Minar (Tower) and Masjid (Mosque)
Pundooah, the name normally refers to the twin city of Gour, now in Malda, which was once the capital of Bengal. Much closer to Calcutta, in the district of Hooghly lie another Pundooah. Both these places contain interesting historical relics.
The smaller version, at Hooghly, contains a five-storied minar (tower) and the ruins of an ancient mosque. It is just 61 km from Howrah and can be reached by the Burdwan Local via main line in one and half hour.
Chandraketugarh & Khana Mihirer Dhipi
~ Fort of the Mythical King & Mound of the Legendary Mathematicians ~
In 1907 a young Bengali archaeologist made an extensive survey of the Berachampa region near Barasat. He submitted a report and suggested an extensive excavation. A decade and half later the he made history by excavating the ruins of Mohenjo daro. Yes its Rakhal Das Bandyopadhyay!!! But sadly the mound of Chandraketugarh still lies unexcavated even after a century after its discovery.
According to archaeologists Chandraketugarh was a prosperous urban settlement that flourished during the 4th century BC to the 12 century AD. The period ranged from the yearly Mauryan to the late Pala rule.
Dihar ~ Ruined Twin Temples
Near Bishnupur, Bankura, West Bengal
Located 8 km from Bishnupur, on the Bishnupur – Sonamukhi highway, the village of Dihar houses two ruined but majestic temples. Both the temples are dedicated to Lord Shiva and are known as Sareswar and Saileswar. A Nandi Bull guards the entrance of Sareswar Temple.
Boxes Full of History
Asad Uj Jaman’s Collection of Chandraketugarh Artifact
See Also: My blog post on Chandraketugarh and Khana Mihirer Dhipi
One by one the boxes came, ordinary plastic boxes with extraordinary content!!!!! small terracotta piece few wrapped in cotton wool and few others in newspapers but most of them bare, but strangely these pieces dates back far beyond the days of Christ.
Mahisasuramardini on Bengal Terracotta
~ A compilation on Mahisasuramardani panels on Bengal Terracotta Temples ~
See also: Mahabharata on Bengal Terracotta
Mythology presents goddess Durga as the genius of destruction springing into existence on occasion to fight out destroy the evil forces jeopardising the values and virtues of the earth and also posing threats to god’s creation.
Mahisasurmardini, one of the most popular form of goddesses Durga, is described as a slayer of the bull – shaped monster Mahisasur, who challenged the ocean and the Himalayas. Mahishasur is said to be like a roaring cloud and regarded as a Danava and Asura. Mahishasur was like a storm capable of defeating the in battle, till such time goddess caused his slain.
The most popular form of Durga appearing on on Bengal Terracotta Temple is the episode of slaying the buffalo demon (Mahishasur). Durga riding her vehicle, lion is mostly accompanied by her daughters and sons, namely Lakshmi, Saraswati, Kartik and Ganesh.
The Mahisasuramardini motif is common on many of the late medieval brick temples of Bengal, irrespective of the worshiped deity to which the temple belongs.
Gokulchand Temple, Gokulnagar
~ Fortified Stone Temple ~
Stone has always been in short supply in the vast flood plains of Bengal. Hence the architects had to restore to other substitute. As clay was easily available the burnt clay bricks soon became a good substitute of stone. This gave rise to a new form of temple architecture and lead to the construction of elaborately decorated terracotta temples giving Bengal a place in the world tourist map.
Although numerous brick terracotta temples dot the entire Gangatic West Bengal but they are not the only form of temple architecture. Stone temples do exists in West Bengal and are mainly concentrated in the western region of the state and adds a new dimension to Bengal Temple Architecture.
Brick and Stone Temples
Stone has always been in short supply in the vast flood plains of Bengal. Hence the architects had to restore to other substitute. As clay was easily available the burnt clay bricks soon became a good substitute of stone. This gave rise to a new form of temple architecture and lead to the construction of elaborately decorated terracotta temples. The terracotta art reached its pinnacle under the patronage of the Malla Kings of Bishnupur during the seventeenth century. The temples are still there turning Bishnupur into one of the most favored tourist spot in West Bengal.
But the tourist attraction of Bishnupur are not restricted to Bishnupur alone. Several non – descriptive towns and villages, located within 50 km radius of Bishnupur, have the distinction of housing some of the spectacular terracotta and stone temples of the state.
So next time in Bishnupur don’t give this places a miss.
Recently the West Bengal Government is taken of the initiative of turning Kulpi into a port, but the history of Kulpi and the Hooghly River trade dates back several centuries. Abandoned light houses and forgotten graves reminds one of the glourious days of the Hooghly river trade.
Kulpi is located about 10 km south of the popular tourist spot of Diamond Harbour. Diamond Harbour is well connected from Calcutta (Kolkata) by rail & road. Kulpi can also be reached directly by bus heading for Namkhana or Kakdip.
Get down at Shyam Bose Chlak at Kulpi, cross the road and take a brick paved road heading towards the river Hooghly. The road meanders through agricultural fields and village huts towards the river Hooghly. Locally called the Milatary Road, probably named, because it lead to a small fort by the river. The Fort has long been swallowed by the river Hooghly but the name “Milatery Road” has some how survived the test of time.
Soon two tower like structures appear in the horizon. There elegant structure and shape distinguishes them from the numerous brick kiln chimneys that dot the Hooghly River bank.
One on the right of the road (pic right) dates back to the days of East India Company. Towering to a height of 25 feet it is probably less than half its original height. Measuring 10 feet in circumference, it probably acted as a lighthouse guiding ships along the Hooghly.
A little away on the left hand side of the road lies another tower like structure. Probably built just before independence this structure does not have much historical value. Much slender than its older counterpart but measuring lesser in circumference, the tower still contains few metal hooks on its outside, probably used for climbing to the top.
