Sribati ~ West Bengal’s Hidden Terracotta Gem
Sribati, Katwa, Burdwan
West Bengal’s Hidden Terracotta Gem
Once upon a time a family from far of Gujrat migrated the entire length of the country to settle near the present day town of Katwa in Burdwan district. Belonging to the trader class they soon exhaled in trade & commerce.
Their huge barges sailed up and down the Hooghly and it’s tributaries and distributaries carrying merchandise from far off lands. In a very short span of time the Chandra family earned enough to build themselves a huge mansion, and several temples dedicated to Lord Shiva.
But the good old days of the Chandra family didn’t last long. With the river changing courses frequently, the river trade ceased to exist and the Chandra family’s fortunes fell faster than it grew. The mansion and the temples are still there reminding one of the glorious days of river trade of Bengal. Sadly the mansion is all in ruins and some of the temples have reconstructed and they neither resemble the beauty and grace of its original counterpart. Strangely three of the temples have survived the test of time and neglect. The temple with its richly curved terracotta panels reminds on of the glorious days of Bengal architecture and well be your next weekend gate way.
For the most comfortable journey it is best to take the Kamrup Express to Katwa. You will be in Katwa by late evening and check in one of the numerous hotels in station area. Next morning, after a heavy breakfast, head for the bus terminus. The bus terminus is located next to the railway station. Take a bus to Singhi More (Crossing) and from there swap buses to head for Sribati. The combined journey takes little less than an hour and do tell the conductor to drop you at the desired destination.
As you get down from the bus you will find yourself in the midst of agricultural fields with a narrow dirt road leading towards the village of Sribati. The road initially passes through the lush green paddy fields and then meanders into the village, going past mud houses, the reconstructed temples, the Chandra’s mansion and finally to the temple complex housing the terracotta wonders.
The complex consists of three Shiv temples. The center one is a pancha – ratna temple (five spires, with one each at the four corners and one at the center), it is flanked on both side by two Deul (with tall towering spire) temples. The right hand one stands on an octagonal base and the left consists of a square base. The central temple houses the white Shivalinga of Bholanath. The octagonal and the square temple respectively contain the black Shivalingas of Chandaneshwar and Bishwashwar respectively.
The star attraction lies on the outer walls of these two hundred year old temples. Every square inch of the walls of the temple are intricately curved with terracotta panels, depicting scenes of barges floating down the river, European soldiers, ladies with swords peeping out of windows, musicians playing musical instruments and many more scenes from day to day life.
Sadly there is no blue board declaring it as a “Monument of National Importance.” But the villagers are extremely friendly and you can well get some one from the Chandra family who will be glad enough to explain the history of the temples and their family.
Before you head home don’t forget to pay a visit to the Durga Dalan of the Chandras, where Durga Puja is still being held.
Getting There: Kamrup Express. Howrah (d17:35) Katwa (a20:53). Fare Rs60. Katwa – Kurchi More (Bus, Time 45 minutes, Fare Rs6). Kurchi More – Sribati (Bus, Time 15 minutes, Fare Rs3).
Places to stay & eat: The station and bus stand area in Katwa has several hotels with basic facilities.
Getting Back: There are no express trains from Katwa in the afternoon. So the only option is to take a local. Katwa. Howrah Local. Katwa (d15:00) Howrah(a19:30). Katwa Sealdah Local. Katwa (d15:55) Sealdah (a20:20). Fare Rs25.
Note: Rates discussed here are as on April 2010.