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AATPUR ~ A Poem in Terracotta

August 3, 2011 Leave a comment

On 24th December 1886 at Aatpur nine disciples, including Swami Vivkanada, of Shri Ramkrishna Paramhansa took the oath of leaving their families and dedicating their lives for the welfare of mankind. Today the place is marked by a memorial and every year on 24th December devotees from far & wide come here to celebrate the historic occasion.

Radhagobinda Temple, Aatpur (Antpur)

Radhagobinda Temple, Aatpur (Antpur)

But the history of Aatpur dates far behind the days of Ramkrishna. Exactly a hundred years before the historic event 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.

There are interesting stories about the origin of the name Aatpur. According to some Aatpur was named after the jamindar Atar Khan while other believe the Aatpur is a combination of eight villages of Bhuri Shreshtha kingdom and hence the name Aatpur (or Antpur).

Terracotta Panels from Radhagobinda Temple, Aatpur (Antpur)

Terracotta Panels from Radhagobinda Temple, Aatpur (Antpur)

Located about 50 km from Calcutta Aatpur probably has the distinction of housing Calcutta’s nearest terracotta temples.

Chandi Mandap

Chandi Mandap

Although Aatpur is well connected by road and busses are available from Esplanade & Howrah, but for the most comfortable journey it is best to take the morning Tarakeshwar Local. Haripal is the nearest railhead and a short but crowded trekker ride takes you to Aatpur.

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 hunting scenes with dogs are abundant on the walls of the temple.

Rash Mancha (left) & Dol Manch (right)

Rash Mancha (left) & Dol Manch (right)

An elaborate Durga panel complete with Lakshmi, Saraswati, Kartik & Ganesh on the central pillar is the prime attraction of the temple. A panel of royal procession complete with horse drawn chariots, elephants, soldiers and musicians are bound to attract the visitors attention.

The temple complex also houses five Shiva Temples. Built in the late 18thcentury these temples are smaller in size and lack the grace of towering Radhagobinda Temple. Three out of the five temples have only traces of terracotta. The complex also houses an octagonal Rashmancha and a square Dolmancha. Another attraction of the complex is the hay thatched wooden Chandimandap. Built by Krishnaram Mitra the mandap has intricate wood curving on its pillars and ceiling beams.

Entrance of Ramkrishna Math, Aatpur (Antpur)

Entrance of Ramkrishna Math, Aatpur (Antpur)

Ramkrishna Moth is worth a visit. Apart from the Dhuni Mandap, the place where the historic oath taking took place, the math has several other shrines dedicated to Ramkrishna, Sarada Ma and Vivekananda. Aatpur also happens to be the home of Baburam Ghosh (later Swami Premananda), one of the nine disciples of Ramkrishna, who took the holy oath.  Several relics from the Ghosh family are also on the display. Sadly photography is strictly banned inside the Ramkrishna Moth, however photography is allowed from ouside the gate.

Reference:

List of my Blog entry on West Bengal

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