Maluti, Rebirth of a Temple Town


Rebirth of a Temple Town

Located in the Dumka District of Jharkhand the non descriptive village of Maluti houses several temple with intricate art work.

Cluster of Temples, Maluti

Cluster of Temples, Maluti

Baj Basanta

Legend, Myth and a bit of History

Family Tree of Baj Basanta

Family Tree of Baj Basanta

It was during  the reign of Alauddin Hussan Shah of Gour (1495 – 1525) and the sultan has camped in the nearby area about 500 years back. It was during the camp the Begum lost his favorite pet hawk (baj). A young local orphan farmer by the name of Basanta captured the bird and returned it to the queen. The sultan was so impressed that as a token of gratitude he gifted several acres of tax free land to Basnata, marking the beginning of Nankar (tax free) kingdom and Basanta came to be known as Baj Basanta.

Baj Basant’s great grand son Rajchandra was defeated by the King of Rajnagar in a battle and was brutally murdered. His four sons shifted the capital to Maluti in about 1680 and started living separately.

The house of Rakharchandra, the eldest son, came to be known as Rajbari (house of the king). The second son Prithvichandra’s house was called the Madhyam Bari (house of the second). Ramchandra, who like his brother got one – fourth share, and was called Sikir Bari (house of one – fourth share). The fourth and last son Madhavchandra had six sons, so his house came to be known as Chhai Taraf (house of six). The four sons build several temples converting the non descriptive village into a temple town.

Gopaldas Mukherjee (Batu da)

The Lone Crusader

“Whoever comes to Maluti, Batuda takes him around, tells him some fabulous stories about each temple. He knows the temples brick by brick”

Satish Tyagi, former deputy director archaeology, Jharkhand

Gopaldas Mukherjee (Batu da)

Gopaldas Mukherjee (Batu da)

The 72 out of the 108 temples of Maluti stands to this day. They have survived due to the efforts of a single man Gopaldas Mukherjee (locally known as Batu da). The 82 years old Batu da have been a custodian of the Maulti temples for over half a century. It is only due to the efforts of this gentleman the temples of Maluti have survived and are presently being conserved by the Government of Jharkhand.

Gopaldas Mukherjee the retired school teacher and ex air-force soldier have not only saved the temples from destruction but also documented the history of the village. He has written several books on Maluti in Bengali, Hindi and English.

His Bengali books include “Devbhumi Maluti,” “Bajer Badale Raj” and “Nankar Maluti.” His English book “Temples of Maluti” is all set to be published. His Hindi works include a booklet titled “Guptakasi Maluti.”


My Personal Travelogue

Although Maluti is located in Dumka District of Jharkhand but it is best approachable from Rampurhat in Birbhum district of West Bengal. Although no regular autos are available from the Rampurhat station one has to book a auto to visit the temples of Maluti.

Cluster of Temples, Maluti, Dumka, Jharkhand

Cluster of Temples, Maluti, Dumka, Jharkhand

The highlight of the auto ride is an amazing shortcut along a abandoned second world War (WWII) airstrip. The towering sentinel like temples welcomed us into the village of Maluti. Batu da himself welcomed us into the village and volunteered to give us a temple tour.

Mahisasuramardini. Maluti

Mahisasuramardini. Maluti

The temples of Maluti are distributed in four clusters, belonging to the four great great grandsons of Baj Basanta. The first cluster belongs to the Madhyam Bari. The second and third clusters are clubbed together and belong to the Rajbari and Sikir Bari. The fourth and last cluster belong to Chhai Taraf.

Apart from these there are several other scattered temples along with a few new temples, including the newly constructed abode of Goddess Mauliksha, after whom Maluti gets its named.

Ramayana in Arch Panel, Maluti

Ramayana in Arch Panel, Maluti

Most of the temples of Maluti follow the char – challa (four sloped roofs) form of architecture, however there are a few flat roof temples and a single pinnacle temple. But the star attraction of Maluti temple is its intricate terracotta. Some scholars have opined that the intricate designs are not terracotta but curved out of a sandstone called phool pathar, but several others, including Gopaldas Mukherjee, consider it as terracotta (burnt clay).

As the experts argue over finer issue we decide to explore the temple town of Maluti. We started with the first cluster consisting of several temples, known as Madhyam Bari, with intricate carvings. The temples are approached by a single arched entrance with is crowned by a war scene between Ram and Ravan. This scene is found in several temples all over Maluti, but they are not replicas. Each differ from the other for example Ravana is seen to mount a chariot or sporting decorative foot wears while Hunuman carries Ram on his shoulder. Another common panel is that Durga in Mahisasuramardini poster flaked with her children in traditional style. This panel is normally found above the arch panel in almost all the temples of Maluti.

Durga with her children, Maluti

Durga with her children, Maluti

Our next stop was the second combined cluster of Rajbari and Sikir Bari, approachable by a complex maze of lanes. This is the largest of the clusters and contains several temples of different shapes and sizes, including a roofless hexagonal Rasmancha. In one of the temples the Ram – Ravan scene in the arch panel is replaced with a beautiful Mahisasuramarini panel.

Chariot, Maluti

Chariot, Maluti

Finally we made our way again through a complex networks of lanes and bylanes to the last of the cluster, known as Chhai Taraf. Consisting of a few scattered temples on either side of the road. All the temples follow the char chala structure and are decorated with beautiful terracotta carvings.

