JATAR DEUL AND THE ILLUSIVE HORSE RACE
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
- Dakshin 24 – Pargan Jelar Purakirti by Sagar Chattopadhyay
- Ekush Satak (July – Aug 2007) Eitihasik Jatar Deul by Sagar Chattopadhyay
List of my Blog entry on West Bengal