Halisahar and Kanchrapara, Temples and Pilgrimage
Halisahar and Kanchrapara
Temples and Pilgrimage
Halisahar is a non – descriptive town on the northern fringes of the North 24 Parganas district. Today it is a busy unplanned and overcrowded industrial town but the history of Halisahar dates back to the pre – Mughal days. The name Halisahar is probably of Islamic origin and is derived from “Haveli Sahar” meaning “City of Palaces.” (Haveli = Palace, Sahar = City)
Sadly the “Havelis” of Halisahar didn’t survive the test of time and have long crumbled into dust. Strangely a small terracotta temple complex have survived the centuries of human neglect and can still be seen today. Halisahar is also the birth place of legendary religious reformer Ramprasad Sen. His Kali Temple, although converted into a modern structure, is the prime attraction of Halisahar.
Halisahar is located about 40 km from Calcutta and for the most comfortable journey it is best to take the morning train from Sealdah. Get down at the station and take a rickshaw to the temple complex, popularly known as the Baranda Gali r Shiv Mandir. The complex houses four temples, two of which have been restored by the West Bengal State Archeology Department and a blue board proudly declares it as a protected monument. Sadly the complex is badly maintained and the vegetation removed by the archeologist have re-grown making the entire temple complex almost inaccessible.
To the left of the gate lies the Nandokishore Temple, the star attraction of the complex. Built by the local landlord Madangopal Roy in 1743 the front surface of the temple is entirely covered with intricate terracotta panels. The arch panel above the single arched entrance contains an elaborate battle scene from the Ramayana, where the two armies are separated by an image of Garuda. The side panels contain several interesting panels including a multi headed Shiva on a Nandi Bull. The base panels are no less elaborate with battle & court scenes complete with horses, chariots and palanquins. Sadly the base panels have overgrown with vegetation and are almost inaccessible.
The temple opposite the Nandakishore Temple is similar in structure but contains almost no terracotta apart from a few floral and geometric motifs. The foundation plaque is in terracotta unlike the marble plaque of the Nandakishore Temple. The other two temples of the complex are totally overgrown with vegetation and are on the verge of collapsing.
Bidding farewell to the temple complex I headed for the Craig Park on the banks of the Hooghly. The park provides great views of the river, with the Dunlop Sahapur factory on the other bank and the Ishwar Gupta Bridge further up the river. A 10 minutes walk from the Craig Park past a twin Shiva temple takes one to the Ramprasad Vite (Birth place). Ramprasad Sen (1723 – 75) was an important figure in the Bhakti movement of Bengal. Ramprasad’s poems, known as Ramprasadi and dedicated to Goddess Kali, are still popular in Bengal today.
This is the most popular spot in Halishar and attracts devotees from far & wide. The flat roofed Kali Temple has been modified into a modern structure. There are several other structures in the compound, sadly photography is only allowed from outside the gate.
If you are still hungry for more head back to the main road and take the route No. 85 bus to Bagh More. From Bagh More walk straight toward Rathtala and cross a narrow bridge, without foot path, and enter the Kalyani sub division of Nadia District. Continue along the same road for 5 minutes and take a left turn to reach the massive Rathtala Mandir.
Rathtala temple, officially known as the Shri Krishna Jeu Mandir, was constructed in 1785 by Nemai Charan and Gour Chara Mallick stand in a huge complex surrounded by two boundary walls. The complex a huge area but sadly there are no other structures apart from the temple. Built in typical aat chala style the temple towers above 60 feet and contains terracotta lotus motifs all over the front surface. It also contains a terracotta foundation plaque in addition to a marble plaque, which have been added later.
Just outside the temple complex is an elegant Dol Manch, but sadly it has been fenced off and totally inaccessible. Rathyatra is primary festival of Rathtala Temple and the nine pinnacled rath can be seen at the temple entrance.
From the temple take the route no. 27 bus to Kanchrapara station and then a train to Sealdah to end you Sunday pilgrimage.