prosperous city and covered a wide area of six miles. This town was very much like Athens and Babylon. In an inscription inscribed in the Brahmi script found here, the mention of ‘Pundanagal’ (Pundranagar) proves that the town was probably founded by the Mauryan kings. Later, during the Muslim rule, Pundranagar became known as Mahasthangarh. In 2016, it was declared the cultural capital of SAARC.
Within this walled city there are archeological traces of various periods. For centuries, this place was the provincial capital of the mighty Maurya, Gupta, Pala and Sena rulers and later the capital of the Hindu feudal kings. From 3rd century BC to the 15th century, numerous Hindu kings and kings of other religions ruled here. The rectangular debris is 1500 meters to the north-south and 1400 meters to the east-west, and is surrounded by a 6-meter-high defense wall. Inside the wall, at the highest point of the southeast corner, is the shrine of Shah Sultan Mahisawar and a mosque of the Mughal Emperor Farrukh Siyar.
The north, west and south sides of the protected Mahasthan were surrounded by a deep moat. This moat is clearly visible on the north and west sides and partly on the south. The Karatoya River was flowing east then. This moat and the river probably served as complementary defenses to the city-fort. Within a radius of 8 km to the north, south and west, many mounds of debris are scattered in various places outside the city. They bear witness to the suburbs of the ancient provincial capital. Many tourists and scholars, notably Buchanan Hamilton, O’Donnell, Westmacott, Beveridge, and Sir Alexander Cunningham visited Mahasthangarh and mentioned it in their report. In 1879, Sir Alexander Cunningham identified the debris as the ruins of the ancient Pundranagar.
Location of Mahasthangarh
Mahasthangarh archaeological tourist destination is in Shibganj upazila of Bogura district. It is located 13 km north of the city of Bogura, beside the Bogura-Dhaka highway. Beside it is a small stream of the Karatoya river flowing. There are buses direct from Dhaka and it takes about four and a half hours to reach via Bangabandhu Jamuna Bridge across the Jamuna River. Buses are also available from Bogura and there are rickshaws for local travel. Apart from this, rental cars are also available from Dhaka or Bogura. Traveling on a rental car can be re-routed, or if you want, you can visit Somapura Mahavihara in Paharpur, Naogaon.
How to go
From Dhaka to Bogura by bus
Buses to get to Bogura are available from the capital Dhaka, Gabtali, Mohakhali, Shyamoli, Abdullahpur, Kalyanpur. Among them, Shyamoli Paribahan (02-900331), SR Travels (01711-394801), Hanif Enterprise (01713-402671), Ekota Paribahan (01712-287730), Babul Enterprise, SA Paribahan (01916-712614), Shah Fateh Ali Paribahan are notable.
From Dhaka to Bogura by train
From Dhaka, Lalmoni and Rangpur Express trains go through Bogura. So, you can ride on these trains to go to Bogura. Rangpur Express train leaves Dhaka at 9 am daily and Lalmoni Express at 10:10 pm. Rangpur and Lalmoni Express trains are closed on Sundays and Fridays respectively.
From Bogura city, you can easily get to Mahasthangarh with a bus or CNG-generated autorickshaw.
Where to stay
There are various quality hotels and motels for nightly stay in Bogura. Among the good quality hotels are Porzoton Motel, Naz Garden, Northway Motel, Safeway Motel, Motel Castle MH, Century Motel, Hotel Sista, Hotel Akbaria, Redchilles Chinese Restaurant and Residential Hotel.
General quality hotels include Hotel Al-Amin, Hotel Royal Palace, Hotel Sun View, Hotel Rajamani, Hotel Honey Day, Hotel Aziz.