Head south along the Hooghly but sadly the river is out of view as the bank is lined with brick kilns. Cross a narrow canal, with several anchored boats. leading to the Hooghly. Just after the canal the path leads to the village of Durganagar, housing a strange baro – chal (12 sloped roofs) structure. Baro – chala is an extremely rare form of Bengal temple structure, where the standard aat – chala (4 sloped roofs) is toped with anothe smaller char – chal (4 sloped roofs) structure.
Strangely this structure is not a Hindu temple but a grave of a converted Christian lady. Sagar Chattapodhay in his book “Dakhin 24 Pargan r Purakirti” describes it as the “Manna Bibi r Gore,” the grave of Manna Bibi, a grave of local lady who married a Portuguese sailor or soldier.
The structure have no European or Portuguese influence. Although historical records suggest the finding of a terracotta idol (7 inches in length) of a Portuguese soldier from near the structure. Sadly the idol have long been missing. Trees have almost covered the entire upper part of the structure making it difficult to understand the unique details.
Locals are totally unaware of the historical significance of the structure, and believe it to be an abandoned Hindu temple, which later on functioned as a lighthouse for the ships on Hooghly. Although there are historical evidences of the structure serving as a lighthouse but there are no evidences of being a Hindu Temple. A little bit of interaction with the locals will lead to strange stories of hidden treasures buried deep inside the structure!!!!!
Sadly the strange temple like structure housing the remains of an unknown lady, lies in utter neglect. The roots of the trees have made their entry deep in the structure brining it on the verge of collapse, its a miracle that the structure still stands.
- Dakshin Chabis Pargana Jelar Purakirti by Sagar Chattopadhyay
For centuries, a 30-ft mound spread over 1,300 sq ft, has stood at Bamunpukur, a village near Mayapur. The locals call it Ballal Dhipi, named after Ballal Sen, of the Sen dynasty, who ruled Bengal in the late 12th Century AD. It was only in the late 1970s that the mound attracted the attention of Archaeological Survey of India (ASI).
ASI started digging the area in the early 1980s. The work was carried out in two phases — in 1982-83 and 1988-99. The excavation revealed a gigantic brick structure in an extensive yard surrounded by walls. Stucco heads, terracotta human and animal figurines, copper utensils and other objects were found at the site.
It is evident that the structure on top was built over an earlier one. Archaeologists have found traces of renovation and superimposition over the remains of a temple complex. But archaeologist and historians are yet to come to any concrete conclusion about the ruins.
Conclusion about the ruins of Ballal Dhipi:
- From the structure it is evident that the upper structure was built over earlier existing structure. Historians also agree and according to them the upper remains dating back to the 12th century AD was built over an earlier structure dating back to the 8th and 9th century AD. Archaeologists have found traces of renovation and superimposition of structures revealing the remains of a Temple complex datable to the 12th century AD.
- Historians even opine the ruins to be the remains of the lost city of Vijapur, the capital of the Sen dynasty. Vijapur founded by Vijay Sen, father of Ballal Sen, was an advanced urban centre and a metropolis of Sen family. A plaque by Vijay Sen, found in Debpara, text from Pavandoot written by Dhoyi, court poet of Laxman Sen (son of Ballal Sen) and text from Adbhutsagar written by Ballal Sen and Laxman Sen, bolster this claim.
- The site is made of solid terracotta bricks, while the floor is made of lime and sand. The tiles and bricks have remarkable
resembles with those found in Vikramshila Vihar, in Bihar and Shompur Vihar, in Rajshahi, Bangladesh.
- The cause of destruction of such a magnificent citadel is not known. As most of the statues and images found were broken, the historians attribute the downfall to human hands. However, possibility of destruction due to natural calamity is not altogether ruled out. Finally historians attribute the downfall on a combination of both natural calamity and human hands.
Trip to Ballal Dhipi: Ballal Dhipi is located on the Krishnagar _ Mayapur road in the Nadia District of West Bengal. Ballal Dhipi is about 125 km from Calcutta (Kolkata). It is best reached by Krishnagar Local followed by a bus journey towards the the well known pilgrimage of Mayapur.
Get down at Bamunpukur Bazar about 10 km before Mayapur. Cross the road and a road leads to the Mound of Ballal Sen. The blue board of ASI, declaring it as a Monument of National Importance, welcomes one to the historical site. The site is remarkably well preserved. A flight of stairs takes you to the top of the mound. On the left are some minor structures but the gigantic structure lies on the right. The structure on the right contains a stucco stone head of a crocodile. Located at a lower portion of the wall it probably served as a water outlet. Sadly this is the only stucco-work in the entire site. The other stucco stone and terracotta figures along with other artifacts have been removed to the Asutosh Museum of Calcutta University.
On the top of the dhipi (mound) the stairs merges to a brick path leading you straight inside the gigantic structure. It ultimately leads to a narrow roof-less passage flanked by high walls on either side, leading you to the backside of the structure, offering a gigantic view of the structure. Apart from the central structure the extensive yard is surrounded on all side by an enclosure wall. The wall, which exists only in fragments in decorated with beautiful brickwork. The wall, which is several feet thick in some places, is enough to explain the sheer magnitude of the structure.
It is a pity that not many people are aware of the wonder of Ballal Dhipi, on the other hand it is a blessing in disguise as you are likely to have the entire archaeological site all to yourself.
- Nadia Jelar Purakirti by Mohit Roy and edited by Amiya Bandopadhyay and Sudhir Ranjan Das.
- Next weekend you can be at … Ballal Dhipi by Somen Sengupta, The Telegraph 10 April 2005.
- My article on Ballal Dhipi from www.historyofbengal.com
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