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JATAR DEUL AND THE ILLUSIVE HORSE RACE

August 31, 2011 5 comments

My first encounter with Jatar Deula happened on an early December afternoon of 2004. The journey was no easy one and with almost no information on the web or on print it was almost a venture into unknown.

My initial train journey from Sealdah (South) to Diamond Harbour went on smoothly. It was followed by a bus journey on route No. 10 bus to Raidighi. The distance was not great but the bus stopped at regular intervals for prolonged period to pick up passengers and after two hours of bus journey I finally arrived at Raidighi.

Jatar Deul, Towering above the Agricultural Fields

Jatar Deul, Towering above the Agricultural Fields

Now the really adventure began, as I boarded a motorized country boat (locally called Bhut – Bhuti) to cross the Moni River. Although Raidighi had a boarding platform Kankandighi, on the other side of the river, didn’t have one. I got down from the boat several feet away from the bank, with shoes in my hand and my jeans rolled well above my knees. After wadding through knee deep water and mud I finally made it to hard ground.

Puja at Inner Sanctum of Jatar Deul

Puja at Inner Sanctum of Jatar Deul

The boat ride was followed by even more perilous motor van ride, through a winding brick paved road. The journey lasted about an hour and the last 15 minutes were rewarded by a spectacular view of the towering structure of Jatar Deul.

The temple complex containing the lone towering Deul surrounded by eucalyptus and banyan trees. The Deul creates a striking contrast against the agricultural fields that surround it. The temple is declared a monument of National Importance and is maintained by the Archeological Survey of India (ASI). It rises to a height of 65 feet and stands on a base measuring 25 feet by 25 feet. The eastern wall is provided with an arched gateway leading to the inner sanctum, which is located below the ground level.

Although the temple has long been abandoned and declared a protected site by ASI but pujas are carried out regularly and the inner sanctum contains images and idols of Shiva, Durga, Kali and several other Gods & Goddess.

Decorative Brick Work, Jatar Deul

Decorative Brick Work, Jatar Deul

The discovery of Jatar Deul dates back to the middle of the nineteenth century when land surveyors stumble upon a towering brick structure in the midst of the Sundarban. The structure was surrounded with dense forest and was itself covered with thick vegetation.

So who constructed the temple in the heart of one of the densest forest in the world? What was the purpose of construction? When was it constructed? Was this part of a remarkable civilization that once flourished in Southern Bengal? Historians are unable to come up with any concrete conclusion

A copper plate found near the temple in 1875 suggest that Raja Joychandra constructed the temple in 975 AD. The plate has long been missing and absence of any other historical records on Joycahndra has still kept the historians in the dark.

Jatar Deul

Jatar Deul

Today the forests have long gone and have been replaced with agricultural fields but the temple still stands with its long and elegant spire towering above the tree – tops. The temple contains no idol but the locals believe it to be a Shiva temple and call it Jatar Deul (Jata = matted hair, Deul = temple), after the matted hair of Shiva.

The exterior walls of the temple contains rich carvings, but only traces of it can be seen today as most of is lost due to unscientific restoration. The tip of the spire, which was broken off, had been reconstructed, but it neither resembles the grace and beauty of the former structure.

Almost six years later I chanced upon a book titled “Dakshin 24 – Pargana Jelar Purakirti” by Sagar Chattopadhyay, elaborately describing the historical and archeological sites of South 24 – Pargan district.

There was detailed description about Jatar Deul and it also contained information about a horse race that happens next to the Deul on 2nd Baisakh (Mid April). This was enough to ignite my passion and on 16th April I was out to witness the horse race with the strange mysterious temple in the backdrop.

In this six years lot of changes have taken place the bridge across Moni River have been bridged and there was no need to get your legs dirty. My friend Amitabha Gupta accompanied me and we boarded the Lakshimkantapur Local from Sealdah (this is a better option than Diamond Harbour). We get down at Mathurapur Bazar, in 2 hours, and boarded an auto to Raidighi (1 Hour) followed by a motor van ride across the newly constructed bridge and along a metaled road to Jatar Deul in another 1 hour. Only to know that the horse race has been postponed to 25 Baikash (9 May) because of Elections.

Jatar Deul ~ Hope the horses run

Jatar Deul ~ Hope the horses run

Amitabha and I decided to retrace out steps back to Jatar Deul for the illusive horse race. On 9th May we repeated our 5 hours long journey only to be informed that the race was called off due to unofficial reasons.

Conclusion: Note Bengali film actress Debasree Roy, the newly elected Trinamul candidate from Raidighi has promised to turn Jatar Deul into a tourist spot, hope her mission comes true and the “Horse Race of Jatar Deul” no longer remains illusive.

