Ambika Kalna ~ 108 Shiva Temples
Space age view of century old temples
It was a winter Sunday morning almost a decade ago, when I desperately panned my SLR film camera (Vivitar v3800s) to shoot a panorama of the 108 Shiva Temples of Ambika Kalna. The negative and the prints still at my possession but by limited dark room knowledge was not enough to stitch up the panorama.
A decade later in April 2012 I was back again at the same spot where I panned my DSLR (Nikkon D60) to shoot a 8 shot panorama of the 108 Shiva Temples of Ambika Kalna. The shots were stitched up in a matter of minutes in my digital darkroom.
It was not only the panorama that attracted my attention, the aerial view of the 108 Shiva Temples of Ambika Kalna is on always on my “must shoot list,” but sadly it continues to remain a dream.
Ambika Kalna ~ 108 Shiva Temples
Ambika Kalna (or simply Kalna) is located 82 km from Kolkata (Howrah) on the Bandel – Katwa line. Located on the west bank of the Bhagirathi, Ambika Kalna (popularly known as Kalna) once flourished as a prosperous port town. It reached it’s pinnacle of glory during the late 18th century under the patronage of the Maharajas of Bardhaman, who built several magnificent temples with intricate terracotta ornamentation.
The maritime trade has long stopped and Kalna has lost the status of a flourishing port city, but the temples are still there reminding one of Ambika Kalna’s glorious past.
The Rajbari complex in Kalna has the maximum concentration of temples. Spread on either side of a the road the complex contains a unique mixture of Bengal’s temple architecture. On one side of the road lies the Nabakailas Temples. Built in 1809 by the Bardhaman Maharaja Tej Chandra Bahadur the complex contains 108 aat – chala (eight sloped roofed) temples arranged in two concentric circles separated by a well-maintained lawn with beautiful flowerbeds. The outer circle consists of 74 temples consisting of alternate black & white lingas while the 34 temples of the inner circle have only white lingas.
Also read my travelogue on Ambika Kalna
PHOTO PUBLICATION – V
India in the World Economy
Cambridge University Press
Six of my photos have been published in the book titled “India in the World Economy” by Prof. Tirthankar Roy, reader in the Economic History Department of the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE). The book have been published by the Cambridge University Press.
My photos covered a wide range of topics from terracotta temples to close up of terracotta panels, showing ocean going ships and European soldiers. From closed down Chinese restaurant and temples in Calcutta (Kolkata) to abandoned light house at the mouth of the Hooghly. Prof. Tirthankar Roy also provided me with an elaborate testimonial.
All my six photograph published comes with an elaborate narration which was also provided be me.
Prof. Thithankar Roy also mentioned my name in the preface of the book “India in the World Economy” thanking me for the photographs he has used in his book and also mentioning about my impressive collection of photographs on historical sites of West Bengal.
Terracotta Panel of Ship
Rajrajeshwar Temple, Darhawta, Hooghly
Most of the 18th century terracotta temples were constructed by merchants who made huge profits by trading with the British East India Company. So it is quiet obvious that boats and ships were integral part of the their temple decorations.
Many of this temples contain elaborate terracotta panels of boats and ships. The Rajrajeshwar Temple of Darhawta, in the Jangipara region of Hooghly district, is one such example. The Rajrajeshwar Temple was constructed in 1728 by Apurbamohan Singaroy. The base of the aat – chala (eight sloped roof) temple measures 24 feet by 21 feet and has a triple arched entrance. The entire front surface have intricate terracotta, but sadly most of these panels have been heavily damaged.
The base panels consists of images of boats and ships. The images consists of merchants trading in exclusively decorated country boats and huge ocean going ships with European soldiers.
Terracotta panel on a Bengal Temple (Darhatwa) showing a ship, possibly of Indian construction.
Terracotta Panel of European Soldiers
Radhagobinda Temple, Aatpur (Antpur), Hooghly
Built in 1786 Krishnaram Mitra, the Dewan of Maharaja of Burdwan, constructed the huge Radhagobinda Temple. The towering aat – chala temple has a triple arched entrance and the entire front face is covered with the finest terracotta.
The temple was constructed during an important transition period of Bengal history. This period marked the end of Muslim rule and the beginning of European era. The terracotta panels reflect this transition. Apart from traditional panels showing images of Gods & Goddesses, scenes from Ramayana & Krishnalila it also houses a vast number of panels showing European lifestyles. European soldiers with bayonet mounted guns and firing cannons are frequently spotted on the walls of the temple. Hunting scenes with dogs also abundant on the walls of the temple.
Terracotta panel from an eighteenth – century temple showing a group of Europeans carrying guns. The temple, of Radha Gobindatemple of Aatpur, is located twenty miles northwest of Calcutta.
