Mahisasuramardini on Bengal Terracotta
Mahisasuramardini on Bengal Terracotta
~ A compilation on Mahisasuramardani panels on Bengal Terracotta Temples ~
See also: Mahabharata on Bengal Terracotta
Mythology presents goddess Durga as the genius of destruction springing into existence on occasion to fight out destroy the evil forces jeopardising the values and virtues of the earth and also posing threats to god’s creation.
Mahisasurmardini, one of the most popular form of goddesses Durga, is described as a slayer of the bull – shaped monster Mahisasur, who challenged the ocean and the Himalayas. Mahishasur is said to be like a roaring cloud and regarded as a Danava and Asura. Mahishasur was like a storm capable of defeating the in battle, till such time goddess caused his slain.
The most popular form of Durga appearing on on Bengal Terracotta Temple is the episode of slaying the buffalo demon (Mahishasur). Durga riding her vehicle, lion is mostly accompanied by her daughters and sons, namely Lakshmi, Saraswati, Kartik and Ganesh.
The Mahisasuramardini motif is common on many of the late medieval brick temples of Bengal, irrespective of the worshiped deity to which the temple belongs.
~ Ambika Kalna, Burdwan ~
Located on the west bank of the Bhagirathi, Ambika Kalna (popularly known as Kalna) once flourished as a prosperous port town. It reached it’s pinnacle of glory during the late 18th century under the patronage of the Maharajas of Bardhaman, who built several magnificent temples with intricate terracotta ornamentation. The maritime trade has long stopped and Kalna has lost the status of a flourishing port city, but the temples are still there reminding one of Kalna’s glorious past.
One of the star attraction of Ambika Kalna is the Pratapeshwar Temple, with its elegant shape and rich terracotta ornamentation. Built in 1849 in Deul (Spire) style the temple contains terracotta plaques depicting themes of Hindu epic, mythical life of Sree Chaitanya and various aspects of day to day life.
The panel of Dyrga in Mahisasuramardini form appears on the side wall atop the arch. The panel is flanked on either side by Ram and Ravan engaged in war against each other.
More information on the temples of Ambika Kalna.
~ Sribati, Burdwan ~
The non – descriptive village of Sribati, in Katwa in Burdwan district has the distinction of housing some spectacular terracotta temples of West Bengal. The small temple complex in Sribati belongs to the Chandra family and houses three small temples, namely Bholanath, Chandaneswar and Bisheshwar. Exterior walls of the three temples contain intricate terracotta works.
The Mahisasuramardini Durga panel is located above the false arched entrance on the back side of the Bisheshwar Temple.
More information on the temples of Sribati.
~ Bali Dewanganj, Hooghly ~
Bali Dewanganj in the Armabagh sud – division of the Hooghly houses a unique Durga Temple. Built in a combination of Jor – Bangla and Naba – Ratna style the temple is a one of a kind in the whole of West Bengal. The Mahisasuramardini Durga panel is located above the tripple arched entrance and is flanked on left side by the panels of Lakshmi and Ganesh on the right by Saraswati and Kartik. Each of the panels are embedded in stucco art representing small temples.
The Durga Temple complex in Routpara, Bali Dewanganj houses several other temples but most of them are at the verge of collapsing. There are other ruined temples scattered all over Bali Dewanganj.
More information on the temples of Bali Dewanganj.
~ Aatpur (Antpur), Hooghly ~
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).
Built in 1787 the Radahagobinda Temple was constructed by Krishnaram Mitra, the Dewan of Maharaja of Burdwan. 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.
An elaborate Mahisasuramardani Durga panel complete with Lakshmi, Saraswati, Kartik & Ganesh on the central pillar is the prime attraction of the temple.
More information on Aatput (Antpur).
~ Guptipara, Hooghly ~
Guptipara is home of Bengal’s first community Durga puja, the place where Bengali sweets graduated from makha sandesh (sandesh mixture) to gupo sandesh (a variety of sandesh pieces), the birth place of legendary folk singer Bhola Moira and last but not least spectacular temples.
Guptipara temple complex housing four Vaishnava temples — Chaitanya, Brindabanchandra, Ramchandra and Krishnachandra — which offer an interesting mix of Bengal’s temple architecture.
Only the Ramchandra Temple contains terracotta. The ekratna (single pinnacled) Ramchandra Temple was constructed in late 18th century by Harishchandra Roy, the king of Seoraphuli. It may be called the most elegant temple in the complex. The single-storey temple with an octagonal turret contains rich terracotta work on the walls and the turret. The carvings depict war scenes from the Ramayana, royal processions, voyages and glimpses of everyday life.
The severely damaged Mahisasuramardini Durga panel is located near the base panel and also contains Ganesh, Kartik, Lakshmi and Sarswati.
More information about Guptipara.
~ Kotulpur, Hooghly ~
The huge aat – chala Rajrajeswar Temple, in Kotulpur is in bad shape and is over grown with trees. The roots have made their way deep into the structure and have developed deep cracks. The base of the temple is also covered with weeds making access to the temple almost impossible. The temple has long been abandoned and is infested with bats and possibly snakes.
