Guptipara ~ Chariots & Temple
In 2006 Pluto, the ninth planet of our solar system lost its status of a planet and was demoted to the status of a minor planet. Although Pluto lost its status as a planet it led to the addition of a new word in the English vocabulary. In January 2007 the new word of “Plutoed” meaning to “to demote or devalue someone or something” was added to the English Dictionary.
The stories of new words being added to the vocabulary of different languages in the world have always been interesting, but probably none of this can match the addition of the word “Borowari” in the Bengali vocabulary. “Barowari” means community, and is often used as “Borowari Durga Pujo” to signify a community Durga Pujo organized by collecting subscriptions from the members.
The word Borowari originated from Guptipara, in present day Hooghly. In 1761 (1790 by some other sources) some men were stopped from taking part in a household Durga Puja. Twelve of them formed a committee and organized the first Barowari (baro = twelve and yaar = friend) Durga Pujo. It was reported by the May 1820 issue of The Friends of India magazine, which was published from Srerampore. But sadly there are no concrete evidences of when the word “Barowari” made its entry into the Bengali dictionary.
Guptipara is a great place for Bengal sweet lovers. The most famous of these is the Gupo Sandesh, considered by many to be Bangal’s first branded sweet – meat. It is made of channa extracted from cow’s milk. Guptipara is also the birthplace of sweet maker Bhola Moira, who was famous not for sweet making skills but for his Kabi gaan (Folk Songs). The famous musical duel of Bhola Moira and the Anglo – Indian Antony Firingi, has been made immortal by Uttam Kumar’s movie Antony Firingi.
But today the primary attraction of Guptipara are its temples. Located in a single temple complex the four Vaishnava Temples.
- Krishnachandra Temples
offer an interesting mixture of Bengal temple architecture.
The temples were constructed in different periods with Chitanya temple being the oldest one. It was built by Bishwar Roy during mid sixteen century. Built in Jora – Bangla style the temple consists of two thatched hut shaped adjoining structure. The temple is said to contain some of Bengal’s earliest terracotta carvings but sadly they didn’t survive the test of time.
The 60 feet high Brindabanchandra Temple, built in 1810, dominates the temple complex. Although the aat – chala (eight sloped roof) temple lacks the terracotta work it is largely compensated by coloured fresco on both outer and inner the walls. The Brindabanchandra Temple is flanked on the right by Ramchandra Temple and on the left by Krishnachandra Temple.
The ek-ratna (one – pinnacled) Ramchandra Temple, was constructed in late eighteenth century by the king of Sheraphuli Harishchandra Roy, is the definitely the most elegant temple of the complex. The one storied temple crowned with an octagonal turret contains rich terracotta works on the front and southern walls of the ground floor and also on the walls of the turret. The temple contains rich teracotta works depicting war scene from Ramayana, royal processions, marine voyages and scenes from day to day life.
The Krishnachandra Temple was constructed in 1745 during the rule of Nawab Ali Vardi Khan and follows the aat – chala from of architecture. All four temples stand on elevated platforms and are inter – connected by narrow arched passageways.
Although Guptipara has the distinction of housing Bengal’s first Durga Pujo but Durga Pujo is not Guptipara’s primary festival. When it comes to festival in Guptipara the first thing that comes into mind is Guptipara’s towering and colorful chariot. Being a Vaishnav centre Rath Jaytra (Chariot Festival) is major festival and prime attraction.
The Bridabamchandra Temple hoses the idol of Jaganath, Balaram & Subhadra. On the day of the Rath Jatra the idols are carried out by the towering rath (chariot) to another temple known as Masir Bari where it is kept for 7 days. After which the journey is retraced by the rath, known as ulto rath, and the idols are brought back to the Brindabanchandra Temple.
The gigantic nine pinnacled rath is decorated with coloured festoons and banners and is fitted with wooden horses and several wooden statues. The multi wheeled rath is pulled by four thick ropes, out which one is reserved for women. A rope at the back serves as a brake. The rath is pulled through muddy & slushy ground in a wild rampage and it seems a miracle that the event goes on with a stampede. The event is heavily monitored by the police who clear the crowed to make way for the rath.
The seven day period between the rath and ulto rath is marked with a mela (fair). The mela is complete with marry go rounds and magic & circus shows, makeshift stalls sells household wares to decorative showpiece. Even today Vishnav singers perform reminding one of the glourious days of Bhola Moira & Antony Firingi. Last but not the least is the food stalls selling papad bhaja to hot jilipis. But the age old fairs is also going through the process of evolutions with egg rolls and chowmein being the most preferred food items while stunt bike rides are the new source of entertainment.
Today Guptipara is a town in the district of Hooghly in West Bengal. Located about 75 km from Calcutta, Guptipara has its own railway station on Bandel – Katwa rail line and is well connected from Howrah. A visit to Guptipara will definitely provide an insight into Bengal’s rich cultural and social life and also provide the opportunity to admire some of Bengal’s richest terracotta work.
- Hooghly Jelar Purakirti by Naredrnath Bhattacharya
- Next Weekend you can be at … Guptipara, The Telegraph March 26, 2006.
- Next Weekend you can be at … Guptipara, The Telegraph Sept. 6, 2009.
- Of Chariots, Temples and Folk Songs, Hindustan Times July 3, 2011.
- Links from my Personal Web Page. Guptipara Travel, Guptipaara Rath, Guptipara Photo.
List of my Blog entry on West Bengal