Reference:

  • Dakshin 24 – Pargan Jelar Purakirti by Sagar Chattopadhyay
  • Ekush Satak (July – Aug 2007) Eitihasik Jatar Deul by Sagar Chattopadhyay
Links from my website:

List of my Blog entry on West Bengal

PHOTO PUBLICATION – I

August 24, 2011 Leave a comment

PHOTO PUBLICATION – I

THE TELEGRAPH

Dated 15th October 2010

My photo was the winner of the My Puja My Pix contest organised by The Telegraph, Kolkata. The photo was published with three other photos in Metro section of  The Telegraph dated 15th October 2010 (Astami).  My photograph was one of the four photos selected out of 200+ odd photos submitted to The Telegraph, Kolkata for the My Puja My Pix contest. The photos was judged my noted Bengali film maker Aniruddha Roy Chowdhury and noted Bengali film actress Rituparna Sengupta and The Telegraph.  The top left corner photo titled “She on Track” was shot by me.

The Published Photos

The page from Metro, The Telegraph, Kolkata. Dated 15th Oct. 2010

The page from Metro, The Telegraph, Kolkata. Dated 15th Oct. 2010

She on Track

She on Track

My photo, Titled “She on Track” of a small ek – chala durga Idol was shot on the eve of Durga Puja when idols of durga were been transported out of the poter’s quarter of Kumartuli (or Komortuli).

Kumartuli is an amazing maze of lanes & bylanes crammed with idol makers studios. The narrow lanes deny trucks to enter the studios so idols are carried out manually making to the Chitpur Road (Rabindra Sarani).

Here a group of porters pull an idol resting on a makeshift platform with ball berring wheels across the tram tracks of Chitpur Road (Rabindra Sarani).

Special thanks  to friend and fellow photographer Subhamoy Sinha Roy and Sutirtha Basu who shared the honour with me.

More photos of Kumartuli & Durga Puja.

More Photo Publication


Book Review ~ Nothing is Blue

August 17, 2011 1 comment

History and astronomy are always considered poles apart, but physist Biman Nath considers them as opposite sides of a coin. In his debut novel “Nothing is Blue” he has blended the two in a unique mixture, with the Nalanda University in its backdrop. Set in the ancient seat of learning, the novel deals with the travels of the famous Chinese traveler Xuanzang (Hiuen Tsang) in Nalanda and its surrounding area.

Book Cover

Book Cover

Set in the background of Nalanda the novel has the mysteries of Harry Potter. Vivid description of Nalanda with its long flights of stairs and dark corridors can well remind a Harry Potter reader of Hogarths. The tantric rituals practiced secretly by Kushala and his friends in Nalanda have something in common with the dark arts practiced in the hidden corners of Hogarths.

Nath’s novel also has the thrill of Dan Brown’s “Da Vinci Code”. The tantric Buddhist cults have remarkable similarity with that of Opus Dei described by Brown in his best selling novel.

Although a work of fiction Nath has uniquely blended his fictional characters of Ananda, Kushala, Ratnakar along with historic characters of Xuanzang, Shilabhadra and also with the legendary mythical characters of Khona and Mihir. It reminds one of Rushdie’s “Enchantress of Florence” where the author has uniquely blended the fictional character from far of land into the court of Akbar along with the real life character of the emperor and his nine jewels.

The story deals with Ananda, a young boy from a typical Bengali peasant family. A brilliant student Ananda joined Nalanda – the biggest seat of learning in ancient world. Although initially reluctant to send their son to a far off monastery, Ananda’s parents finally gave away under the pressure of Ananda’s local teacher.

Even it was not easy for Ananda to adjust to the monastic life of Nalanda. He soon found his room – mate Kushala, was part of a secret tantric cult and he himself got attracted to a widow in the nearby village, who came from his native land. But soon things started to change and under the guidance of Xuanzang Ananda flourished in academics.

Ananda also accompanied the Chinese scholar in far of travels in India, which took him to Tamralipti (Tamluk), Kamrup (Assam), Kanyakubja (Kanauj), Ujjayini (Ujjain) and many other far of places. Nath has taken great care in describe the travel itineraries in utmost details transporting the reader not only in space but also in time.

It is also a book on astronomy Ananda’s favourite subject. It deals with the mythical female astronomer Khona and her theory of moving stars and zodiac and the shifting of calendars, leading to festivals being celebrated on wrong days. Nath, himself an associate professor of astro – physics in Raman Research Institute, Bangalore has explained these complex astronomical problems with great simplicity.

A book of this nature has the capability of transporting the reader far beyond the limits of the book, this is where “Nothing is Blue” lacks. The references and bibliography are not at all up to the mark. The map describing Xuanzang travel is very small and lacks the details. The bibliography, which comes under acknowledgement, should have been listed numerically.

