Vikramshila university was the major Buddhist learning centers in ancient India. It was founded by Pala dynasty in the 8th century and remained one of the top university or Mahavihara till the end of 12th century when it was destroyed by notorious Turkish invader Bakhtiyar khilji along with another symbol of contemporary temples of education and learning Nalanda and Odantpuri.
Vikramshila was established primarily with the purpose of propagating and preserving the Buddhist learning and wisdom across the world. When Nalanda started loosing it’s glorious status as the best university in contemporary India, King Dharmpala of Pala dynasty founded Vikramshila as an alternative hub and his successor continued their patronage in order to establish it as the renowned learning center. During its peak, there were 100 teachers and thousand students.
Excavation and Restoration of Vikramshila Remains
After the demolition by The Turkish invader, Vikramshila turned into Ruins and remained oblivion for centuries till the serious excavation started to unearth and preserve its glorious heritage. The first attempt to excavate this glorious heritage site was started in 1960 and led by B.P. Sinha of Patna university. The excavation continued till 1969 and unearthed partial portion of the university remains. Later on, in 1972, Archaeological survey of India took the work under its own supervision and continued the excavation till 1982. The excavation site is located in the antichak village and extended in an area of more than 100 acres. The excavation has revealed the various structure of this ancient university among which notables are big square shaped monastery, a number of votive stupas constructed as the gratitude by those whose wish got fulfilled, a temple dedicated to Buddhism and Hinduism and multiple isolated structures of various shapes and sizes. The excavation work is still in progress and from time to time different notables things have been unearthed. These are kept for exhibition at the museum in the proximity of the excavation site under the management of ASI.
Bihar Tourism department has taken a keen interest in developing Vikramshila university ruins as a major tourist attraction and for the said purpose have taken several initiatives for restoration and beautification of the site.
Layout and Architectural Style
The Buddhist form of architectural style dominates the entire structure of the Vikramshila university. Not only that, the contemporary form of artwork is easily visible including carvings of different embossed images over the walls. The huge monastery is the pivot meant for different purposes including primarily as a residence for the monks. Erected in the square form using bricks, the center of the 15 meters high and two-floor monastery is occupied by the main stupa. On the northern front, lies a flight of steps as the main entrance. One can bypass the sputa by moving on the upper level of the monastery.
The Residence of the Buddhist monks was constructed in the two-floor main monastery. On each side, there were 52 cells and a total of 208 which used to open in a common verandah. The perimeter of the residential area measured 330 meters. Beneath few cells, brick arched chambers have been found which were supposedly meant for the purpose of deep meditation in absolute isolation and tranquility.
About 32 meters from the main monastery on its southwest corner and connected with a narrow corridor, lie a rectangular shaped structure which has been identified as the library building of the university.
The use of contemporary terracotta art form has been widely observed in the decoration works. On both the terraces, the walls of the monastery are decorated using mouldings and terracotta plaques. The embossed images depict many Buddhist deities including buddha and scenes related to his life, different scenes from contemporary social life, hunting scenes, Hindu deities like Vishnu and Parvati, human figures which include warriors, yogis, preachers, drummers, snake charmers, archers and ascetics etc, and animal figures like panthers, monkeys, wolves, horses, deers, boars, lions etc.
How to reach
Vikramshila excavation site is located in the antichak village of Bhagalpur district at a distance of 50 Kms. One has to come to kahalgaon the nearest town from the site at a distance of 13 km.
The nearest big railway station is Bhagalpur which lie on Delhi-Howrah route and having trains from all major stations.
The nearest airport is Patna located at a road distance of 286 Kms.
By Ganges River Cruise
Vikramshila is a major stoppage for Howrah Varanasi Ganges river cruise.
Where to stay
There is no accommodation facility available at the excavation site. Tourists can stay either at kahalgaon having few hotels but the best option is to stay at Bhagalpur which have some good hotels available in the budget.
Best time to visit
Between October to April.