Sunday, March 23, 2014

Trip to West Bengal - February 2014 - Part-2 : Terracotta Temples of Bishnupur and Surrounding Areas

[ In continuation of Part-1 : Kolkata-Kalna-Shantiniketan-Surul-Barakar]

Day-5 : Shantiniketan-Sonamukhi-Hadal Narayanpur-Bishnupur

(i) Sonamukhi
After the breakfast and the check out from RTDR Guest House, we started our journey to Sonamukhi (about 90 kms) at around 9.15 a.m. After two days of rain showers in the evening and night, the morning was cold. But as the day progressed, the weather became pleasant. We took Illambazar-Panagarh-Durgapur-route to reach Sonamukhi. The road from Illambazar up to 6 kms short of Panagarh was not in good condition. Apart from rough patches, the  road widening work was going on at some places making it virtually a one lane road. Moreover, there was a lot of truck traffic. After Panagarh, we were on Durgapur Expressway to recoup the lost time. After bypassing Durgapur, the exit at the left took us to Barjora. Another left turn was Barjora-Sonamukhi road. We reached Sonamukhi Chowrasta (meeting point of four roads) at around 12 noon. A few of the temples listed for our visits in Sonamukhi were not up to our expectations as none of them had any terracotta ornamentation. Radha-Madahv temple located in a compound of a private residence was renovated and repainted without having any terracotta ornamentation. But this temple with a multi-pillar varandah looked elegant.

The only temple which we were keen to visit was Sridhar temple located around Chowrasta area of Sonamukhi town. But we could not locate it. None of the local people to whom we asked for direction could give us the location of this temple. In fact, two local persons took us to other two  Sridhar temples located in the narrow by lanes which turned out to be the local temples constructed in the recent period. After moving around for more than 45 minutes, we met one gentleman who was familiar with the concept of terracotta temples. He directed us back to the Chowrasta. We could see the back side of the Sridhar temple from a non-descript lane. A side entrance to the right took us to the residence of Ganguly family and the temple was located in his small courtyard.

The 25 spire temple has some of the finest terracotta ornamentation on all its four walls, from the base to archways and to the top of them. The temple has easy access to only two sides – the front and the right side of the wall which have ample terracotta plaques. There are also terracotta plaques on the left and back walls of the temple. While the left wall is completely blocked by a high wall of a neighbouring resident, the back wall has been partially covered with shrubs and creepers.  The terracotta ornamentation are still in very good condition. Most of the terracotta figures in plaques have glossy finishing depicting the stories and scenes from Mahabharat, Ramayan and Puranas.

I was very much disappointed by the upkeep of the temple of extra-ordinary terracotta plaques. The space between the three arched doors and the door of the sanctum of the temple was being used by the resident as a ‘store room’ reducing the stature of the temple. Moreover, this temple is surrounded by a cluster of residential houses which are very close to it. I will not be surprised if some visitors may get a feeling of cluster phobia. The positive side of this temple is that since it is located inside a court yard of Ganguly family, the temple is saved from vandalism and its terracotta plaques have remained in good condition. With this positive note, we headed for our next destination Hadal Narayanpur which is 18 kms from Sonamukhi.
Radha-Madahv temple with its multi-pillar varandah. The entrance to the temple is from sideways.
Two Rasa Manchas by the side of the road in Sonamukhi
Back side of Sridhar temple seen from the road. The entrance to the temple court yard is from the left.
The frontage of Sridhar temple with three archways, Sonamukhi
Shiva and Parvati with consorts, Sridhar temple, Sonomukhi.

Terracotta plaques above one of the archways showing Lord Shiva with his consorts.
A relief terracotta plaque on the front wall of Sridhar temple, Sonamukhi.
The elaborate terracotta ornamentation on the archway pillars of  Sridhar temple, Sonamukhi
Terracotta ornamentation above the archways of Sridhar temple, Sonamukhi.
Terracotta plaque depicting Mahisasurmardini on the right side wall of Sridhar temple, Sonamukhi.
Terracotta plaque depicting Maa Kali on the right side wall of Sridhar temple, Sonamukhi.
(ii) Hadal Narayanpur
A drive of about 18 kms from Sonamukhi on a single lane village road planked by paddy fields on both the sides led us to Hadal-Narayanpur village. Hadal and Narayanpur are located very close to one another at the banks of Bodai River. Hence the village is called Hadal-Narayanpur. The main terracotta temples are located in the mansions of Mandal family divided into younger, middle and elder branches of the family locally identified as chhototaraf, mezotaraf and barotaraf respectively. We started with chhototaraf which was the first to be located after entering the gate over a road. The temple is located on the right of thakur dalan ( a pillared hall which is normally the venue of family Durga Pooja) of chhotataraf through a narrow passage. This nine spire (nabaratna) Radha Damodar temple has rich terracotta plaques.  One of the rare and unique terracotta plaques is a Mahabharata scene depicting Arjun aiming at a fish which he sees in the water pool. There was a ruined temple on the other side of the compound which I could see only the back side. Except for a couple of terracotta plaques, rest of wall was plain bricks. We did not venture to see the front side as the path was densely covered with trees and shrubs.