Miraculously the front face of the temple, entirely covered with intricate terracotta, has survived the test of time and can still be admired to this day. Sadly the temple contains no foundation plaque so nothing is known about the construction date and the name of the founder. But historian Narendranath Bhattacharya puts the year of construction in 1694 in his book “Hooghly Jela r Purakirti” but no mention is made about the name of the founder. Just above the right arch of the triple entrance is the panel of Mahisasuramardini Durga.
~ Sonamukhi, Bankura ~
Sonamukhi is located 36 km north of Bishnupur. The star attraction of Sonamukhi is the Sridhar Temple. Built in Panchabinsati Ratna (25 Pinnacled) style the temple not only follows an unique style but also houses some of the most beautiful and intricate terracotta art of West Bengal.
Located in the Madan Gali, near the chowrasta of Sonamukhi, the Sridhar Temple was constructed in 1845 by Kanai Rudra, a weaver. Presently the ownership of the Sridhar Temple is with the Gangully family. The Sridhar Temple has terracotta on all four sides but almost three of its sides are badly encroached. Sadly the temple is in an utter stage of neglect and need immediate professional conservation.
The Mahisasuramardani Durga panel, also includes Ganesh, Lakshmi, Sarswati and Kartick is located on the side face just above the right arch of the triple arch entrance.
Mandal Family Temples and Rshmancha
~ Hadal – Narayanpur, Bankura ~
Hadal and Narayanpur are twin villages approachable from Bishnupur via Sonamukhi. Three branches of the erstwhile Mandal zamindar family(Borotaraf, Mejotaraf and Chototaraf) erected huge mansions and intricate terracotta temples, many of these have survived the test of time and can be seen to this day.
The naba – ratna (nine pinnacled) temple of Radha Damador, of Mejotaraf contains a fantastic Mahisasuramardini Durga panel above the central arch of the triple arch entrance. The figure is flanked on either side by Rama (sadly Rama’s figure is missing) and Ravana engaged in battle with backdrop depicting the fight between Rama’s monkey soldiers with Ravana’s demon soldiers.
The Radha Damodar Temple of the Mejotaraf , with its long slender pinnacles, represents more of a church than a temple. The left arch panel of the triple arch entrance contains a unique Mahasasuramardini Durga panel. It shows Hunuman, the monkey god carrying Mahisasuramardini Durga over his head with Rama and Lakshman sitting on his soldier.
The 17 pinnacled Rashmancha of Borotaraf in Hadal – Narayanpur contains a terracotta panel on top of each of its eight arches. One of this contains a spectacular Mahisasuramardini Durga panel complete with Ganesh, Lakshmi, Sarswati and Kartik.
Girigobordhan and Sridhar Temple
~ Kotulpur, Bankura ~
Kotulpur the non – descriptive village in the Bankura district houses several temples and huge mansions.
The Bhadrapara of Kotulpur has the largest concentration of temples. The five pinnacled Girigobordhan Temple, has a unique structure and contains beautiful stucco work along with intricate terracotta panels.
The Mahisasuramardini panel of the Girigobardhan Temple is located on the centre of the main arch panel and is flanked on the left by separate panels of Lakshmi and Ganesh and similarly on the right by Sarswati and Kartik.
The naba – ratna (nine – pinnacled) Sridhar Temple is located inside the Bhadra family mansion courtyard. The front face of the temple, with a triple arched entrance, is elaborately decorated by intricate terracotta.
Position of the Mahisasuramardini Durga panel in the Sridhar Temple is similar to that of the Girigobardhan Temple. It also contains the panels off Lakshmi, Sarswati, Ganesh and Kartik but sadly they are severely damaged.
Maluti Group of Temples
~ Maluti, Dumka, Jharkhand ~
Although Maluti lies in the state of Jharkhand the temples of Maluti fall under the Bengal School of Architecture and can well be considered as Bengal Terracotta Temples.
Legend says that a young shepard named Basanta returned the pet Hawk of Alauddin Hussan Shah of Gaur. As a token of gratitude, the king gifted him the tax free land of Nankar. Since he got a kingdom in exchange for a hawk, Basanta came to be known as Baj Basanta.
Baj Basanta was a able ruler and his decedents followed his footsteps, turning Nankar into a prosperous kingdom with Maluti as its capital. Over the centuries several temples were built, turning into a temple town.
The village of Maluti once housed 108 Shiva Temples out of which 72 exists to this day. It is only due to the efforts of ex – military man and school teacher Gopaldas Mukherjee, who have been protecting and restoring the temples of Maluti over over half a century.
Several of the 72 existing temples of Maluti contains a freeze of Mahisasuramardini Durga above the arch panels. The Mahisasuramardini panel is flanked on both sides by seperate panels of Lakshmi, Ganesh and Sarswati, Kartik.
War scenes between Rama and Ravana from the epic Ramayana is the most common panel in most of the arch panels of the Maluti Temples. But one cahr – chala temple contains a spectacular Mahisasuramardini panel in the arch panel.
- This is a compilation article and the compilation is not exhaustive. It would be updated from time to time.
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