Also read Aatpur ~ A Poem in Terracotta
Kalitala, Kulpi, Diamond Harbour
Once large ships used to ply up and down the Hooghly. Several abandoned lighthouses along the banks of the Hooghly, in the Diamond Harbour region are mute witness to the glourious river trade of Hooghly.
Kalitala, in the kulpi region, near Daimond Harbour still houses one such abandoned lighthouse. oday the abandoned light house is reduced to half its original height and is located at the edge of the agricultural field. The light house is located quiet a distance from the Hooghly River.
With a circumference of about 10 feet the light house today towers to a height of about 25 feet and is built with bricks measuring 10.2 X 4.7 X 2.3 cubic inch. The structure lies in utter neglect and is totally overgrown with vegetation. The roots of the vegetation have embedded them deep in the structure and resulted in deep cracks stretching the entire length of the structure, it is a mystery that the structure still stands.
Ruins of an eighteenth – century lighthouse located on the mouth of the Hooghly.
Toong On Church & Nanking Restaurant
Tiretta Bazar, Calcutta (Kolkata)
Located just off the Indian Exchange Place (Extension) and dwarfed by the towering Kolkata Telephone Kendra the beautiful two storied building once housed the Tong On Church in its first floor, while the ground floor was occupied by the famous Nanking Restaurant. Nanking Restaurant established in 1924, is considered as the oldest Chinese Restaurant in Calcutta (Kolkata).
In 1980s the Nanking Restaurant along with the Tong On Church closed its door to public due to property dispute, which continues to this day. The court order has kept the building under lock & key.
The Toong On Church today operates at Bow Street in Bou Bazar but the Nanking remains closed depriving the Calcuttans of the taste of the finest authentic Chinese food of the city.
The brick building in the middle of the picture, which was closed because of a dispute in 1980s, is ionic to Calcutta’s Chinatown. It housed the Tong On Church on the upper floor and, on the lower floor, the Nanking Restaurant, said to be the first Chinese restaurant in the city.
“The concept of paradise as a garden is one of mankind’s oldest ideas.The paradise promoised in the Quran consists of several terraces of gardens, each more splendid than the other.”
World Heritage Series, Humayun’s Tomb
“Inheriting the Greek love of order and logic, Islamic gardens – like their buildings – are regimented into lines of perfect symmetry; balance and design is all; nothing is left to impulse or chance.”
William Dalrymple, City of Djinns
Babar, the first of the great Mughals, introduced into India the Timurid – Persian scheme of a walled – in – garden, subdivided into four quaters by raised walkways and canals. As the Mughal empire spreads its wings into India the Mughal gardens started coming up in different parts of the country.
Obviously Kashmir, the paradise on earth, was the ideal place to built the mughal gardens, the paradise promised by the holy Quran. It was fourth Mughal ruler Jehangir, who took up the initiative of building of first Mughal Gardens of Kashmir.
Sirnagar, the present capital of the state of Jammu & Kashmir (J&K), houses three spectacular Mughal Gardens, complete with raised walkways water channels lined with fountains. Mughal Gardens of Srinagar are a prime attraction for tourist and locals alike.
Cheshma Shahi, the smallest but most elegantof the Mughal Gardens of Srinagar, was built by the governor Ali Mardan Khan, under the patronage of Emperor Shah Jahan in 1632 – 33. Cheshma Shahi (or Royal Spring) derives its name from a water source, a spring located at the uper most terrace of the Cheshma Sahi Garden. The water of the spring is said to posses some curative properties, especially for stomach ailments.
The triple terraced Cheshma Shahi garden is strategically located and offers great view of the Dal Lake and the adjacent Jhelum Valley of Srinagar.
Abode of Love
The most spectacular of the Srinagar’s Mughal gardens, the Shalimar Bagh was constructed by emperor Jehangir for his beloved wife Nur Jahan. Shailmar (abode of love) Bagh follows the three terraced Mughal Garden layout with a dimension of 587m by 251m.The first terrace housed the public garden, the second the emperor’s garden and the third and final terrace housed the zenana (harem). The Shalimar Bagh also served as a royal court, during the summer months, and houses the Diwani Amm (public audience hall) and the Diwani Khass (private audience hall).
The Shalimar Bagh is built on a flat land with four radiating arms from a central water source. The water channels are lined with fountains and are marked on both sides by chinar trees.
