Beyond Bishnupur ~ Brick and Stone Temples
Brick and Stone Temples
Stone has always been in short supply in the vast flood plains of Bengal. Hence the architects had to restore to other substitute. As clay was easily available the burnt clay bricks soon became a good substitute of stone. This gave rise to a new form of temple architecture and lead to the construction of elaborately decorated terracotta temples. The terracotta art reached its pinnacle under the patronage of the Malla Kings of Bishnupur during the seventeenth century. The temples are still there turning Bishnupur into one of the most favored tourist spot in West Bengal.
But the tourist attraction of Bishnupur are not restricted to Bishnupur alone. Several non – descriptive towns and villages, located within 50 km radius of Bishnupur, have the distinction of housing some of the spectacular terracotta and stone temples of the state.
So next time in Bishnupur don’t give this places a miss.
Located just 15 km east of Bishnupur the non – descriptive village of Joypur houses some of the finest specimen of terracotta art. It was during the 18 – 19th century few families of the village took advantage of the cloth trade with the British and made a fortune. They acquired land and became zamindars and built fantastic temples. De and Dutta family were two such families and they still have a temple standing in the courtyard of their decapitated family mansion.
The Damodar Temple of the Dutta family and Vishnu temple of De family are built in naba ratna (nine pinnacles) style and are approached by a triple arched entrance from the Northern and Eastern side. Sadly the temples are in bad shape and are in desperate need of professional restoration. Read more…
- Next weekend you can be at … Jaypur by Somen Sengupta, The Telegraph, Kolkata dated 3 July, 2011
- Joypur (Aishee)
Although numerous brick terracotta temples dot the entire Gangatic West Bengal but they are not the only form of temple architecture. Stone temples do exists in West Bengal and are mainly concentrated in the western region of the state and adds a new dimension to Bengal Temple Architecture.
Probably the grandest of these few Bengal stone temples is the Gakulchand Temple of Gokulnagar. Located only a few kilometer from the spectacular terracotta temples of Bishnupur this laterite stone temple is considered as the largest stone temple of Bankura District.
The 64 feet high pancha – ratna (five pinnacled) temple is flanked by a natmandir and the entire 23,500 sq. ft. temple complex is surrounded by a high wall, giving the impression of a fort rather than a temple. An arched gateway leads to the temple complex. Read more …
- Next weekend you can be at … Gokulnagar by Somen Sengupta, The Telegraph, Kolkata dated 16 Jan, 2011.
Mansions and Terracotta
Kotulpur is located about 38 km south – east of Bishnupur and contains some fine terracotta temples along with large mansions. The Bhadra family of Kotulpur made a fortune trading with the British and constructed palatial mansions and large number of temples. Although in ruins the mansions and few of the temples still stands reminding one of the glorious days of Kotulpur.
The Girigabardhan temple is the star attraction of Kotulpur. The panch – ratna (five pinnacled) temple follows the girigobardhan style and looks like a boulder. The Sridhar temple contains intricate terracotta works. Kotulpur also has a 17 pinnacled Rashmancha and 9 pinnacled Dolmancha.
A detailed article on Kotulpur will be coming soon in my blog.
Terracotta at its best
Sonamukhi is 36 km from Bishnupur. The town was mentioned in the 17th century manuscript of Deshaabali – bibriti, written by Jaganmohan as a village of tanti (weavers). Sonamukhi, meaning gold faced is named after the ancient village deity of “Swarnamukhi.” The temple of Devi Swarnamukhi, although modified into a moden structure, can still be seen in Sonamukhi.
But the star attraction of Sonamukhi is the Sridhar Temple. Built in Panchabinsati Ratna (25 Pinnacled) style the temple not only follows an unique style but also houses some of the most beautiful and intricate terracotta art of West Bengal.
Located in the Madan Gali, near the chowrasta of Sonamukhi, the Sridhar Temple was constructed in 1845 by Kanai Rudra, a weaver. Presently the ownership of the Sridhar Temple is with the Gangully family. The Sridhar Temple has terracotta on all four sides but almost three of its sides are badly encroached. Sadly the temple is in an utter stage of neglect and need immediate professional conservation.
Sonamukhi also houses several other temples and religious structure but sadly most of them have been reconstructed into modern structures and in the process wiping out centuries of intricate terracotta art.
A detailed article on Sridhar , Sonamukhiwill be coming up soon in my blog.
