Bishnupur a tiny hamlet in the Bankura district of West Bengal. This place is well known among tourists and a visit here will definitely leave anyone awestruck.
Brief History of Bishnupur
This place is the terracotta marvel of India.Beautiful majestic temples comprising of intricate designs are made from baked clay and stands testimony to the fact that there is much more in India unexplored and unknown.
Bishnupur has a lot of terracotta temples and each one is a marvel in its own way since you don’t want to miss any of the temples, you should take a guide from the Govt. guest house in Bishnupur. It is always a good idea to hire a guide since the guides are knowledgeable and can tell you the history and the anecdotes associated with each temple .
How would you go there ?
Bishnupur is easily accessible by road from Kolkata(Just 132km). Express or Local Trains like Rupashi Bangla Express, Aranyak Express and Purulia Express are also available from Howrah Station. It will take 3.30 to 4.15 hours to reach Bishnupur via Kharagpur and Medinipur.
5 Major places to visit
You have to buy your tickets from the ticket counter at Rasmancha. As far I can remember per person ticket charge was INR 5 and photography was free of any charges. You need to preserve this ticket to gain entry to all the terracotta temples monitored by ASI. Rasmancha is a beautiful structure with lateral arches supported by pillars. The base of the structure rests on a raised late-rite platform. Established in 1600 AD by the Malla King Hambhir, in the earlier era during the Vaisnava Ras festival, all the Radha Krisna idols of Bishnupur town used to be brought here and worshipped.
The interesting thing about the temole is that it has only a single chamber, the sanctum sanctorum, with an elongated tower, surrounded by hut shaped turrets. A passageway surrounds it and some large cannons found here date back to the Malla period.Words will fall short in describing the utter beauty and class of this terracotta masterpiece.
- Madan Mohan Temple
One of the beautiful temples is Madan Mohan temple and it is still functional though it also falls under ASI Protection. This temple is built on the “ekratna”(meaning single pinnacle)style. The roof is flat rectangular with lightly pressed corners giving it the typical Bengal thatched roof style. On the roof is a single pinnacle and hence the ekaratna style of architecture. This temple has intricate stories of Puranas and Ramayanas beautifully inscribed on the terracotta tablets. One should take plenty of time to marvel at this wonderful “Jugalbaandhi” of stone and terracotta. Opposite to the MadanMohan temple is another elongated terracotta structure. It currently houses the temple kitchen.
- Jor Bangla
“Jor Bangla” (jointed) temple. As the name suggests the structure of the temple looks like as if two huts are joined together. And that’s the beauty of it. Personally for me, I liked it the most out of all the Bishnupur temples. the temple facing south is raised on a square platform in the form of a pair of hut shaped structures with sloping roofs joined together and surmounted by charcoal on the top.
Both the interior and exterior walls and ceiling of the temple depict exquisite and elaborate terracotta ornamentation. These terracotta panels narrate scenes from the epics, Krishna-Lila, hunting scenes, various other depictions of contemporary social life.
- RadhaShyam Temple
Just next to the Jor Bangla temple is the Radhashyam Temple. This Ek-ratna (single pinnacled) temple is built of late-rite stone and contains lime stone stucco decoration. The temple is enclosed with high walls and its entrance consists of a triple domed Islamic style gateway. The temple dating back to 1758 was constructed by the Malla King Chaitanya Singh. This temple has an interesting of a “tulsi mancha” which is basically a raised structure, on which tulsi plant is planted and worshiped by Hindus.
- Panch Ratna Temple
Another very beautiful temple known as the “Panch-Ratna temple” (meaning five jewel temple, where each pinnacle of the temple represents a jewel). This temple is also popularly called the Temple of Shyam Rai, named after the ruler who built this temple. Approached by triple arched entrance on all the four sides, the Shyamrai temple contains terracotta on all its four sides including inner walls and the pinnacles. The Ras chakra and love making scenes of Radha Krishna are the most sort after terracotta panels of the Shyamrai Temple.
Other places to visit
- Dolmadol Cannon
The famous cannon called the “Dolmadol” cannon. The 1742 built cannon weighs 112 quintal and measures 3.8 meter with a diameter of 30 cm.
When the Maratha’s (Barges) attacked Bishnupur in 1742 Lord Madan Mohan himself fired the gun to drive them away.
- Gum Ghar
“Gum ghar” or the “Room of no Return”. It is speculated that the King used to execute criminals in the Gum Ghar.
- Chinnamosta Temple
- Nandalal Temple
- Sri Sri Vijay Yogashram
Established in 1951. A holy place. Very peaceful environment.
One should also visited the Bishnupur Museum, which houses interesting artifacts and some award winning terracotta structures made by the experienced artisans. Since photography was not allowed inside so you have to simply feast your eyes happily on them.
Bishnupur is not a place that can be well covered in a day. One must soak oneself at least for a day in the wonderfully amazing terracotta architecture. It really sad that a lot many temples have fallen prey to the vagaries of time and are in ruins. Thankfully, the government and ASI have taken notice of this wonderful heritage and are now trying to save as much possible.
Terracotta temples found in Bishnupur are one of a type and only found in this tiny part of the world. We are on a very thin string, if we loose these temples we will loose a big part of architecture and heritage that can never be recreated again.
Bishnupur-Land of Temples by Agnibha Maity
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