Home > Bengal Terracotta Architecture, General, Iconography > Mahabharata on Bengal Terracotta

Mahabharata on Bengal Terracotta

Mahabharata on Bengal Terracotta

~ A compilation of Mahabharata panel in Bengal Terracotta ~

See also: Mahaisasuramardini on Bengal Terracotta

The two great epics of Ramayana and Mahabharata represents the real perspective of the Indian philosophy of life and is considered as the phenomenal history of men, gods, spirits, demons, social and political space, time, truth, law, austerity, usage, purities, sins, evils and finally wisdom of the people of the great sub continent. Both the epics have shown astounding vitality not only in the years of political dominance of the Hindus, but also in the days of invasion, and assimilation of alien people and their cultures.

For over two thousand years the Ramayana and Mahabharata has been influencing deeply the religious and moral thoughts as well as literacy and artistic production in India. The exotic terracotta Temple of Bengal (West Bengal and Bangladesh) are no exceptions.

The walls of the Bengal terracotta temple are dotted with stories from the two great epics but strangely Ramayana panels far out number the panels from Mahabharata.

Swayambara of Draupadi

Choto Taraf Temple, Hadal – Narayanpur, Bankura

Swayambara of Draupadi, Choto Taraf Temple, Hadal Narayanpur

Swayambara of Draupadi, Choto Taraf Temple, Hadal Narayanpur

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) church like temple belonging to the choto taraf of the Mandal family in Hadal – Narayanpur probably has the distinction of housing the most spectacular Mahabharata panel in the whole of Bengal.

The central arch panel of the triple arch entrance of the temple contains a spectacular panel from the epic Mahabharata showing Arjuna striking the target of the eye of fish at the Swayambara of Draupadi.

Duryodhana and Arjuna waiting for Krishna to wake

Gopinath Temple, Dasghara, Hooghly

Gopinath temple is Dasghar, Hooghly is considered to be the most preserved terracotta temple in the whole of West Bengal. Built in 1729 the Pancha – ratna (Five Spire) temple has some of the finest terracotta curving in West Bengal.

Duryodhana and Arjun waiting for Krishna to wake, Gopinath Temple, Dasghara

Duryodhana and Arjun waiting for Krishna to wake, Gopinath Temple, Dasghara

One of these panels shows Duryodhana and Arjun waiting for Krishna to wake up for the mobilising support of Krishna for Kurukshetra war. Duryodhana is seen siting on a chair near Krishna’s head while Arjuna sits on the floor near Krishna’s feet.

Arjuna in Battle of Kurukshetra

Duttapara Temple, Joypur, Bankura

Arjuna in battle of Kurukshetra, Joypur

Arjuna in battle of Kurukshetra, Joypur

Located about 15 km west of Bishnupur the non – descriptive village of Joypur contains two spectacular terracotta temples. The Damodar temple belonging to the Dutta family contains intricate terracotta carvings including two panels from the Mahabharata.

The left arch panel of the triple arch entrance on the Eastern side contains a panel from Mahabharata. It shows the four-armed Krishna (Vishnu) as the charioteer of Arjuna who is fighting another warrior, probably Karna, in the battle of Kurukshetra.

Arjuna Fighting Bhishma, with Shikhandi in front

Kestorai (Jor Bangla) Temple, Bishnupur

Ketorai Temple, popularly known as the Jor Bangle Temple, is one of the most well known terracotta temple of West Bengal. It contains at least three panels from the epic of Mahabharata, most of which are located on the side panels.

Arjuna fighting Bishma, with Shikhandi in front, Jor Bangla Temple, Bishnupur

Arjuna fighting Bishma, with Shikhandi in front, Jor Bangla Temple, Bishnupur

One of the panels shows the battle between Arjuna and Bhishma. It shows Arjuna, charioted by Shikhandi, who replaced Krishna, fires a volley of arrows towards Bishma. On the other hand Bishma, considering Shikhandi as a women, puts his weapon (bow) down.

Bhishma’s Bed of Arrows (Sarashajya)

Jor Bangla (Bishnupur) and Damodar Temple (Joypur)

Bhishma in bed of arrows (Sarashajya)

Bhishma in bed of arrows (Sarashajya)

Bishma’s bed of arrows or Sarashajya is probably the most common terracotta Mahabharta panel. Several temple contains this panel including the Kestorai (Jora Bangla) Temple of Bishnupur and the Damodar Temple of Joypur, both in Bankura district of West Bengal.

In the case of Kestorai (Jora Bangla) Temple the panel is located on the side panel while in Damodar Temple it is located on the top most pinnacle. Both shows Bhishm lying in the death bed of arrows, at the Kurukshetra battle ground with Arjuna feeding him with divine water derived through his powerful arrow from Ganges for the tranquility of his soul.

Club Duel of Bhima and Duryodhana

Kestorai (Jor Bangla) Temple, Bishnupur

Ketorai Temple, popularly known as the Jor Bangle Temple, is one of the most well known terracotta temple of West Bengal. It contains at least three panels from the epic of Mahabharata, most of which are located on the side panels.

Bhima Duryodhana Club Duel, Kestori (Jor Bangla) Temple, Bishnupur

Bhima Duryodhana Club Duel, Kestori (Jor Bangla) Temple, Bishnupur

One of these panels shows the duel between Bhima and Duryodhana with club as exclusive weapon, at the very fag end of the Kurukshetra war.

Notes:

  • This is a compilation entry and is not exhaustive, but it would be updated from time to time.
  • Krishnalila, lovemaking of Krishna, a important character of the epic Mahabharata has not been included.

Reference:

  • Temple art of late Medieval Bengal by Nihar Ghosh
  1. February 13, 2013 at 8:45 AM

    Nicely documented Rangan da

  2. Dr Aniruddha Kar
    June 4, 2016 at 8:00 PM

    Really excellent Rangan!!

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