The Info List - Vikramashila

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: Vikramaśilā) was one of the two most important centres of Buddhist learning in India
during the Pala Empire
Pala Empire
, along with Nalanda
. Vikramashila
was established by King Dharmapala (783 to 820) in response to a supposed decline in the quality of scholarship at Nalanda. Atisha
, the renowned pandita , is sometimes listed as a notable abbot . It was destroyed by the forces of Muhammad bin Bakhtiyar Khilji
Bakhtiyar Khilji
around 1200.

(village Antichak, district Bhagalpur , Bihar) is located at about 50 km east of Bhagalpur and about 13 km north-east of Kahalgaon
, a railway station on Bhagalpur-Sahebganj section of Eastern Railway. It is approachable through 11 km long motorable road diverting from NH-80 at Anadipur about 2 km from Kahalgaon


* 1 History

* 2 Organisation

* 2.1 Tantric preceptors

* 3 Layout and excavation * 4 The Stupa
* 5 Restoration work * 6 Cultural activities * 7 How to reach there * 8 In popular culture * 9 Gallery * 10 See also * 11 References * 12 External links


A number of monasteries grew up during the Pāla period in ancient Bengal
and Magadha
. According to Tibetan sources, five great Mahaviharas stood out: Vikramashila, the premier university of the era; Nalanda
, past its prime but still illustrious, Somapura , Odantapura , and Jagaddala . The five monasteries formed a network; "all of them were under state supervision" and there existed "a system of co-ordination among them. It seems from the evidence that the different seats of Buddhist learning that functioned in eastern India under the Pāla were regarded together as forming a network, an interlinked group of institutions," and it was common for great scholars to move easily from position to position among them.

was founded by Pāla king Dharmapala in the late 8th or early 9th century. It prospered for about four centuries before it was destroyed by Bakhtiyar Khilji
Bakhtiyar Khilji
along with the other major centres of Buddhism
in India
around 1200.

is known to us mainly through Tibetan sources, especially the writings of Tāranātha , the Tibetan monk historian of the 16th–17th centuries.

was one of the largest Buddhist universities, with more than one hundred teachers and about one thousand students. It produced eminent scholars who were often invited by foreign countries to spread Buddhist learning, culture and religion. The most distinguished and eminent among all was Atiśha Dipankara, a founder of the Sarma traditions of Tibetan Buddhism. Subjects like philosophy, grammar, metaphysics, Indian logic etc. were taught here, but the most important branch of learning was tantrism .


According to scholar Sukumar Dutt, Vikramashila
appears to have had a more clearly delineated hierarchy than other mahaviharas, as follows:

* Abbot
(Adhyakṣa) * Six gate protectors or gate scholars (Dvārapāla or Dvārapaṇḍita), one each for the Eastern, Western, First Central, Second Central, Northern, and Southern Gates * Great Scholars (Mahapaṇḍita) * Scholars (Paṇḍita), roughly 108 in number * Professors or Teachers (Upādhyāya or Āchārya), roughly 160 in number including paṇḍits * Resident monks (bhikṣu), roughly 1,000 in number

According to Tāranātha, at Vikramashila's peak during the reign of King Chanaka (955–83), the dvārapāla were as follows: Ratnākaraśānti (Eastern Gate), Vāgīsvarakīrti (Western Gate), Ratnavajra (First Central Gate), Jñanasrimitra (Second Central Gate), Naropa
(Northern Gate), and Prajñākaramati (Southern Gate). If this is correct, it must have been toward the end of Chanaka's reign given the generally accepted dates for Naropa


Vikramaśīlā was a centre for Vajrayana and employed Tantric preceptors. The first was Buddhajñānapāda, followed by Dīpaṁkarabhadra and Jayabhadra. The first two were active during Dharmapāla's reign, the third in the early to mid portion of the 9th century. Jayabhadra, a monk from Sri Lanka, was the first prominent commentator on the Cakrasamvara tantra . Śrīdhara was the next preceptor, followed by Bhavabhaṭṭa. The latter, also a prominent commentator on Cakrasamvara, may have been the mahāsiddha Bhadrapāda. He in turn was succeeded by three more prominent Cakrasamvara commentators, Bhavyakīrti, Durjayachandra, and Tathāgatarakṣita. Durjayachandra collaborated with the renowned Tibetan translator Rinchen Zangpo (rin chen bzang po) and his commentary became particularly important for the Sakya school, and Tathāgatarakṣita collaborated with Rin-chen grags.

