Forgotten Mansions and Temples
See also: My blog post Mitra Mustafi Trilogy
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
This also lead to the development of a distinctive temple architecture, where God’s didn’t dwell in towering structure but in structures similar to the homes of common man. Thatched roof soon became an indispensible part of Bengal Temple Architecture.
Independence Day Celebration, 18 August
Shivnibas (Shivniwas), Nadia, West Bengal, India
Independence Day Celebration 18 August!!!! Its not a typo but result of a cartographic error made by Sir Cyril Radcliffe 66 years ago.
It was 15 August 1947 and Independence of India, but the independence came with the horrors of partitions, forming the two new domains of India and Pakistan.
The Archeological Survey of India (ASI) website describes it as the Palpara Brick Temple, while the locals call it the Moth Mandir, Kali Mandir or even Shiv Mandir. The seventeenth century temple has long been abundant. It is recently been restored by the ASI and declared as a Monument of National Importance.
The brick built south facing char – chala temple (four sloped roofs meeting at a pinnacle) stands on a raised plinth and is believed to be built by Gandharba Roy in seventeenth century, although the foundation plaque containing necessary information like name of founder and year of foundation has long been lost. The temple standing on a square base, and crowned with the four sloping roofs, rises to a height of 21 meters.
Mita Mustafi Family Trilogy
Ula Birnagar, Sukharia and Sripur
In the early 18th century Rameshwar Mitra of Ula, worked as the Auditor General in the court of Murshid Kuli Khan in Murshidabad. In 1704 Rameswar Mitra received official Mustaufi title from Emperor Aurangzeb in Delhi.
Rameswar Mitra made a huge fortune and constructed several mansions and temples in ULa, which later came on to be known as Ula Birnagar.
Some of the early brick temples of Bengal was built in the form of thatched hut and came to be known as the Bangla Temple. The architects soon started making more elaborate temples by joining two Bangla temples side by side, which came to be known as the Jora – Bangla style.
Sadly only a few Bangla and Jora – Bangla temple have survived the test of time and can be still seen to this day. The Mitra – Mustafi family temple, at Ula Birnagar, can be considered as one of the finest example of Jora – Bangla Temple of West Bengal.
Built in 1694 the temple, is approached by a triple arched entrance, and has elaborate terracotta decoration of the front side. Panels includes, scenes from Krishna Lila, Ramayan, Gods & Goddesses and scenes from social life.
Sadly the Mitra Mustafi Mansion have long crumbled to dust and the famed Chandi Mandap with elaborate wood carvings lies in utter neglect. A branch of the Mitra Mustafi family still stays in Ula Birnagar in a small newly constructed house. Read more…
Rameswar Mitra’s son Anantaram Mitra left Ula and settled in Sukharia in 1712. Anatram also built a huge mansion in Sukharia along with several temples. The mansion is in ruins and many of the temples have been converted into modern structures and in the process loosing their beauty and grace.
The 25 pinnacled Anandabhirabi Temple is the star attraction of Sukharia. The approach to the Ananda Bhairavi Temple, housing the idol of Anandamoyee Kali, is flanked by two parallel rows containing six temples each. Five of the temples on each row are of aat – chala (8 sloped roofs) type while one each are of pnacha – ratna (5 pinnacled) type. One of the panch – ratna temple is dedicated to Ganesh while the rest nine houses shiva – lingas. The temple has under gone several renovations and reconstruction and in the process lost much of its beauty and grace.
Hara Sundari Temple, built in 1813 is a naba – ratna (9 pinnacled) temple has a approach similar to Ananda Bhairabi Temple only in this case each row consist of a total of seven temples consisting of two pancha – ratna and five aat – chalas temples. This temple has recently been restored by the Mitra Mustafi Family. Also read Sukharia Travelogue and Restoration of Sukharia Temples
In 1708 Rameshwar Mitra’s eldest son Raghunandan also left Ula and settled in Sripur. Taking advantage of the river trade he soon made a fortune and established a fort complex complete with several temples and other religious structures decorated with elaborate and intricate wood curving. The fort has long crumbled into dust but a few of the temples have survived the test of time and can still be seen to this day.
The fort complex contains a Rash Mancha and several temples, but the star attraction of the complex is the Chandi Mandap, with its intricate wooden carvings.
The Chandi Mandap constructed in 1707 by the Mitra Mustafi family, has recently been declared a protected monument. The hay thatched roof has been replaced with corrugated sheet, thus robbing it of its former beauty and grace. But the real wonder lies inside the Mandap, where the Durga Pujo is held to this day. The three walls of the Chandi Mandap are decorated with the most intricate wood curved panels. The wooden panels are very similar to the terracotta panels that dot the walls of the numerous temples of Bengal. But the wood work is not restricted to the panels alone. The pillars and the roof beams are curved with the finest floral, geometric & figurative designs.
The century old boat industry still survives, but is only restricted to small boats. The banks all along the Hooghly in Sripur is lined with boat making workshops. Read more…
Special Thanks: Mr Shyamal Mitra of Mitra Mustafi family.
- Banglar Mandir Sathpathya O Bashkarjya by Pronab Roy
- Hooghly Jelar Purakirti by Naredrnath Bhattacharya
- Mitra Mustafi Family History
Refrence from my Blog:
Reference from my Website:
List of my Blog entry on West Bengal
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
Links from my Personal Website:
List of my Blog entry on West Bengal