Home > Bengal Archeology, Bengal History, General, Purulia, Wiki Explores Purulia, Wikipedia > Pakbirra, remains of a temple town in Purulia District

Pakbirra, remains of a temple town in Purulia District

Pakbirra

Remains of a temple town in Purulia District

See also: Wiki Explores Purulia

Historical records suggest that during the 10th – 13th century a flourishing Jain settlement flourished in the western part of West Bengal covering the present districts of Purulia, Bankura and Jhargram. During this period they have built numerous brick and stone temples, following the Oriya Duel style architecture.

Pakbira 2

The giant Jain Tirthankara statue in Pakbirra, Purulia District

Purulia had the largest concentration of these Jain Temples although many of them have crumbled to dust but a hand full have survived the test of time and still towers above the rural landscape of Purulia district. These towering temples, built of both brick and stone, can still be seen in the villages of Para, Deulghata, Deuli and Banda.

Pakbira 1

The three temples of Pakbirra, Purulia District

Probably the largest concentration of these temples, built between 9 th – 13 th century AD, were in Telkupi and Pakbirra (or Pakhbira or Pakbira) regions. According to Joseph David Beglar, an Armenian-Indian engineer, archaeologist and photographer, who explored Manbhum region in 1870s reported the presence of 22 temples in Telkupi and 21 temples in Pakbirra.

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Pakbirra Museum, Purulia District

The temples of Telkupi has long been swallowed up by the emerging waters of the Panchet Dam.

Today three semi submerged (fully submerged during monsoon) temples are all that remains of Telkupi.

Although there are no dams near Pakbirra, but the temples have suffered the same fate as Telkupi.

Out of the 21 temples, 19 of which were of stone, reported by Beglar only 3 stands to this day. More over large portions of the three surviving temples have been reconstructed in recent times. Sadly the newly constructed upper portion lacks the grace and beauty of its older lower part.

Pakbira 4

Pakbirra Museum, Purulia District

Like any other historical site in Purulia district in scattered with stone and brick fragments from collapsed temples and the scattered statues in Pakbirra region far outnumber those in any other region.

Among the numerous statues of Pakbirra, the one that stands out is the giant 7.5 feet high statue of a Jain Tirthankara. The nude statue is in the standing position of  kayotsarga mudra.

Sadly the identification symbol at the pedestal has long eroded away, making it almost impossible to identify the Tirthankara. According to some expert it is of Sitalnath while other opine it is of Padmaprabha.

Pakbira 5

Today the statue is being worshiped by the local as Lord Shiva and is known as Bhirabnath. The statue is worshiped on a daily bais and is kept in the open. Luckily the other statues of Pakbirra have been removed inside a recently constructed museum (much larger than the one in Suisa)

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Sahastra Pata, Pakbirra Museum

Recently the three temples, the giant statue and the museum have been enclosed in a compound. Further the three temples are enclosed with low fences, this was absolutely not required.

The front two temples are similar in shape and size while the third, located little further away, is similar in shape but much smaller in size. None of the temples have an ornamental gateway.

The first temple houses a statue of 16th Jain Tirthankara Santinath. The second has a statue of the first Jain Tirthankara Rishavnath. The third temple is empty.

Previously the complex contained sevral statues but after the construction of the museum the statues, excepting the giant statue of Jain Tirthankara, has ben removed in the museum.

The museum is housed in a large octagonal room and the statues are arranged in two concentric circles. Many of the statues are fairly intact but in few cases only fragments of the statues exists.  Also apart from Jain Tirthankars there are statues of dancing ladies and of couples. There are also statues of Ambika, Ganesha and many more.

An interesting artifact is the Sahastra Pata, a panel consisting of Jain Tirthnkar statues. 16 rows have 24 small Tirthankara sculptures. The central 8 sculptures of 2 rows are replaced with a sculpture of the first Tirthankara Rishavnath in sitting posture. Sadly the top corner of this unique stone plaque has been broken.

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Assortment of statues at the Pakbirra Museum, Purulia District

Finally, after years of neglect in the open air, the statues of Pakbirra have finally find a home, hope more statues from the surrounding can be moved into the museum.

Note: This tour was part of Wiki Explores Purulia and was funded by Wikipedia West Bengal User Group

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  1. Kaushik Ray
    January 23, 2019 at 11:57 AM

    Engaging article. Well researched, lucid writing and has made me desire to visit the place.

  2. April 8, 2019 at 9:18 PM

    Ruin heritage of bengal is garpanchakot.
    Visit us http://www.exploretours.in/garpanchakot-the-ruined-heritage/

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