Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Ancient Bengal treasures finally being flown to Paris for display

Ancient Bengal treasures finally being flown to Paris for display

Finally, the 24 rare ancient Bengal treasures of Barind Research Museum (BRM) under Rajshahi University (RU) are being flown to Paris for display at a museum there for 'a great global exposure' of Bangladesh.

The priceless objects of historical interest will be flown in the first week of next month.

A team from France's Guimet Museum are already in Bangladesh and it is due to visit BRM soon for packaging the treasures, said BRM Director Mohammad Zakaria.

These are scheduled to be taken to Dhaka on August 1 and to be flown for Paris on August 4, he said.

Some 120 objects selected from Bangladesh National Museum, Mahasthangarh, Paharpur and Mainamati Archeological Museum and BRM will be put on display at the mMuseum, said sources.

France's famous Guimet Museum, dedicated to Asian arts, will sponsor a four-month exhibition styled 'Sonar Bangla' from Oct 24 this year to March 3 next year.

The BRM assets include two 5th century manuscripts and 22 other old sculptures of 7th to 12th centuries. They include a unique gold-coated bronze statue of Manjusri.

The 'Astasahasrika Prajnaparamita' manuscript is a rare collection of texts of Mahayana doctrine in 32 chapters and 8000 lines. It has 49 polychrome miniatures representing gods and goddesses of ancient Vajra family. Dhyani Buddha Aksobhya was the founder of the family.

The sculptures include 7th, 9th and 11th century Suriya, 10th century Bara Havtara and 12th century black stone statues of Ganga, Ardha Nariswar (half female and half male god), Shiva, Shiva Ardhanari Nritta Ganapati and Karttiketa.

Former Rajshahi Bar Association secretary Muhammad Yahiya in a public interest litigation on April 4 had challenged the RU decision to send BRM treasures abroad. But it was rejected on July 11. Besides, some 326 RU teachers on many occasions protested the decision.

Dr Sultan Ahmed, a senior teacher of Islamic History and Culture department at Rajshahi University, in an appeal published yesterday in local Bengali daily Sonali Sangbad said the selected BRM treasures are of great historic and archeological value and these should not be sent abroad.

Many archeological assets of this region were taken to different European museums during British and Pakistan periods, but none were returned, he pointed out.

Rajshahi University Vice-chancellor Prof Altaf Hossain said, BRM Advisory Committee and RU Syndicate took the decision in February following a government directive to help Bangladesh get a global exposure.

Earlier, in October 2006, RU Syndicate rejected the French appeal, reasoning that any transfer or exchange of treasures was prohibited by the Charitable Endowments Act of 1880.

Established in 1910 by Dighapatiya Zamindar Kumar Sarat Kumar Roy, the BRM has 10,000 archaeological treasures that attract at least 300 visitors a day.

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