In chronological order:

* Buddhajñānapāda * Dīpaṁkarabhadra * Jayabhadra * Śrīdhara * Bhavabhaṭṭa * Bhavyakīrti * Līlavājra * Durjaychandra * Samayavajra * Tathāgatarakṣita * Bodhibhadra * Kamalarakṣita


Ancient site of the monastery

The remains of the ancient university have been partially excavated at village Antichak in the Bhagalpur district
Bhagalpur district
, Bihar
state, India
, and the process is still underway. Meticulous excavation at the site was conducted initially by B. P. Sinha of Patna University (1960–69) and subsequently by Archaeological Survey of India
(1972–82). It has revealed a huge square monastery with a cruciform stupa in its centre, a library building and cluster of votive stupas. To the north of monastery a number of scattered structures including a Tibetan and a Hindu temple have been found. The entire spread is over an area of more than one hundred acres.

The monastery, or residence for the Buddhist monks, is a huge square structure, each side measuring 330 metres having a series of 208 cells, 52 on each of the four sides opening into a common verandah. A few brick arched underground chambers beneath some of the cells have also been noticed which were probably meant for confined meditation by the monks.

The main stupa built for the purpose of worship is a brick structure laid in mud mortar which stands in the centre of the square monastery. This two-terraced stupa is cruciform on plan and about 15 metres high from the ground level accessible through a flight of steps on the north side. On each of the four cardinal directions there is a protruding chamber with a pillared antechamber and a separate pillared mandapa in front. In the four chambers of the stupa were placed colossal stucco images of seated Buddha
of which three were found in situ but the remaining one on north side was possibly replaced by a stone image after the clay image was somehow damaged.

About 32 metres south of the monastery on its south west corner and attached with the main monastery through a narrow corridor is a rectangular structure identified as a library building. It was air-conditioned by cooled water of the adjoining reservoir through a range of vents in the back wall. The system was perhaps meant for preserving delicate manuscripts.

A large number of antiquities of different materials, unearthed from this place in the course of excavation, are displayed in the site museum maintained by the Archaeological Survey of India


The Main stupa at the centre

The Stupa
is a sacred solid structure raised over the body remains or belongings of Buddha
or a distinguished monk; or to commemorate any event associated with them. But some stupas are merely symbolic made for worship by the monks. A votive stupa is a miniature stupa erected by a devotee in gratitude of fulfilment of his desire.

The Vikramashila
stupa built for the purpose of worship is a brick structure laid in mud mortar and stands in the centre of the square monastery. This two terraced stupa is cruciform on plan and about 15 metres high from the ground level. The lower terrace is about 2.25 metres high from the ground level and the upper terrace is at a similar height from the lower side. At both terraces there is a circumambulatory path, the lower about 4.5 metres wide and the upper about 3 metres wide.

The main stupa placed over the upper terrace is accessible through a flight of steps on the north side on each of the four cardinal directions. There is a protruding chamber with a pillared antechamber and a separate pillared mandapa in front, placed beyond the circumambulatory passage. In the four chambers of stupa were placed colossal stucco images of seated Buddha
of which three were found in situ, but the remaining of the north side was possibly replaced by a stone image after the clay image was somehow damaged. All the stucco images are unfortunately broken above the waist. The images are placed over a brick pedestal having traces of painting in red and black pigments. The walls and floors of the chamber and antechamber were plastered with lime . The wall carvings of various deities

The walls of both the terraces are decorated with mouldings and terracotta plaques which testify the high excellence of terracotta art flourishing in the region during Pal period (8th to 12th centuries). The plaques depict many Buddhist deities like Buddha
, Avalokiteshvara , Manjusri , Maitreya
, Jambala, Marichi, and Tara, scenes related to Buddhism, some social and hunting scenes, and a few Hindu deities like Vishnu
, Parvati
, Ardhanarisvara and Hanuman
. Many human figures, like those of ascetics, yogis, preachers, drummers, warriors, archers, snake charmers, etc., and animal figures like monkeys, elephants, horses, deer, boar, panthers, lions, wolves, and birds, are also depicted.

The architecture of the stupa and the terracotta plaques bear great resemblance to the Somapura Mahavihara , Paharpur (Bangladesh) which, too, was founded by the same king Dharmapala. In plan both are very much alike with the significant difference that Somapura is centred on a central temple rather than a stupa. Vikramashila
monastery is also larger and has fort-like projections on its outer wall.


was neglected for years which contributed to extensive damages to the monument ASI is now planning to develop the excavated site of Vikramashila.

Since 2009, there has been considerable work in maintaining and beautifying the place to attract tourism. There has been inflow of western tourist as well, during their river cruises on the Ganga River .


The Vikramashila
site is the place for Vikramashila
Mahotsav, which is held annually during the month of February.


The nearest big town is Kahalgaon
about 13 km, It is approachable through 11 km long motorable road diverting from NH-80 at Anadipur, about 2 km from Kahalgaon.

Lately river cruises from Kolkata to Varanasi
have started, which also stop by the Vikramashila


An Indian Railways
Indian Railways
train recognises this place by running a Train No. 2367/2368 Vikramashila
Express that runs from Delhi
to Bhagalpur , Bihar.


* Ruins of Vikramashila