Finally it was time for home and we returned with a signed copy of Gopaldas Mukherjee’s book “Nankar Maluti” and with memories to last a life time and dreams to return again.

Necessary Information:

Getting There: Rampurhat is the nearest railhead. Gandevata Express is the best option. There are no regular transport from Rampurhat. Auto needs to be reserved from Rampurhat for the Maluti trip. The journey (one way) takes an hour via a shortcut through an abandoned Second World War highway. Aprox. Cost is Rs400, subject to bargain, for the whole trip.

Places to stay: Maluti can be covered in a single day from Kolkata. There are no places to stay in Maluti. Hotels are available in Rampurhat. The trip can be clubbed with the popular pilgrimage of Tarapith.

Places to eat: Maluti has no eateries. Basic food is available in Rampurhat.

  1. May 15, 2013 at 3:21 PM

    i think you meant “tarapith”, not “tarakeswar” in the last leg of the blog, which is otherwise full of information for sub-altern tourists like me.

    • May 15, 2013 at 4:21 PM

      Yes Supratim its Tarapith, I have rectified it. Thanks for pointing out the mistake.

  2. May 20, 2013 at 12:15 AM

    Extremely well written with minute intricate details. I rate this as one of year best blog entry. Carry on Rangan.

  3. May 26, 2014 at 6:15 PM

    well researched blog

  4. June 18, 2014 at 12:59 PM

    i was at dumka for couple of days few months back . But missed the spot “Maluti” 😦
    perhaps i have read this post before .
    Next time wish to be here .

    • June 21, 2014 at 9:38 PM

      Thanks Partha Pratim for the comment. Although Maluti is located in Dumka, Jharkhand, it is best approached from Rampurhat, West Bengal.

      Autos need to be booked from the Rampurhat Station for a round trip of Maluti, costs round about Rs300, do bargain hard!!!!

      • June 25, 2014 at 6:43 PM

        Ok !! I will , Thanks for sharing the info .

    August 2, 2014 at 3:07 PM

    I really fall in love with you while in some connection happened to read your blogs. Many a blogs of written by you I have come accross several times. And I from heart wish you good health and long life for doing such valuable work.

    • August 2, 2014 at 3:09 PM

      Thanks Debprasad for the comment and the well wishes.

  6. Willi Suter
    August 4, 2014 at 7:18 PM

    Congratulations to your highly interesting and beautifully illustrated brick temple reports. I intend to visit some of the places you presented in your travel logue in November.

    Maybe you can help me to optimize my trip. Is it possible to see all the temples in Bishnupur in one day or should I reserve more time. I want to take many photographs, which takes time as you know.

    How can I reserve a car in Rampurhat to visit Maluti, in Bishnupur to visit the temples in the surrounding sites and, if possible in Katwa to visit Sribati. Are there enough taxis that would be willing to take me on a one-day trip? Do you have any addresses I could use (telephone is possibly difficult, because I do not speak Bengali)?

    • February 7, 2015 at 11:53 AM

      Thanks Willi, please do visit Maluti next time.

  7. November 24, 2014 at 12:51 AM

    Excellent article! And hats off to Gopaldas Mukherjee. We need more people like him to look after our heritage.

    • February 7, 2015 at 11:52 AM

      Thanks Sumit for appreciating the efforts of Gopaldas Mukherjee, he along with Yashin Pathan (of Pathra), are saving the crumbling heritage of our country.

      Yes we need more men like them but their efforts need to be recognised.

  8. ranjana
    November 17, 2015 at 6:28 PM

    The blog is well written.just returned from maluti after the kaali puja.iam a member of the chhai taraf by husbands grandmother Joy Tara Devi was a descendant of this dynasty and the only heiress of Shri Chandra ray of chhai taraf.The blog would hv been more complete had u added some information about the Gram Devi..Maa Mouliksha

    • November 18, 2015 at 9:29 AM

      Rakharchandra (rajar Bari)&prithvichandra(madhyam Bari)were the two sons of Rajchandra.However,Ramchandra(sikir Bari) & Mahadevchandra(chhai taraf) were the sons of Raja Jaychandra..As such the last two were not the brothers but uncles of Rakharchandra.

      • January 30, 2018 at 9:59 PM

        Dear Jewej27jan, may I know the source of your information. I have collected the information from Gopaldas Mukherjee (Batu da) book.

    • January 30, 2018 at 9:56 PM

      Dear Ranjana thanks for the comment. Nice to connect someone related to Baj Bahadur lineage.

      Regarding Maa Moulakshi, it was a mistake, I was too busy photographing the terracotta art and missed out on the new temple, which houses the idol of Maa Moulikshi.

  9. Aniruddha Sen
    December 30, 2015 at 3:43 PM

    Wonderful coverage with description Mr. Rangan Dutta

    January 30, 2018 at 7:31 PM

    I had visited Maluti with my friend more than 20 years ago. There were a lot of beautiful teracotta temples. Some of them had broken down but teracotta works were really fine. I guess i was the first foregner visited there.

    • January 30, 2018 at 9:52 PM

      I can’t simply imagine a foreigner visiting Maluti 20 years back. Hats off to you. Do you have any photos from the trip, if yes please do share them.

      By the way are you from Japan??

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