Mainamati, an ancient seat of Buddhism in South Asia, is about 114 lan. south-east of capital Dhaka and 8 km. to the west of Comilla town. It takes its name from the low hills known as Mainamati - Lalmai where Buddhist civilization had flourished between 8th and 12th centuries AD over a stretch of hilly land covering 19 km. long (north to south) and 3 km. wide (east to west). Archaeologists have discovered the ruins of that Buddhist culture including artifacts, coins and pottery that testify the rich historical heritage of the area. On the slopes of the hills scattered treasure troves were found which belonged to the early Buddhist civilization in this part of the world. At Salban in the middle of the hills, excavations laid bare a large Buddhist Vihara (monastery) with an imposing central shrine. It reveals valuable information about the rule of the Chandra and Deva dynasties which flourished here from 8th to 12th centuries AD.
The whole range of hillocks run for about 18 lan. and is studded with more than 50 sites. Of the thirteen copper plates recovered from Mainamati excavations, no less than 8 were from Salban Vihara, 4 from Charpatra Mura and 1 probably from Ananda Vihara. Of the nearly 400 coins found at Mainamati, 350 were collected from Salban Vihara, which included a few gold coins of the Guptas, the Devas and the Khadgas. In contrast to Paharpur where the largest number of stone-sculptures and terracotta plaques were found, in Mainamati an astounding number of inscriptions, coins and miniature bronzes have been hauled. What is the most important is that the findings at Mainamati are not only greater in number but also rich and unparalleled.
These excavations have revealed several kinds of Buddhist religious architecture including the cruciform type, like the Ananda Vihara itself. If the Vihara was named after the 3rd Deva King, who, it now seems, had ruled sometime in the middle of the 8th century. Among the cruciform temples, it was the earliest, and perhaps it was even earlier than the ones in Paharpur.
The Mainamati Museum has a rich and varied collection of copper plates, gold and silver coins and 86 bronze objects. Over 150 bronze statues have been recovered, mostly from the monastic cells. There are also bronze and stone sculptures and hundreds of terracotta plaques, each measuring on an average of 9" high and 8" to 12" wide.
Interested tourists may avail package tours with smart guides provided by Bangladesh Parjatan Corporation to visit this historic seat of Buddhist civilization. It is just a day's trip by road on the way to Chittagong.
How to go
There are luxurious coach services from Dhaka to Comilla town which take about 2 hours. To visit Mainamati, one has to get down from the coach near Mainamati Cantonment and then take a rickshaw or any local transport to reach Mainamati Lalmai hills. It is also possible to hire Rent-A-Car or a Microbus from Dhaka to visit Mainamati.
Where to eat
Many remarkable restaurants are available in Comilla town. Besides, standard restaurant facilities are available at Bangladesh Academy for Rural Development (BARD), which is not far from Mainamati. But prior notice is required to use the BARD facilities.
1 st April - 30th September
Monday - Thursday: 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. (Break: 1 :00 p.m. to 2:00 p.m.)
Friday: 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. (Break: 12:30 p.m. to 2:30 p.m.)
1st October - 30th March
Monday to Thursday: 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. (Break: 1.00 p.m. to 2.00 p.m.)
Friday: 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. (Break: 12:30 p.m. to 2:30 p.m.)
Note : The museum remains closed on Sunday and on all government holidays. Open on Monday from 2:30 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. The Ramadan time table is from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. with a break from 1 :00 p.m. to 1 :30 p.m.