Home > Bengal History, Bengal Terracotta Architecture, General > Hanseswari Temple and Ananta Basudev Temple, Bansberia, Hooghly

Hanseswari Temple and Ananta Basudev Temple, Bansberia, Hooghly

Hanseswari Temple and Ananta Basudev Temple

Bansberia, Hooghly

The history of Bansberia dates back to the days of Shah Jahan. In 1656, the Mughal emperor appointed Raghab Dattaroy of Patuli as the zamindar of an area that includes the present-day Bansberia. Legend has it that Raghab’s son Rameshwar cleared a bamboo grove to build a fort, inspiring the name Bansberia.

L: Ananta Basudev Temple & R: Hanseswari Temple, Bansberia, Hooghly

L: Ananta Basudev Temple & R: Hanseswari Temple, Bansberia, Hooghly

Bansberia was also one of the important villages of the Saptagram (a unit of seven villages), an important port town in medieval Bengal. Its importance in pre-Muslim Bengal was religious, owing to its location at the Tribeni or confluence of three rivers.

Hanseswari Temple, Bansberia, Hooghly

Hanseswari Temple, Bansberia, Hooghly

After Muslim occupation in the late 13th century (by a Ghazi or warrior-saint named Zafar Khan) it continued to be an important city under the Tughlaks, as a military base, mint-town and port.

L: Idol od Devi Hanseswari, C: Colourfull entrance to the inner sanctum, R: Fresco work on the ceiling, Hanseswari Temple

L: Idol od Devi Hanseswari, C: Colourfull entrance to the inner sanctum, R: Fresco work on the ceiling, Hanseswari Temple

After the Mughal conquest of Bengal in the mid-16th century, the city started to decline due to the loss of royal patronage, but some areas such as Bansberia continued to prosper up to the 19th century, sponsored by semi-independent zamindars who built several temples in the area.

Lattice stone work at the base of central pinnacle, Hanseswari Temple

Lattice stone work at the base of central pinnacle, Hanseswari Temple

Among these is the Hanseswari Temple built in 1814. It was constructed by the wife of Nrisinghadeb, the grandson of Rameshwar.

Nrisinghadeb was a follower of a Tantric cult and had spent his last seven years (1792-99) in Varanasi practicing its rites. The temple was constructed after his death by his wife Sankari, as a tribute to him.

Even the deity has been designed and installed following the concept of Yoga and Pranayam. The word “Hong” is pronounced at the time of breathing out whereas the word “S-a-a” is uttered at the time of breathing in. “Hong” manifests “Shiva” and “S-a-a” represents “Mother Shakti.”

Intricate floral decoration at the triple arched entrance, Hanseswari Temple, Bansberia

Intricate floral decoration at the triple arched entrance, Hanseswari Temple, Bansberia

The temple has both the Deities of Shiva and Shakti and hence the name is “Hansheswari”. On the top of thousand petals blue lotus, lies the eight petals bloodred lotus.

Decorative railing at balcony of Hanseswari Temple, Bamsberia

Decorative railing at balcony of Hanseswari Temple, Bamsberia

Image of white “Shiva” is found to be lying on six triangular marbles. From the navel of “Mahadeva”, a lotus stem has come out carrying twelve petals blood-red lotus.

Ananta Basudev Temple, Bansberia Hooghly

Ananta Basudev Temple, Bansberia Hooghly

On this, four-handed “Mother Shakti” is standing on her right legresting the left leg on her right thigh. The upper left hand is carrying a sword to represent her power to curb the demons, the lower left one is carrying a severed head of a demon; the upper right palm is posed in a “Fearless-Mudra (Abhaya Mudra)” so as to depict her as the “Protector” of the world from the evils whereas the lower right hand is posed in a way as if to offer her blessings to all (“Bar-Mudra”). The Deity is blue in colour and made of wood derived from “Neem” tree. The room beneath the Central Minar has a white marbled “Shiv linga”

 Band of musicians, terracotta panel,  Ananta Vasudev Temple, Bansberia

Band of musicians, terracotta panel, Ananta Vasudev Temple, Bansberia

The inner chamber is connected to all the 13 domes through narrow passageways, said to represent the nerves of a human body.

It forms a complex maze and entry to the passageways is restricted for tourists and pilgrims.

With its unique shape, Hanseswari  stands out among Bengal temples. The 21-metre high, five-storeyed Hanseshwari temple has 13 domes shaped like lotus buds.

The structure has similarities with St Basil’s Cathedral in Moscow, which is also known as the onion dome church.

Next to the Hanseswari Temple is the Ananta Basudev Temple (also called Ananta Basudeva Temple). It was constructed by Rameshwar Datta in 1679.

 An intricate terracotta panel from Ananta Basudev Temple, Bansberia, Hooghly

An intricate terracotta panel from Ananta Basudev Temple, Bansberia, Hooghly

The Ananta Basudev Temple follows the typical eek – ratna style of Bengal Temple Architecture, where the temple is crowned with a single pinnacle. The pinnacle of the Ananta Basudev Temple is octagonal.

  Dancers, Terracotta Panel, Ananta Basudev Temple

Dancers, Terracotta Panel, Ananta Basudev Temple

The Rameswar Temple in nearby Guptipara also follows the also follows the eek – ratna plan with an octagonal pinnacle.

Three sides of the temple along with the pinnacle is covered with finest terracotta. Terracotta so intricate that it inspired the great poet Rabindranath Tagore.

Moved by the art, the poet had asked Nandalal Bose to document the panels on the temple walls.

The terracotta panels of Anata Basudev Temple contains an interesting mix, covering religious figures like Kali, Durga and Krishna along with panels of boats & ships, dancing girls, scenes from war and last but not least scenes from daily life.

  Terracotta panels of Ships, Hanseswari Temple, Bansberia, Hooghly

Terracotta panels of Ships, Hanseswari Temple, Bansberia, Hooghly

The Datta Roy mansion stands next to the temple complex. The mansion is more or less intact but its a private propert and tourist and pilgrims are not allowed inside the complex.

Panoramic view of Hanseswari Temple, Bansberia, Hooghly

Panoramic view of Hanseswari Temple, Bansberia, Hooghly

Bansberia is located 48km from Howrah, is an hour’s journey along the Howrah – Bandel – Katwa rail line. Take a morning train for a comfortable journey. A short bumpy rickshaw ride from the station will take you to the temple complex, which houses two unique pieces of Bengal architecture.

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  1. October 12, 2016 at 1:50 PM

    Nice.. Thank you for sharing with us.

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