~ Temples and Mansions ~
Bawali, a non – descriptive village just off the Diamond Harbour Road (DH rd) from Amtala, is home to towering temples and palatial mansions.
History books tell us that the Mondals of Bawali were originally Roys. Shovaram, the grandson of Basudev Roy (who lived between the end of 16th century and the early 17th century), was awarded the title Mondal. Shovaram’s grandson Rajaram was the senapati of the Raja of Hijli. Moved by his bravery, the raja offered him the ownership of 50 villages, which included Bowali and Budge Budge.
The family set up residence in Bawali. This marked the beginning of their dominance in the area, roughly around 1710. The family flourished under Rajaram’s grandson Haradhan, who enjoyed the patronage of East India Company. He built many temples and his seven sons followed in his footsteps, turning the nondescript village into a temple town.
Today Bowali is well connected by road from Amtala on Diamond Harbour Road (DH rd.) by a bumpy trekker ride of 45 minutes. The towering Gopinath Temple, built in nabaratna style, dominates the Bowali skyline. In front of the temple is a flat – roofed natmandir, whose roof has long colapsed. All that remains are the slender pillars and arches.
In front of the ruined natmandir is a circular platform, which once housed the octagonal Rashmancha. The Rashmancha collapsed during the 2008 monsoon and the platform is all that remains of the spectacular octagonal structure.
Behind the temple lies the Radha-Kanta and Lakshmi-Janardan temples, both built in traditional aat – chala style. Sadly they are overgrown with vegetation and almost inaccessible. Scattered around the temples are several decapitated structures, including the remains of a Dolmancha. Large portions of the Dolamancha have already collapsed making it inaccessable.
Next to Gopinath temple is the Radhaballav temple. This structure is well maintained. Built around 1857, it houses the idols of all the surrounding abandoned temples. The two-storeyed Mondal Villa is next door. The plaster has peeled off and several portions are on the verge of collapse. There is no trace of the landscaped garden that once surrounded it.
Bawali also has an interesting architectural piece called the jal tungi (water folly). An octagonal structure, built at the centre of a pond, with ornamental railings and windows with Venetian blinds. The folly with slender columns and a long flight of stairs, approachable by boat from a ghat, allowed the Mondals to enjoy the evening breeze.
The ghat is a 15-minute walk from the temple complex. The railings and the windows of the folly did not survive the test of time and the waters of the pond are now covered by water hyacinth. But the jal tungi still stands and so does the ghat, reminding one of the glorious past of Bawali.
If you are planning a day trip to Bawali, hurry, for the forces of nature and human neglect would soon turn the attractions of the village into dust.
- Dakshin Chabis Pargana Jelar Purakirti by Sagar Chattopadhyay
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