Friday, January 23, 2009

Pilak - A symbol of Hindu-Buddhist cultural affinity

Nestled in Jolaibari, a small town of Tripura’s South District, Pilak, an 8th-12th century archaeological site, stand mute as an eloquent symbol of Hindu-Buddhist cultural affinity as much as the glorious cultural past of the State.

Stone engravings and statues of Shiva, Surya, Baishnabi and Mahishashurmardini stand alongside the statues of Lord Buddha in different places like Shyam Sundar Tilla, Deb Bari, Thakurani Tilla, Balir Pathar, Basudeb Bari and others in a three square kilometer site.

The dominant form and style of the rock-cut images and the sculptures in Pilak carried the influence of Palas and Guptas of Bengal, influence of the Arakan in Mynamer (formerly Burma) and local style, Jawahar Achariya, a historian and numismatist, said.

The number of rock-cut images and terracotta plaques lie scattered in various places of the area, which has been under the care of the Archaeological Survey of India, speaking of the State’s past cultural glory.

“The moulded terracotta plaques bear resemblance with moulded plaques recovered from Paharpur and Mainamati in Bangladesh”, Achariya, who studied the history of the site, said.

Thaikhai Chowdhury, an official of the Information Department of Tripura and a Mog tribal said, “ There is a reference of Pilak as Pilakko in the stone inscriptions at Mruhang, the ancient capital of the old Arakan Kingdom in present Myanmar”.

He said that according to the folklore and oral history,there was close cultural link between ‘Pilakko” and Arakan via Chittagong Hill Tracts of Present Bnagladesh.

The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) had taken over the site since 1999 and is now under protected under the provisions of the Government of India’s relevant Act of 1958.

A senior conservation assistant of the ASI, Narayan Chandra Debnath said, a new stupa was excavated at Sundari tilla.

Explaining the importance of the newly excavated site, Debnath says this is a full size Buddhist stupa built in 11th century on the pattern of architecture during the reign of ‘Palas of Bengal”.

Debnath who was in-charge of the Pilak site since 1999, said the stupa had been excavated under the supervision of ASI Superintendent, P Kumaran since Jan 1999 and completed in March 2006.

He pointed out that the stone image of meditating Buddha found in the sanctum of the stupa had “very close affinity to the tribal feature on the mouth”.

A top official of the state government said that government had plans to develop the site for Buddhist tourists of South-East Asia and other places and for this a project of Rs. 150 crore has been submitted to the centre.

The centre will seek financial assistance from the government of Japan, he said. The state government has already developed the site as a tourist spot by setting up a cafeteria and providing other facilities for visitors from outside.

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