One of the places to see when you head to Bangladesh is Mahasthangarh, undoubtedly one of the most important locations for the country. To date, it is in fact the oldest archaeological site in Bangladesh: a fort whose usage dates from at least 3rd century BC to the 1700’s. This gives it unparalleled significance culturally, anthropologically, and historically for the Bangladeshis, which is why the site was declared a protected site as early as during British rule.
Mahasthangarh is located in Bogra district, and although F. Buchanan Hamilton first visited it at the beginning of the 19th century, it was only at the end of the same century that Alexander Cunningham identified it. Its current name is actually not the original name of the city: numerous early references including at least two 13th century tomes give Purdranagara as the ancient city’s name. Not too far away from it is another popular site, the Somapura Mahavira, and the Korotoa River is nearby as well, but is significantly smaller than its old size. The nearest major road is the Bogra-Rangpur highway, which is just a few kilometres away from the site. It is therefore fairly easy to get to the site, and most people start from the capital, taking the bus to Bogra from there.
Something noteworthy about the lay of the land is its height. The place has a very high location, especially relative to the rest of the country. It has 30 metres over the 6-metres-above-sea-level measurement of Dhaka. This renders it unlikely to be devastated by floods come the rainy season, which is surmised to be the reason for it having been picked by the ancients as the site for a city.
The organised excavations by archaeological teams actually began in the 20th century. The central citadel itself is about 1.5km by almost 1.4km, but the digs are actually spread out all over the area around it. There have been a great many discoveries here. Besides the remains of palaces and tombs (one of which belongs to Shah Sultan Balkhi Mahisawar, a famous dervish), there have been inscribed plaques from as early as the 14th century, coins from the around 4th century BC, terracotta and bronze sculptures from the 5th century, and fairly recently, archaeologists brought up a stove from 400BC. Most of the items that have been dug up are kept in the attached museum.
A concern having to do with the place at the moment regards local treatment of the site. Many of the Bangladeshis are beginning to encroach on the limits of the archaeological site, planting vegetable gardens and crops even in locations that have been declared protected. Looting has also been reported, and the archaeological teams do not have enough manpower to look over the premises. Whether or not this shall be resolved in the near future remains unclear, unfortunately.
That said, a visit to Mahasthangarhh should definitely be in the works for you if you want to see the cultural and historical heritage of the country. Getting to it is easy, as mentioned earlier, especially if you are starting from the capital. Just be sure to take note that museum hours are split into two categories: April to September and October to March. In the former period, the museum is open from 10:00hrs to 18:00hrs, while in the latter, the museum opens an hour earlier and closes an hour earlier as well. Call ahead in order to ensure that no special events shall close the museum and so you know when the employees shall be having their break.