Boxanagar’s 8th century Buddhist stupa stands as a testament to the strong influence of Buddhism on the erstwhile princely state Tipperah ruled by tribal Hindu kings for over 500 years till 1949. The Archaeological Survey of India was alerted of the site in Tripura’s Sipahijala district, bordering Bangladesh, only 16 years ago after a local hit a series of burnt bricks as he was digging his ancestral plot.
Part of the 6.5 ganda land, where the stupa, a Chaityagriha or Buddhist monastery and other associated brick structures were excavated, was being used as an Eidgah. “We used to live where the Buddhist stupas were found. Locals call it Rajbari now. It was home for us. We were excavating a piece of the land during summer of 2002 when our spade hit something hard. We saw bricks and kept digging to find a long row of bricks. Later, government officials brought experts who said those were of great historical value,” says 71-year-old Ali Asgar told indianexpress.com. Asgar’s grandfather Md. Sujat Ali owned 1 kani 7.5 ganda land in the area.
“People are relocated and compensated at market rate. We were literally paid peanuts,” said Asgar whose family got Rs 58,000 for the land and the four mud houses on it. Sonamura Sub-Divisional Magistrate Saju Waheed said they were rehabilitated as per Land Acquisition Act, 1894 and got prevalent compensation rates. Asgar’s nephew Shaukat Alam, however, is now employed as a security guard at a complex.
Historical sites in India are maintained and preserved under provisions of the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act, 1958.
Excavation at ‘Rajbari’ started in 2001-02 and was resumed in 2009. The site is divided into two plots – both square structures having a dimension of 15.40×15.40 meters. The basement is arranged in eight mouldings in diminishing order. On the top, a medhi or flat surface is set with mud mortar and bricks. The Chaityagriha or the shrine’s superstructure is totally damaged except side walls which still stand till 1.60 meter tall. The second phase of excavation in 2009 revealed another structure of Triratha style.
Three bronze images of Gautam Buddha, moulded bricks, mini votive stupas, seals and silver coins were excavated from the spot. ASI conservation assistant DK Majumder said all the items are preserved at the Aizawl circle headquarters in Mizoram. Shaukat Ali, a guard at the site, said at least a hundred tourists visit the place every day but no entry fee is collected, neither is any record maintained of their visits.
Though princely Tripura was ruled by Hindu kings, Buddhist influence from Samatat kingdom had spread across all contemporary neighbouring kingdoms. Similar Buddhist establishments were found at Pilak in South Tripura and in ‘Somapur’ in Rajshahi district and Mainamati in Comilla district of Bangladesh.