A seven-day long festival titled “Bhitargarh Festival 2017” will start on Saturday in Panchagarh to highlight the archeological values and the importance of preservation of the ancient fort city established in the sixth or seventh century.
The Centre for Archaeological Studies of University of Liberal Arts (ULAB) has organised the event in association with the Cultural Affairs Ministry in Bhitargarh area under Amarkhana upazila, 16km from the district town.
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Art exhibition, public speaking competition, quiz competition and other local sports and cultural programmes will be held from 11am to 3pm every day during the week-long festival.
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Eminent archaeologist Prof Dr Shahnaj Husne Jahan, director of the centre, made the announcement from a press conference at Panchagarh Press Club Thursday. District Council Chairman Amanullah Bachchu will inaugurate the festival with ULAB Vice-Chancellor Prof Imran Rahman in the chair.
Dr Shahnaj uncovered the ancient city in 2008 after carrying out a systematic archaeological investigation for about two years in Panchagarh district. Her students started excavation work in January 2009.
During the digging, 12 archeological sites including monuments and Buddhist temples were discovered. It is also known as Bhitargarh Walled City.
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Dr Shahnaj earlier told the media that the ancient city stretching over 25 sq-km had been a sovereign administration and part of the Kamrup state in India.
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The samples of this site are not similar to the various samples found in other archeological sites like Cooch Behar, Maynamati, Paharpur, and Mahasthangarh.
The most significant fact about this ancient fort is that it is enclosed within four concentric quadrangles built with ramparts and moats, something that has never been seen in any other fortified sites in the country, according to Dr Shahnaj.
Built on important trade routes, the fort city had trade link with Tibet, Bhutan, China as well as with West Bengal, Bihar, Sikkim and Punhdrabardhan of India.
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The story of Prithu Raja
King Prithu, commonly known as Prithu Raja or Maharaja, ruled the kingdom of Kamarupa, which covered Assam and North Bengal, in the sixth century. Many relics from his era that have survived the ravages of time are named after him, such as Maharajar Bhita, Maharajar Kacharighar and the famous Maharajar Dighi, according to Prof Shahnaj.
An extensive water-body, Maharajar Dighi with 10 brick-paved ghats and brick casing lofty embankments makes Bhitargarh exceptional.
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During the last part of the sixth century, he was forced to flee from central Kamarupa after losing a battle. The defeated king then settled on the far western margins of his former kingdom, and founded a city, named Bhitargarh.
Prithu Raja’s entire city was discovered in 2008, buried in Panchagarh. According to many archaeologists, this settlement is believed to have been hidden under the eastern bank of the Talma River.
Prof Shahnaj found in history that Prithu Raja had been well-liked by his subjects.
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British surveyor Francis Buchanan visited the area around Bhitargarh in the early 19th century.
He claims that the Hindu locals he came across during his visit considered Prithu Raja to be “a holy personage, who was much afraid of having his purity sullied, for which, on the approach of an abominable tribe of impure feeders named Kichok, he threw himself into a pond, and was followed by all his guards, so that the town was given up for plundering, and the family ceased to reign.”