A Day out in the Land of Terracotta Part 2
A short distance away from the Jorbangla temple is the Shyam-Rai temple. The first thing which caught our attention is the five pinnacles of the temple. Hence the temple is also named as Paachchura or Pancharatna (meaning five gems) temple based on the number of pinnacles or sikhars. It was a big surprise to note evidence of Islamic architectural influence in the temple which we had not seen in any other temple. The curved ceiling of the temple resembles Islamic architectural pattern. We were glad to see the Indo-Islamic architecture in Bengal that was built in 1643 AD by Malla king Raghunath Singh. The beautiful terracotta sculptures on the interior and exterior walls, walkways including the towers are amazing. The terracotta ornamentations took us in past royal life where we can see royal hunting sights, royal musicians, dancers etc. Scenes of Ramayana and Mahabharata were also included in the terracotta sculpture. We were mostly spellbound by the finest display of sculpture depicting the Rasmandala in the Krishna Leela and the dancing Gopis.
Shyam-Rai Temple, Bishnupur
Garh Darja, Pathar Darja(Small Gateway and Main Gateway of Bishnupur) and Stone Chariot
Driving through the serpentine lanes of the town living besides the mystic houses which were seeming to be very old we literally felt that we reached the bygone age where the conch shell horned from the Rajbari (King’s house) antar-mahals. The drumstick sounded for an announcement may be for any occasion. Suddenly our spell was cut short when we encountered a stone gate in the middle of the open space of the road. Our guide informed that this is known as the Garh Darja (Small Gateway) of the ancient fort.
Garh / Pathar Darja, Bishnupur
It is an amazing fact that canon was once fired in the air from here for celebrating the Durga Puja (Bengal’s most famous celebration). At the north-east part of this gateway we could find a small stone chariot. The marvelous piece of art of 17th century was made of laterite stone.
Little ahead of this we stopped at a giant stone gate which named Pathar Darja (Big Gateway), the gateway of Bishnupur. The gate also has a huge terrace which may have been used for guarding the city. Our overenthusiastic guide indicated that there is a secret chamber on its top floor and it was where soldiers used to pounce on their enemies with deadly weapons whoever made any unauthorized attempt to encroach the city.
Lalji temple, Madan Mohan temple and Radhe Shyam temple
Entering through the immense gate we stepped into a grass meadow lane and found an eka-ratna (one-pinnacled) temple. It is known as Lalji temple, built by Bir Singh 2 of Malla dynasty in 1658 AD. The main specialty of the temple is its pinnacle. It is the Bengal’s ‘Ratna’ type architecture. Traces of intricate terracotta ornamentation on parts of the arched openings of the temple indicates its bygone architectural glory.
Lalji Temple, Bishnupur
Madan Mohan Temple
A little drive from Lalji temple took us to another terracotta wonder, Madan Mohan temple. The temple is one of the largest temples in Bishnupur. It was constructed by Malla king Durjana Singh in 1694 A.D. The temple has triple entrance and a Chandimandap (a place where elderly males of the village supposed to gather and discuss about the current situation, any problem etc.) inside the complex and just opposite to the temple. Lord Madan Mohan (an incarnation of Lord Vishnu) is the deity of the temple. Terracotta ornamentations on the walls of the temple are unforgettable wonders.
Madan Mohan Temple
Our next terracotta destination was Radhe Shyam temple. Built in 1758 by Malla king Chaitanya Singh, the temple is unique in its shape. The tripled arched gateway of the temple with dome like structure and open window on it reminds shenai might be played from here. The small tulsi manch inside the temple complex resembles traditional Bengali houses with tulsi manch in the courtyard. The art works in the temple wall especially Lord Vishnu’s Annatasajjya is having unforgettable visual effect.
Thinking of the past glory of Malla rajas we moved towards our next destination, Dalmadol Canon. A board near the huge iron canon mentioned the historical importance of it. It was mentioned that when the Marathas from the west attacked Bishnupur during 1742 Lord Madan Mohan himself fired the canon and saved the people. Our temple hopping was not completed until we visited the Dalmadol Canon and visualized the faith and devotion of the inhabitants’ for Lord Madan Mohan. This devotion might have been one of the contributing factors for leading them to pursuit creative excellence and architectural prowess to erect such terracotta wonders which are standing tall through the ages.
Dalmadol Canon, Bishnupur
While returning back along with the terracotta treasure memories I purchased a finely-crafted clay Bankura horse. One more famous item we found here was Baluchari sari hand woven by the local artists. The craft of weaving Baluchari sari is one of the major means of livelihood of the people here. The sari is woven from silk threads with scenes of Ramayana or Mahabharata woven all over the border and palla. Along with terracotta art this piece of art is also resplendent.
How to reach Bishnupur :
- By Air: From Netaji Subash International Airport one can book a cab. It would take 3 to 4 hrs to reach Bishnupur via NH2.
- By Rail: Rupasi Bangla Express, Purulia Express, Aranyak Express from Howrah station.
- By Bus: Calcuta State Transport Corporation (CSTC), South Bengal State Transport Corporation (SBSTC) buses are regularly plying to Bishnupur from Esplande (Dharamtala), Kolkata.
Photography: Indranil Mutsuddi