Kalna Rajbari Complex, Ambika Kalna
Kalna Rajbari Complex, Ambika Kalna
An amazing Temple Complex
Ambika Kalna (or simply Kalna) is located 82 km from Kolkata (Howrah) on the Bandel – Katwa line. Located on the west bank of the Bhagirathi, Ambika Kalna once flourished as a prosperous port town.
It reached it’s pinnacle of glory during the late 18th century under the patronage of the Maharajas of Bardhaman, who built several magnificent temples with intricate terracotta ornamentation.
The maritime trade has long stopped and Kalna has lost the status of a flourishing port city, but the temples are still there reminding one of Ambika Kalna’s glorious past.
Naba Kailash Complex, consisting of 108 Shiva Temples, arranged in to concentric circles is the prime attraction of Ambika Kalna.
Just opposite the Naba Kailash Complex is the Rajbari Complex (or Palace Complex) consisting of a series of temples and other structures built over a period of more than a hundred years.
Located at the left of the entrance the Pratapeswar Temple (or Pratapeshwar Temple) greats visitors to the Rajbari Complex.
The smallest but the most ornate of the temples of the Rajbari Complex. The 1849 built temple stands on a high podium. The Pratapeswar Temple is built in rekh deul style, with curvelinear sikhara and single arched entrance.
All the four sides of the temple has rich terracotta ornamentation depicting images of gods and goddesses to scenes from the great epics. It also contains panels depicting war scenes and also scenes from day to day life.
On the left of the Pratapeswar stands a small cannon and on the right is a Ras Mancha, whose roof has long collapsed. Further down the Rajbari Complex is the Lalji Temple, which itself is located within a small walled complex.
Lalji Temple follows the Panchabimsati Ratna style of architecture and consists of 25 pinnacles.
There are only 5 Panchabimsati Ratna temples in West Bengal and 3 of them are located in Ambika Kalna of which 2 are in the Rajbari Complex. The other 2 are located in Sukharia (Hooghly) and Sonamukhi (Bankura).
A Panchabimsati Ratna temple consists of three stories with 3 pinnacles each at the at the 4 corner of the first storey (3 X 4 = 12). 2 pinnacles each at the 4 corners of second storey (2 X 4 = 8). 1 pinnacle each at the 4 corners of the of the third storey (1 X 4 = 4) and a central pinnacle (1). So the total comes up to 25 (12 + 8 + 4 + 1 = 25).
The 1739 built Lalji Temple is the oldest temple in the Rajbari Complex. It was built by Braja Kishori Devi, the wife of Maharaja Jagat Ram. It houses the idol of Radha – Krishna.
Unlike the traditional Panchabimsati Ratna temple the second storey of the Lalji Temple is octagonal and thus have a pinnacle each at the eight corners.
The Lalji Temple once had elaborate terracotta panels but only a hand full have survived to this day. The temple also has traces of elaborate limestone stucco ornamentation.
Just in front of the Lalji Temple is a Char – Chala (four sloped roofs) mandap, which served as a gathering platform for devotees visiting the temple. The complex also houses an interesting mountain like temple known as the Girigobardhana Temple.
A left turn from the Lalji Complex leads one past a decorative flat roofed structure and the Panchratna Temples and finally towards the Krishna Chandraji Temple, the second panchabimsati ratna temple of the Rajbari Complex.
Incidentally the third panchabimsati ratna temple, Gopalbari Temple is located outside the Rajbari Complex.
The Pancharatna Temple is not a temple with 5 pinnacles temple but a compilation of of 5 aat – chala (eight sloped roofs) temples of different size. Although each of the 5 temples follow the aat – chala style of architecture but their shapes differ from each other.
Like the Lalji temple complex the Krishna Chandraji Temple complex is housed in a separate complex and consits of several other structures including the Vijay Vidyanath Temple.
Vijay Vidyanath temple is a huge aat – chala temple located at the left of the entrance, sadly it has no terracotta ornamentation. Next to it is the towering Krishna Chandraji Temple, with its 25 pinnacles.
The Krishna Chandaraji Temple was built 1751 – 55 and has a three arched entrance on all sides. It also has a rich terracotta ornamentation in its front facade, depicting scenes from mythologies, epics and even day to day life.
Like the Lalji Temple the Krishna Chandraji Temple also contains amazing lime stone stucco works depicting animals and floral designs.
Thus the temples of the Rajbari Complex along with other temples of Ambika Kalna can serve as a unique Sunday pilgrimage and also doubles up as a gateway to the glorious days of Bengal’s temple architecture.
Getting there: Howrah – Katwa local (Howrah departure 07:53, Ambika Kalna arrival 09:48) Sealdah – Katwa local (Sealdah departure 07:57, Ambika Kalna arrival 10:30). Fare Rs 25
Getting around: Rickshaws are the only alternative. It takes 2 ½ to 3 hours for the entire trip. Charges are about Rs 150 per rickshaw for the entire trip, but it is subject to heavy bargain.
Places to eat: The temples & pilgrimages of Kalna can be covered in a day. There are several places to eat. Hotel Priyadarshini, near the bus stand offers good food at reasonable prices.
Getting back: Katwa – Howrah local leaves Kalna at 16:20. Katwa – Sealdah local leaves Kalna at 17:20. Fare Rs 25