History of Tetrawan


Tetrawan, as historical texts state was very much part of the extension of Nalanda's advanced study centers. As I can understand from such a description is that when a Monk Student excelled in a particular stream of study, he was sent as an Assistant Monk to a particular Centre to excel in what he had studied. However, what particular field of study Tetrawan excelled in has till date has not been found either in traces of manuscripts, but the remains of monasteries that existed here and the images found here clearly indicates that it was a place where Vajrayana/ Tantrayana ceremonies were performed. One can believe that during its heydays it must have been a magnificent place with rich monasteries, serene environment and the very best Teachers to guide the students to perfection.

Today the village is forlorn with hardly any traces of the rich heritage it was famous for centuries ago. The village is situated about 12 kilometres south-east of Biharshariff, district H/Q of Nalanda, but convenient conveyance is via Pawapuri (One of the holiest pilgrimage centre of Jains ). Pawapuri is situated at NH 31 about 15 kilometres south of Biharshariff. It is situated about 8 kms north-east of Pawapury along a all weather road and conveyances are easily available there. There is perhaps the only 10 feet high statue of Buddha in the state of Bihar of Colossal Black stone in Bhumisparsa Mudra on the bank of a big tank. The STATUE can be dated to any time after the 7th Century CE & belongs to the Pala School of art & is inscribed with the usual Buddhist Creed.

The site was only discovered in 1847-48 by Kittoe who referred to it in a brief report to his Department. Later, in 1861-62 and again in 1871-72, Alexander Cunningham made an in-depth report where he mentions the ruins with some details; but a more descriptive account is to be found in the report written by Broadley in his article on the Buddhist ruins in Bihar published in 1872. In 1902 Bloch visited Tetrawan but his information is brief and sketchy. Both Broadley and Cunningham furnished comprehensive site-plans. Broadley's plan, however, was more accurate and intelligible. In Cunningham report it had been mentioned that west of the village was an extensive low mound 750 feet by 450 feet, on the top of which a small castle or fortress, about 100 feet square was observed. Even after independence ruins of that existed, but after that due to carelessness of the government, villagers made houses over that.

Cunningham had carried out a small excavation on both sides of the image & discovered the remains of stupa on both the sides, each of 18 feet diameter, the space in between them, on which the image stands, being also 18 feet distant. As such, Cunningham came to the conclusion that the colossal image was originally flanked by a stupa on both sides & should that be taken to occupy its original place. If this is true, then it makes Tetrawan a unique Buddhist sanctuary hardly found anywhere in Bihar.

From its name Tetarwan or Tetrawan, Cunningham identified the ruins as those representing the famous Pigeon Monastery of the Buddhist tradition, as recorded by Huien Tsaing. Whatever the real name of the Monastery may have been, I do believe it was an important place for Monastery may have been, I do believe it was an important place for Monastic study. It is very unfortunate that after India attained Independence, no excavation has been undertaken to determine the reality of the site. Even present State Government is not caring for the site, though claiming that it is eager to develop all the Buddhist sites in Bihar.

References: Kittoe, JASB, 1848, pp.538-9; Cunningham, ASI, I, pp.39-40; III, pp.124, 151; XI, 182-84; Broadley, JASB, 1892, pp.377-83; Bengal List, p.270; Bloch, An. Rep.; ASI, BC., p.18; BODG, Patna, p.235.