History:

Many Buddhist monasteries was built during the Pala dynasty in the region of Bengal. According to Tibetan sources, there was five prominent mohaviharas, those are, VikramshilaNalandaOdantapuriJaggadela, Somapura Mahavihara. These five mohaviharas worked as a link and monks can move freely within these to gain different knowledge.

“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 institution”.

Dharmapala of Pala dynasty built the Somapura Mohavihara, But according to some Tibetan sources like Tibetan interpretations of ‘’Dharmakayavidhi’’ and ‘’Madhyamaka Ratnapradipa’’, Taranatha’s history and Pag-Sam-Jon-Zang show Devapala who was Dharmapala’s successor built the place when he took over the region of Varendra.Ratnakara Santi, who was the spiritual mentor of Atish once worked as sthavira of the monastery, Mahapanditacharya Bodhibhadra worked as a residual monk and some famous scholars such as Kalamahapada, Viryendra and Karunashrimitra also passed some parts of their life in the monastery. Lots of Tibetian monks also travelled to this vihara between 9th to 12th century.

Excavation History: 

Somapura Mahavihara was initially seen by Buchanon Hamilton in course of his overview in Eastern India in the vicinity of 1807 and 1812. Westmacott next went to it. Sir Alexander Cunningham wentby the site in 1879. Cunningham proposed to do a broad excavation in the site. But the zamindar of Balihar, the proprietor of the land didn’t gave him the permission. So had to be satisfied with restricted excavation in a little part of the ascetic range and top of the central part. In the last part he found the remains of a square tower of 6.70m (22 ft) The site was proclaimed to be conserved by the Archaeological Survey of India in 1919 under the Ancient Monuments Preservation Act of 1904. Archaeological survey of India, Varendra research society of Rajshahi and University of Calcutta together began efficient excavation in the site in 1923. In the first place the joint mission completed the work with the budgetary help of Kumar Saratkumar Ray of Dighapatia Zamindar family and under the direction of DR Bhandarkar, Professor of Ancient History and previous Superintendent of Archaeological Survey of India, Western Circle. The work was bound to a couple of rooms at the south-west corner of the religious community and the connecting yard. The Northern part of the central mound was excavated by RD Banarjee, who continued the work in 1925-26. The next round (1926-27) and later phases the work was done under the guidance of KN Dikshit, who was a senior office of Archaeological survey of India. After the partition of India, the site went under Pakistan, then Rafique Mughal excavated lower levels of the monastic cells, part of the eastern wing.