Gokulchand ~ Stone temple
Gokulchand Temple, Gokulnagar
~ Fortified Stone Temple ~
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 giving Bengal a place in the world tourist map.
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.
Gakulnagar is a railhead on the proposed Bishnupur – Tarakeshwar line. Tracks have already been laid and the Gukulnagar Station building modeled as the Gokulchand Temple has already been constructed. But the trains are yet to operate so it is best to hire a car from Bishnupur. The journey takes about an hour.
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.
The central pinnacle of the panch – ratna temple is octagonal in shape while the four pinnacles at the corners are smaller in size and square in shape. The temple has verandas on three sides, each with a triple arched entrance, and circumambulatory path goes round the temple. The Idol of Lord Krishna has long been removed from the temple and is housed in Bishnupur, only to brought back on the occasion of Holi and Rash. Photo of the idol is all that is worshiped today.
The Eastern & Southern faced has stone sculpture in low relief. Although heavily eroded, by centuries of wind & rain, the sculptures of Dos Avatar & Krishnalila can still be seen. Sadly the foundation plaque has been heavily eroded and its content has become illegible, but according to experts the Gakuleswar temple was constructed by the Malla King Raghunath Simha I in 1643.
On the southern end of the temple lies the Natmandir, whose roof has long collapsed. Covering a larger area than the temple, the Natmandir has a triple arched entrance facing the temple and a single arched entrance marks the two sides.
The first systematic efforts of the restoration of the Gokulchand Temple dates back to 1923 when Rakhaldas Bondopadhyay, of Mohenjodaro fame, visited the temple complex. But sadly it was only in 1996 the Archeological Survey of India (ASI) took over the temple and declared it a Monument of National Importance.
During this long period of neglect the Gokulchand Temple has seen very bad days. Large quantities of stones have been removed by contractors for construction of roads and buildings. Today the looting has stopped but the complex is still littered with stone slabs reminding one of the horrifying days of plunder.
- Next weekend you can be at … Gokulnagar by Somen Sengupta, The Telegraph, Kolkata dated 16 Jan, 2011
- Jewels of West Bengal – District of Bankura – Temples, Terracotta and Handicrafts
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