Home > Bengal Archeology, Bengal Festival, Bengal History, General > Jatar Deul and finally the Horse Race

Jatar Deul and finally the Horse Race

Horse Race at Jatar Deul

Kankandighi, Raidighi, 24 Parganas (South)

Also see: Jatar Deul and the Illusive Horse Race

It was the second day of the Bengali new year 1420 (16 April 2011), my friend Amitabha Gupta and I headed for the Jatar Deul to witness the horse race. After a 4 + hour journey via train, auto and motor van we finally made it to Jatar Deul only to be informed that the horse race has been postponed to 25 Baikash (9 May) because of Elections.

Galloping past cheering crowd, horse race at Jatar Deul

Galloping past cheering crowd, horse race at Jatar Deul

Amitabha and I decided to retrace out steps back to Jatar Deul for the illusive horse race. On 9thMay we repeated our 5 hours long journey only to be informed that the race was called off due to unofficial reasons. (Also see: Jatar Deul and the Illusive Horse Race)

Jatar Deul, Kakandighi, 24 Pargs (S)

Jatar Deul, Kakandighi, 24 Pargs (S)

Although we missed out the horse race but the towering temple with beautiful ornamentation of terracotta bricks was something very unique to Bengal Temple Architecture.

Fair Ground, next to Jatar Deul Complex

Fair Ground, next to Jatar Deul Complex

The temple complex containing the lone towering Deul surrounded by eucalyptus and banyan trees. The Deul creates a striking contrast against the agricultural fields that surround it. The temple is declared a monument of National Importance and is maintained by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI).

It rises to a height of 65 feet and stands on a base measuring 25 feet by 25 feet. The eastern wall is provided with an arched gateway leading to the inner sanctum, which is located below the ground level.

The discovery of Jatar Deul dates back to the middle of the nineteenth century when land surveyors stumble upon a towering brick structure in the midst of the Sundarban. The structure was surrounded with dense forest and was itself covered with thick vegetation.

Horses being paraded before the start of the race, with towering Jatar Deul in background[

Horses being paraded before the start of the race, with towering Jatar Deul in background[

So who constructed the temple in the heart of one of the densest forest in the world? What was the purpose of construction? When was it constructed? Was this part of a remarkable civilization that once flourished in Southern Bengal? Historians are unable to come up with any concrete conclusion

Crowds cheer a horse, heading for the starting line

Crowds cheer a horse, heading for the starting line[

A copper plate found near the temple in 1875 suggest that Raja Joychandra constructed the temple in 975 AD. The plate has long been missing and absence of any other historical records on Joycahndra has still kept the historians in the dark.

Less than a year after our visit to Jatar Deul an ASI excavation unearthed huge structures adjoining the Jatar Deul temple, including a jagamohana in the style of the Odiya temples.

Today a ASI board at the entrance of Jatar Deul claims that the temple was constructed in the 11th century.

Six years have passed and due to unknown and unavoidable reasons I have not been able to visit the Jatar Deul for the horse race.

Horse Race, Jatar Deul

Horse Race, Jatar Deul[

Finally in 2017 it was time to turn the illusive horse race of Jatar Deul into a reality. This time I was accompanied by veteran travel writer Uttara di, reasearch scholar Debika and blogger couple Amrita and Agni.

After more than four hours of journey, including a stop over for a basic but delicious lunch, we finally made it to Jatar Deul.

Unlike my previous visit, the whole area represented a fair ground, with make shift food stalls. There were also vendors selling balloons and other toys.

In front of the temple was the newly excavated ruins, representing the jagamohana. The towering temple simple looked grand with the clouded sky in the backdrop.

A collage of scenes form the Horse Race at Jatar Deul, Kankandighi, 24 Pargs (S)

A collage of scenes form the Horse Race at Jatar Deul, Kankandighi, 24 Pargs (S)[

Soon we were out into the agricultural fields adjoining the Jatar Deul complex. The paddy has recently been harvested and the ground was very uneven.

 Heading for the finish line, Horse Race, Jatar Deul

Heading for the finish line, Horse Race, Jatar Deul[

The owner  of the horses along with the jockeys, mostly boys in their early teens, paraded the horses (some were mules) in front of the cheering crowds.

The horse race management informed us that there were a total of 20 horses and there will be several races and a complex point system (which we didn’t understand) will determine the winners.

The race track (in fact there was no track at all) covered a huge area through freshly harvested, uneven agricultural fields.

The horses had no saddle or stirrup and the jockeys, mostly boys in early teens, held on the horse by means of a bicycle wheel tube. There was no defined track and horses ran past cheering crowds, standing inches away from the galloping horses.

The rider has collapsed, but the horse gallops on, Horse Race, Jatar Deul, Kankandighi, near Raidighi, 24 Pargs (S)

The rider has collapsed, but the horse gallops on, Horse Race, Jatar Deul, Kankandighi, near Raidighi, 24 Pargs (S)

The races began at about 4:30 pm and we witnessed three races (there were two more) before calling it a day at about 5:30 pm, only to return home past 10:30 pm.

Necessary Info:

Getting There: 

  • Train: Sealdah (South) – Mathurapur Road (Time: 1 1/2 hour, fare: Rs 15)
  • Auto: Mathurapur Road – Raidighi (Time: 45 mins, Fare: Rs20, each auto takes 7 / 8 persons)
  • Motor Van: Raidighi – Kankandighi (Time: 30 mins, Fare: Rs 10)

Places to eat: Raidighi has several basic eateries, serving basic but delicious food. The fairground at Jatar Deul offers an amazing assortment of fast food.

Note: If you are planning to cover the whole of the horse race it is better to take a car from Kolkata, otherwise you can check in at a hotel in Raidighi. Raidighi has several basic hotels.

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  1. August 18, 2017 at 11:44 AM

    Too Many people with urban dress. Also, the race takes place quite far from the Deul. Definitely not the scenario which we imagined six years ago to get our prized photo of a solitary horseman with the Deul very close in the backdrop. Maybe six years ago it was possible, but not now. However, it is good to see you finally witnessed the horse race at Jatar Deul.

    • September 8, 2017 at 8:41 AM

      Dear Amitabha, don’t quiet agree with you for the first part of the comment. The horse race has still a very strong local flavour and there are hardly any photographers.

      Its true that the raace takes place quiet far from the Jatar Deul and our imagination of the prized shoot prized photo of a solitary horseman with the Deul is never possible.

      But its true that I finally witnessed the long cherished horse race at Jatar Deul and it was a dream come true.

  1. May 4, 2017 at 2:57 PM

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