Historical records reveal that Odantapuri Mahavihara was an important centre of Buddhist learning. It was established in the 8th century by Gopala (the ﬁrst Pala Emperor), and for several centuries, it was part of a network of Mahaviharas in eastern India (the most famous being Nalanda, along with Vikramasila, Somapura and Jaggadala). Archaeologists have conclusively identiﬁed the locations of all these Mahaviharas except Odantapuri. The best guess (based on tenuous evidence) is that Odantapuri Mahavihara was located in the modern town of Bihar Sharif. There has been very little exploration at this site, and no investigation has revealed remains of an in situ structure comparable to a Pala Mahavihara. This article discusses a chance ﬁnding while analysing a region one kilometre north of Nalanda (about ten kilometres southwest of Bihar Sharif). Using stereoscopic remote sensing data from satellites, photogrammetry and geographical information systems (GIS) software, we identiﬁed a large (400 m $\times$ 450 m) structure buried below the village of Begampur, virtually at Nalanda’s doorstep. Its shape is startlingly similar to both Vikramasila and Somapura (both built by Dharmapala, the successor and son of Gopala). Further, AMS dating of bricks from a portion of this site (another chance ﬁnding) suggests that they may be as old as Odantapuri Mahavihara. This new evidence allows us to update our best guess for Odantapuri Mahavihara’s location, but a careful archaeological investigation is necessary to conﬁrm this hypothesis.
Volume 27 | Issue 6