Garden of Bliss
Nishat Bagh (Garden of the Bliss) is the largest of the Srinagar’s Mughal Gardens. Built in 1633 by Asaf Khan, the brother of Nur Jahan the garden is not a royal garden. As Nishat Bagh is not a royal garden, its hierarchical than the other Mughal Gardens of Srinagar. Nishat Bagh has twelve terraces, each representing a zodiac. The terrace begins from the public street level, which connects the garden’s water to Dal Lake. The twelfth terrace is located in the zenana gardens.
A central water stream, nearly 4 meters wide and 20 centimeters deep, flows down from the top of the garden through a channel decorated with fountains and occasionally divided into fountain pools. Chadars, stone ramps engraved with wave patterns to render the flowing water more beautiful, transfer water between the various terraces. In several places, stone benches cross the axial water stream near a chadar, and serve as seating platforms for the visitor’s enjoyment.
Nishat Bagh creats a striking contrast with the Dal Lake in the foreground and the towering Zabarwan Hills in the background.
Related links from my personal website:
Other blog entries on Jammu & Kashmir (J&K)
6 June 2012 5:00 am Kolkata. I was up in my Saltlake terrace to witness the sunrise, yes sunrise. But it was no ordinary sunrise it was something special, very special, something that wont be witnessed in the next 117 years!!!!!
Yes you have probably got it by know I was about to witness a rarest of rare celestial event, the transition of Venus. It was well past the schedule sun – rise time but the sun was yet to be seen in the heavily polluted sky above the concrete jungle of Saltlake.
It was almost 5:30 am more than a half an hour after schedule sunrise time I got the first glimpses of the sun. It was partially covered by clouds but soon the whole disc of the rising sun emerged out of the clouds. I pointed my Nikkon D60 DSLR fitted with the Sigma 70 – 300 mm (no filter was required) lens and zoomed in at the maximum level and clearly a dot was visible at the 9 O clock position. Yes it was Venus, walking along the disc of the sun.
As I photo documented the rare celestial event, using a x – ray plate as makeshift filter, I was transported back in time and back in 1874 when French scientist Pierre Jules Cesar Janssen also photographed the transition of Venus using a new photographic technique.
The root of the story goes back to early 18th century when Edmund Halley, of Halley’s comet fame, came up with the theory of measuring the distance between the Sun and Earth (Astronomical Unit) by taking advantage of the transition of Venus.
But transition of Venus was not a regular event and Halley left for the heavens in in 1742, 19 years before the next transition of Venus was to take place. Halley used the concept of parallax during the transition of Venus to accurately measure the astronomical unit (AU). Halley wanted to place two observer in the same longitude maintaining a maximum North – South distance, thus taking maximum advantage of the parallax error.
During the next transition of Venus in 1761 voyages were sent all over the world carry out Halley’s experiment. But the scientist came across a strange problem!!!!. It is understood that a exact time of the Venus entering the Sun’s disk is to be noted. But the scientist observed that the circular dot of Venus turned into a water drop shape the moment it entered the solar disc. The phenomena was not only unexplained but also unexpected but it prevented the accurate time keeping and in the proses failed to fined the accurate value of AU.
The phenomena came to be known as “Black Drop Effect” and the scientist were unable to come up with any solution for the next transition in 1769.
For the transition of Venus in 1874 the scientist were more prepared not only they had more advance telescope but they had a new weapon in their armory – PHOTOGRAPHY!!!! Photography was the the most powerful tool of measuring and recording the exact moment of the transition. But shooting multiple frames in a short span of time was something unknown at that time.
Enter Pierre Jules Cesar Janssen, the French scientist who inspired by Samuel Colt’s revolver design, developed the PHOTOGRAPHIC REVOLVER which shot 48 frames per second. Janssen discover not only solve the problem of “black drop” but helped to measure the value of AU with great accuracy. But the story continued and two decades later the Lumiere brothers, used Janseen idea to create the first movie camera leading to the invention of cinema.
“Necessity is the mother of invention” goes an old saying and it is hard to believe that a scientific need of observing a rare celestial event can lead to the discovery of the most popular source of entertainment in the modern world.
As I stood on my Saltlake terrace wondering about the strange coincidence Venus was well into her walk along the solar disc. It was time for another black drop and time for Venus to bid good bye to the Sun only to return after 117 years!!!!!
- Ek Birol Akashjatra r Kahani by Judhajit Dasgupta, Desh 2 June 2012.
- Transit of Venus – a graphic novel
- Prof Biman B Nath: Baman B Nath is a professor of astrophysics at the Raman Research Institute, Bangalore. A talented artist Baman (da) has provided me not only with the sketch of Pierre Jules Cesar Janssen but also provide valuable inputs regarding the transition of Venus.
- Prabir Biswas: Fellow photographer and armature sky watcher, Prabir (da) has provided me valuable tips for photographing the transition of Venus.