place has no known association with the Buddha but is included
here because of its relative closeness to Champanagar and
its importance in the later history of Buddhism. This great
monastic university was founded in the 8th century and became
the intellectual centre for Tantric Buddhism. One Tibetan
source gives us this description of the monastery. "Sri
Vikramasila was built on the bank of the Ganges in the north
of Magadha on the top of a hill. At its centre was built
a temple housing a life-size copy of the Mahabodhi image.
Around this were fifty three small temples for the study
of the Guhyasamaja Tantra and another fifty four ordinary
ones, all being surrounded by a wall. Thus the number of
temples was one hundred and eight". The perimeter wall apparently
had six gates and at the entrance to the main temple were
two statues, one of Nagarjuna and another of Atisa. In another
account we read that as a delegation from Tibet approached
the great monastery they were "greatly thrilled to have
the first distant glimpse of its golden spire shining in
the sun" Some of the monasteries 'gate keeper scholars'
were amongst the greatest names of this twilight period
of Indian Buddhism. They included Santipa, Jetari, Ratnavajra,
Jnanasrimitra, Naropa and Atisa.
the time of King Ramapala at the beginning of the 11th century
there is said to have been 160 teachers and 1000 students
in the monastery. You must go to Vikramasila via Patharaghat,
a picturesque hill where there are
rock cut caves, numerous Buddhist statues and a fine view
over the Ganges. From there the road goes another 3 kilometres
to the main ruins, the dimensions of which are truly impressive.
A broad processional way leads up to the monastery's main
entrance. The remains of the huge stone pillars that once
supported the roof of the gatehouse can be seen on the left
and right. Passing through the gate you enter a vast quadrangle
surrounded by monks cells. The thickness of the walls suggest
than there may have been in two or even three tires of cells.
In the middle of the quadrangle is the immense main temple,
built on a cross plan, rising in three terraces and with
shrines on each of its four sides. Terracotta figures once
decorated the sides of the terraces but only a few of these
now remain. Unfortunately all the statues found on the site
are locked up in a large building and can't be seen. Three
cheers to the Archaeological Survey which says it is trying
to attract visitors to Vikramasila! To get there you will
have to hire a vehicle in Bhagalpur and go via Kahalgong
and Patharaghat, a distance of about 50 kilometres over
bumpy dusty roads.