Left: Author Right: An author's sketch of Nalanda

Left: Author Right: An author's sketch of Nalanda

The glossary of places is very short and lack the details. The book describes the travels of Xuanzang and Ananda to Tamralipti and Raktamartika Vihar in Karnasubarna. According to Xuanzang travel accounts both these places are located close to each other. But recent archeological excavations have confirmed the existence of Raktamartika Vihar of Karnasubarna far from Tampralipti. The remains of Karnasubarna are located in the present day Murshidabad District, while Tamralipti lies in the costal regions of East Mednipur. Sadly Nath has missed out on this note.

Although the book mentions the travels of another Chinese traveler Faxian, who traveled in India a hundred years earlier than Xuanzang but sadly he has been left out from the glossary of persons.

In spite of all odds Nath’s novel has the capability of taking the reader in a virtual journey both in time and space. We sincerely hope that the second edition will come up with a detailed enlarged map, a better glossary of people and places and finally a bibliography in numerical order.

About the Author:  Biman B. Nath is an Associate Professor of Astro Physics of the Raman Research Institute, Bangalore. A man of diverse interest Nath has several publications on popular science both in English & Bengali. He is a regular contributor to the prestigious Bengali magazine Desh. He has also contributed articles for The Hindu and The Telegraph. A talented artist and his sketches accompany many of his publications.

Book Details:

Title: Nothing is Blue

Author: Biman B. Nath

Publication: Harper Collins

Pages: 242

Price: Rs295

Photo Courtesy:

Book Cover: Biman B. Nath’s Facebook Profile

Author’s Photo & Sketch by Author: http://www.nothingisblue.com/

TESTIMONIAL – I

August 10, 2011 1 comment

Testimonial

From Prof. Tirthankar Roy,

Economic History Dept.

THE LONDON SCHOOL OF ECONOMICS

AND POLITICAL SCIENCE (LSE)

 

Six of my photos were selected for publication by Prof. Tirthankar Roy of the Economic History Dept. of the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) for his book titled “India in the World Economy” published by the Cambridge University Press.

Below is a testimonial from Prof. Roy

Testimonial from Prof. Tirthankar Roy, Economic History Dept., London School of Economics and Political Science

Here is the list of the selected six photos:

  • Radhagobinda Temple, Aatpur (Antpur)
  • Panel of European soldiers from Radhagobinda Temple, Aatpur (Antpur)
  • Rajrajeshwar Temple, Darhawata
  • Panel of Ship from Rajrajeshwar Temple, Darhawata
  • Nanking Restaurant & Tong On Church, Calcutta (Kolkata)
  • Abandoned Light House, Kulpi

PHOTOS OF AATPUR (ANTPUR)

Left: Radhagobinda Temple, Aatpur (Antpur). Right: Panel of European Soldiers

Left: Radhagobinda Temple, Aatpur (Antpur). Right: Panel of European Soldiers

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

PHOTOS OF DARHAWTA

Left: Rajrajeshwar Temple, Darhawta. Right: Panel of ship

Left: Rajrajeshwar Temple, Darhawta. Right: Panel of ship

The Rajrajeshwar Temple of Darhawta 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.

PHOTO OF ABANDONED LIGHT – HOUSE, KULPI

Abandoned Light House, Kalitala, Kulpi

Abandoned Light House, Kalitala, Kulpi

The abandoned  light house at Kalitala village is approached from the Sam Bose bus stop in Kulpi (near Diamond Harbour) by the Military road. The unpaved road, of about 3 km, is called locally as the Military Road but their are no concrete historical evidences of the origin of the name. Today 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 and is separated from the river by a series of brick kiln.

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.

PHOTO OF NANKING RESTAURANT

Nanking Restaurant & Tong On Chinese Temple

Nanking Restaurant & Tong On Chinese Temple

At the Chattawalla Guli of of Tiretta Bazar of Central Calcutta (Kolkata) lies a elegant two storied building.  The ground floor once housed the Nanking Restaurant. Opened in 1924 the Nanking Restaurant is the oldest Chinese restaurant in Calcutta (Kolkata) and also in India.  The first floor housed the Tong On Chinese Temple.

A property dispute in 1980s closed both the restaurant and the temple and they remain closed to this day, denying the Calcuttans of their authentic Chinese food. The Tong On Church operates from a nearby house in Bow Street in Bou Bazar.

References:

Aatpur:

Darhawta:
  • Hooghly Jelar Purakirti by Narendranath Bhattacharya
Abandoned Light – House, Kulpi:
  • Dakshin 24 Pargana Jelar Purakirti by Sagar Chattopadhyay
Nanking Restaurant & Tong On Church:

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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