Home > Bengal Terracotta Architecture, General > Rajrajeshwar Temple ~ Kotalpur, Hooghly

Rajrajeshwar Temple ~ Kotalpur, Hooghly

Rajrajeshwar Temple ~ Kotalpur, Hooghly

~ Unusual Terracotta Panels ~

Rajrajeshwar Temple ~ Kotalpur, Hooghly

Rajrajeshwar Temple ~ Kotalpur, Hooghly

The Parsis leave their dead bodies for the vulture to eat but for the Hindus vultures have always been considered as a symbol of misfortune and bad luck. So the image of vultures is the last thing you expect to see on the walls of a Hindu temple but the Rajrajeshwar Temple, in the remote village of Kotalpur, have a distinction of housing several images of vultures. One of the terracotta panels on the temple walls shows two vultures feasting on a human corpse and several other panels show vultures in different postures.

Bengal is known for its terracotta temples. Starting from temple complex Bishnupur to the temples of Aatpur, Bansberia, Guptipara and Kalna West Bengal has the distinction of housing some of the finest terracotta works in the world. But apart from these well known temples West Bengal is also home to hundreds of lesser known terracotta temples scattered in the remote villages of South Bengal. Kotolpur, in the Jangipara block of the Hooghly district, is one such village which has the distinction of housing one such terracotta temple.

Triple Arch Panel, Rajrajeshwar Temple ~ Kotalpur, Hooghly

Triple Arch Panel, Rajrajeshwar Temple ~ Kotalpur, Hooghly

Haripal is Kotalpur’s nearest railhead and for the most comfortable journey it is best to take the morning Tarakeshwar Local. From Haripal station a bus journey takes you past Jangipara to the village of Sitapur. Get down at Sitapur Bazar and follow the meandering village roads to the temple of Rajrajeshwar.

Vultures on Terracotta, Rajrajeshwar Temple ~ Kotalpur, Hooghly

Vultures on Terracotta, Rajrajeshwar Temple ~ Kotalpur, Hooghly

The huge aat – chala temple 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.

Terracotta, Rajrajeshwar Temple ~ Kotalpur, Hooghly

Terracotta, Rajrajeshwar Temple ~ Kotalpur, Hooghly

The central panel of the triple arched entrance contains terracotta panels depicting the scenes of the Ramayana War, with Ram & Lakshman fighting against the ten – headed Ravana and an oversized Kumbhakarna.  A decorative wheel at the centre adds to the beauty of the central arch panel.

The base panels contain elaborate images of Krishnalila, royal processions and ships & boats. The strange panel of the vultures feeding on the human corpse lies on the lower part of the right arch panel. Slightly above lies the twin panels of Kali & Durga. But Kali is dressed in a sari, which is unusual in Hindu mythology.

Close up of central arch panel

Close up of central arch panel

It has been more than a year that the temple has been taken over by the West Bengal State Archeology but there are no traces of conservation and maintenance effort.

Incidentally Kotalpur had another similar terracotta temple. Located next to the Rajrajeshwar Temple, this 1774 built temple was recently been brought down and replaced with a modern looking temple. Hope the State Archeology Department would prevent the Rajrajeshwar Temple from following the footsteps of its neighbor.

Necessary Information:

Getting There:Tarakeshwar Local. Howrah – Haripal (1 hour, Rs10, 45 km)

Haripal – Sitaputr bus (1 hour, Rs12)

Sitapur – Kotalpur (20 minutes walk)

Places to Eat: Haripal has some basic eateries, it is best to carry food & water.

Note: Cost given are as on 2010.

Reference:

  • Hooghly Jelar Purakirti by Narendranath Bhattacharya
  1. March 13, 2013 at 8:24 AM

    Rangan, thank you very much for the images & information.

    • March 20, 2013 at 8:12 AM

      Thanks Amal da, for the inspiring comments.

  2. Elina Majumdar
    March 13, 2013 at 9:37 AM

    Great that you are bringing out these hidden treasures. Would it be possible to provide road directions as well? Or perhaps a map?

    • March 20, 2013 at 8:14 AM

      I have added the road direction along with other necessary info.

      • Elina Majumdar
        March 20, 2013 at 3:04 PM

        Cannot find the road direction.

  3. March 14, 2013 at 1:37 PM

    Very nice and superb effort .

    • March 20, 2013 at 8:13 AM

      Thanks Zahida for the inspiring comment.

  4. Deepankar Bhttacharjee
    March 24, 2013 at 8:44 AM

    When ever I have gone into detail of your post, got some thing new.So always feeling great.Right from our child hood in our part of home(Nadia-Burdwan border) where ever traveled, observed these structures along with panels.Must be in Bengal from some specific period it was very common and also artisans available for these in abundant..

  5. Sourav Dasgupta
    November 20, 2013 at 7:53 PM

    Thank you very much for educating us about Bengal’s one of the vibrant achitechtural marvels with amazing photographs.

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