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flooding and further river erosion.
They also have no electricity, no running water and no transport systems.
Chars are not tourist attractions, but visiting them is a fascinating opportunity to learn more about the unusual livelihoods of the people who live on them.
To find out more, visit the website of the Chars Livelihoods Programme (www.clp-bangladesh.org) .
To get to the chars in this area, take a bus from Bogra?ˉs Sariankandi Ghat bus stand to Sariankandi (Tk 20, one hour) then take a rickshaw (Tk 10) to the ghat, from where you can rent boats.
Local boathands will know what you want to see, so not speaking Bengali won?ˉt prevent you from visiting one of the chars.
However, if you?ˉre able to bring a Bengali-speaking friend or guide with you then you?ˉll obviously increase your chances of being able to have some sort of meaningful interaction with the people who live on these islands.
At the time of research, the going rate for a one-hour boat trip, including a stop at a char , was Tk 150.
Alternatively, you could try boarding any of the local ferries that leave from here.
They will almost certainly be going to or via one of the chars , and will only cost a couple of taka per person.
You may, of course, have some waiting to do for a return ferry but, providing it?ˉs not too late in the day, one is bound to materialise.
See also the boxed text Click here .
Train Rail connections are poor, but two trains run direct to Dhaka.
The Rangpur Express (10.
50pm, eight hours, 1st berth/1st seat/ shuvon Tk 465/320/160) runs every day except Sunday.
The Lalmoni Express (1.
38pm, 7? hours, Tk 465/320/160) runs every day except Friday.
Mahasthangarh Garh means fort or fortified city, and the garh of Mahastan is considered the oldest city in Bangladesh.
It dates back to at least the 3rd century BC, and is an easy half-day trip from Bogra.
Very few ancient structures remain, so what you?ˉll see is essentially an archaeological site consisting of foundations and hillocks, which merely hint at past riches.
Nevertheless, the rural setting is incredibly peaceful so even if you aren?ˉt blown away by the historical remains, this still makes a pleasant excursion.
The principal site, the Citadel, contains traces of the ancient city.
Many other sites in the vicinity are lumped together under the name Mahasthangarh.
The whole area is rich in Hindu, Buddhist and Muslim sites, but most have all but vanished.
Buddhists were here until at least the 11th century; their most glorious period was the 8th to the 11th centuries, when the Buddhist Pala emperors of North Bengal ruled.
It is from this period that most of the visible remains belong.
Sights Citadel RUIN Running along the left-hand side of the road as you walk from Mahasthan town towards the museum, the Citadel, or what?ˉs left of it, forms a rough rectangle covering more than 2 sq km.
It was once surrounded on three sides by the then-mighty Karatuya River.
Hindus still make an annual pilgrimage to the river in mid-April.
Probably first constructed under the Mauryan empire in the 3rd century BC, the site shows evidence of various Hindu empires, as well as Buddhist and Muslim occupations.
The Citadel fell into disuse around the time of the Mughal invasions.
Most of the visible brickwork dates from the 8th century, apart from that added during restoration.
Nowadays there isn?ˉt a lot left to see aside from the edge of the exterior walls ¨C some of which rise three or four metres above the ground level ¨C and various unidentifiable grassy mounds.
Not far inside the first entranceway you come to if you walk from Mahasthan town, you?ˉll see jiyat kunda (the Well of Life), an 18th-century well, the waters of which were said to have supernatural healing powers.
From here you can walk the length of the citadel, roughly following the line of the main road, to the museum, which is located just outside the far entrance to the site.
The Citadel?ˉs interior is now used mostly as farmland and is good picnic territory.
Mahasthangarh Museum MUSEUM (admission Tk 100; 10am-6pm Apr-Sep, 10am-5pm Oct-Mar) This small but well- maintained museum has a lively set of objects discovered in the antique-rich surroundings and is a good place to begin your visit.
The highlights are the statues of Hindu gods, terracotta plaques depicting scenes from daily life, and some well-preserved bronze images found in nearby monastery ruins, which date from the Pala period.
Other notable objects are the necklaces that look just like those sold in hippy markets all over the West and the fragments of ancient toilet seats! The gardens too are an attraction in their own right.
The museum is closed all day Sunday, and on Monday mornings.
On other days, it usually closes for lunch from 12.
30pm to 2.
The main entrance to the Citadel is close by.
Govinda Bhita Hindu Temple RUINS (admission Tk 20) Opposite the museum, the remains of a 6th-century temple overlook a picturesque bend in the river.
The temple looks like a broken-down step pyramid and is another peaceful spot.
Opening hours are the same as for the museum.
Sleeping & Eating Archaeology Department Rest House $ GUESTHOUSE (d Tk 400) There?ˉs no need to spend the night here, as Bogra is so close, but this simple rest house has a nice village feel to it if you?ˉre sick of busy cities.
Located next to the Govinda Bhita Hindu Temple, and overlooking the Karatuya River, it has three clean fan-cooled rooms with mosquito netting and private bathrooms.
It?ˉs usually empty, and locked, so ask someone at the museum if you want to stay here.
There?ˉs also a small dining room, although you?ˉll have to give plenty of advance warning if you want to eat here.
There are a couple of roadside restaurants beside the museum where you can grab a simple lunch or breakfast.
You?ˉll find more in Mahasthan town, where the bus drops you off.
Getting There & Away Buses run all day from Bogra to Mahasthan (Tk 10, 30 minutes, 11km).
From here you can take a rickshaw (Tk 15 to Tk 20) or walk the 1.
7km to the museum, located at the far end of the Citadel.
There?ˉs a smaller side entrance to the Citadel, which you?ˉll soon see on your left as you walk along the road towards the museum.
If you?ˉre walking, take the first left after the point where the bus drops you off, and just keep going.
You?ˉll soon notice ruins on your left.
Paharpur One of only two historic sites in Bangladesh that have been given Unesco World Heritage status (the other is Bagerhat), the Somapuri Vihara at Paharpur was once the biggest Buddhist monastery south of the Himalaya.
It dates from the 8th century AD and is the most impressive archaeological site in the country.
Sights Somapuri Vihara RUIN The 20m-high remains of the moss-hewn, red-brick stupa rise from the centre of the huge monastery complex at Somapuri Vihara.
The complex is in the shape of a large quadrangle covering 11 hectares, with monks?ˉ cells making the outer walls and enclosing an enormous open-air courtyard with the stupa at its centre.
The stupa?ˉs floor plan is cruciform, and is topped by a three-tier superstructure; the 3rd level has a large tower structure similar to that of Moenjodaro in Pakistan.
Look out for the clay tiles lining the base of the structure, which depict various people and creatures.
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