- Sridhar Temple of Sonamukhi, Bankura by Dr. Asis K. Chatterji
Hadal – Narayanpur
Terracotta and Mansion
Hadal and Narayanpur are twin villages approachable from Bishnupur via Sonamukhi. Three branches of the erstwhile Mandal zamindar family erected huge mansions and intricate terracotta temples, many of these have survived the test of time and can be seen to this day.
During the reign of Malla King Gopal Singha (1720 – 1752) Muchiram Ghosh came in Hadal – Narayanpur and with the help of Subhankar Das, a member of the royal court, settled down and started his business. Muchiram Ghosh made a fortune by dealing with neel (indigo) and received the title of Mandal.
Muchiram Ghosh built several temples and mansions and his desendents followed his footsteps turning the non – descriptive village into a temple town.
A detailed article on Hadal – Narayanpur will be coming soon in my blog.
- Next weekend you can be at Hadal – Narayanpur by Amitabha Gupta, The Telegraph, Kolkata, 31 Oct. 2010.
- Hadal – Narayanpur, the little known heaven of Terracotta Art by Dr. Asis K. Chatterji
Ruined Twin Temples
Located 8km from Bishnupur, on the Bishnupur – Sonamukhi highway, the village of Dihar houses two ruined but majestic temples. Both the temples are dedicated to Lord Shiva and are known as Sareswar and Saileswar. A Nandi Bull guards the entrance of Sareswar Temple.
Built in 1346 by the Malla King Pritvi Malla, the temples follow the Oriya Deul style. The towering spires of both Sareswar and Saileswar have long collapsed, but they still commands majestic presence. The Temple contains beautiful floral and geometric stucco work. Read more…
- Next weekend you can be at … Dihar by Somen Sengupta, The Telegraph, Kolkata, 17 Aug., 2008
Temple of the Naked God
Dharapat is located 11 km north of Bishnupur, on the Bishnpur – Ajodhya highway. A plastered laterite Oriya style Deul temple is the main attraction of Dharpat. The temple is complete with flying lions, signifying Oriya influence. Built in 1701 by King Advesh of Dharapat the temple contains images of naked Jain Tirthankar on its outer walls, hence the name Nangta Thakur er Mandir (Temple of the Naked God).
According to historian Amiya Banerjee, the deul like structure was actually a Jain Temple which may have been converted into a Hindu Temnple. Today the inner sanctum of the temple is empty and the temple is abandoned.
The temple contains four stone panels on its four walls. The Eastern wall contains a massive panel of Vishnu, complete with two men flying above Vishnu’s head and two women at his feet. The other three sides contains naked images of Jain Tirthankars. Dharapat also contains a temple complex housing of 10 smaller Deul styled temples.
A detailed article on Dharapt is coming soon in my blog.
- Next wekend you can be at … Dharapat by Somen Sengupta, The Telegraph, Kolkata dated 12 Oct., 2008
Towering Deul Temple
Located 14 km from Bishnupur, near the Ondagram railway station, Bahulara has the distinction of housing on of the oldest and unique temples in the whole of West Bengal.
The brick built Oriya deul style Siddheshwar Temple dates back to the 11th century. The temple stands on a base measuring 30 feet by 27 feet and towers to a height of 64 feet.
Nothing much is known about the Siddheshwar Temple and absence of a dedicatory plaque have kept the historians in the dark. Mr Beglar of ASI in 1972 describes the Siddheshwar Temple of Bahulara as the “The bet in this district and if not the largest but brick – built temple.”
A corbeled arch leads to the inner sanctum of the Siddheshwar Temple contains images of Ganesh, Durga and a Jain Tirthankar. The Southern side of the temple complex houses scattered remains of dilapidated stupas.
A detailed article on Bahulara is coming soon in my blog.
- Next wekend you can be at … Bahulara by Somen Sengupta, The Telegraph, Kolkata dated 20 April, 2008
- Jewels of West Bengal – District of Bankura – Temples, Terracotta and Handicrafts
- Two days are required to cover the above mentioned places.
- A car is absolutely necessary
- Day1: Joypur, Gokulnagar and Kotulpur (Rs1000 aprox. in an Ambasador)
- Day2: Sonamukhi, Hadal – Narayanpur, Dihar, Dharapat and Bahulara. (Rs 1500 aprox in an Ambasador)