Barotaraf is located on a walking distance from Chhototaraf. As soon as we entered the complex, on the left was 17 spire Rasa Mancha raised on a very high platform without having stairs to reach. There are terracotta plaques above the arches of the Rasa Mancha depicting the scenes from Mahabharat and  Ramayan. I could see some frescoes inside the Rasa Mancha. However, because of high platform, it was difficult to climb. The Manager of the estate helped me to push upward to climb it. I could notice that most of the frescoes were damaged without any chance of retrieval except a couple of them. The floor of the Rasa Mancha was almost fully covered with the droppings of rats. It would appear that probably after the last function during Durga Puja, the Rasa Mancha has not been cleaned.

The entrance to the mansion (Mandalbari) was located behind the Rasa Mancha. Except for the frontage which looked freshly painted, the rest of the mansion was poorly maintained. The manager took us to the temple through a narrow path inside the mansion. There was one more Radha-Damodar temple which appears  to be a renovated one with its freshly painted terracotta plaques.

The nine spire Radha-Damodar temple in Mejotaraf (middle faction of Mandal family) was constructed more or less on the same style as that of Chhototaraf temple except that it had an angular frontage. Some of the terracotta ornamentation on the frontage of this temple are awesome and unique like Ram-Ravan battle scenes with monkey army and with Maa Durga in the middle.
Entrance to Chhototaraf (Mandalbari) in Hadal-Narayanpur.
Radha-Damodar temple in Chhototaraf, Hadal-Narayanpur.
A close up of three archways with terracotta plaques.
Terracotta plaque depicting a chakra with fish in the frontage of Radha-Damodar temple, Chhototaraf, Hadal-Narayanpur.

 Terracotta depicting Lord Ram holding an unconscious Laxman on the frontage of Radha-Damodar temple, Hadal Narayanpur.
A terracotta plaque, the only one on the back side wall of a ruined temple in Hadal Narayanpur.
17 spire Rasa Mancha inside Barotaraf Mandalbari, Hadal Narayanpur.
Terracotta (or Stucco work?) depicting Mahisasurmardini on top of one of the arches of Rasa Mancha on Barotaraf, Hadal-Narayanpur.
One of two remaining frescoes inside Rasa Mancha, Barotaraf, Hadal Narayanpur.
Entrance to Barotaraf (Mandalbari)
The metalled Rath (Chariot) in Barotaraf Mandalbari. Note the human sculpture on the left upside down.
A close up of human sculpture upside down on Rath.
Five spire Radha-Damodar temple inside Barotaraf, Hadal Narayanpur.
Nine spire Radha-Damodar temple inside Mejotaraf, Hadal Narayanpur.
Elaborate terracotta ornamentation above one of the archways of Radha-Damodar temple, Mejotaraf.
Terracotta depicting Lord Vishnu on Sheshasayee (right). - Radha Damodar temple, Mejotaraf, Hadal Narayanpur
A huge rice storage vessel made from paddy fodder inside a court yard of a villager in Hadal-Narayanpur.
The never ending rice fields on both sides of the road in Hadal-Narayanpur.
It was around 2.30 pm when we completed our Hadal Narayanpur trip. There were no hotels and eateries in Hadal Narayanpur. We had tender coconut water from a vendor before proceeding on Sonamukhi-Bishnupur road. On the way, we stopped for lunch of fruits and homemade food item.  We reached Bishnupur at 5.45 p.m. and checked in Tourist Lodge (AC deluxe room with TV and hot water @Rs.1100/- including bed tea and breakfast). We had a dinner in the restaurant of the Tourist Lodge. The food was tasty but costly. We were told that among the eateries in Bishnupur, WBTDC’s restaurant in Tourist Lodge was the best.  
Sonamukhi-Bishnupur State Highway covered with dense forest of sal trees.
West Bengal Tourism's Tourist Lodge, Bishnupur.
Day-6 : In Bishnupur
Most of the important brick temples from the architectural point of view are located in the radius of 2-3 kms from the WBTDC’s Tourist Lodge. So we took it easy in getting ready for the day’s tour in a bright sunshine. After the breakfast, we started from the Tourist Lodge at around 9.30 a.m. in our vehicle. My brother-in-law felt that a knowledgeable guide would add value to understand the history as well as the story behind some of the important terracotta ornamentation. In the previous night, one of the accredited guides had met my brother-in-law and after discussions, we agreed to take him with us as a guide. He said that the tour of some important temples could be completed in about two and a half hours.

(i) Ras Mancha
We started with Ras Mancha which is located one km from the Tourist Lodge. Actually, most of the tourists will start the temple tour from Ras Mancha as the entry tickets are sold only from this place. The ticket is valid for all other ticketed temples unde ASI in Bishnupur.

Ras Mancha was built by Malla King Bir Hamber sometime in the 17th century. It is the biggest brick built ras mancha in Bengal. Built on a raised platform of laterite stones, Ras Manch is built in a pyramidal structure with continuous circumblatory galleries with  arches on its all the sides. The reason for constructing such a huge Ras Mancha is stated to be to make it a common place for celebrating ras festival where the deities of the temples located in the surrounding areas could be brought here for visitors to view them at one place.

The ritual is no longer celebrated now but Ras Mancha has become the venue of the annual Bishnupur Music Festival.

Rasa Mancha, Bishnupur

One of the four circumblatory galleries of Rasa Mancha.
(ii) Madan Mohana Temple
This temple is the farthest from Tourist Lodge but one of the most beautifully terracotta ornamented temples in Bishnupur. The temple was built by Malla King Durjan Singha in 1694. This ekratna (single spire) temple houses the idol of Madan Mohan, a form of Lord Vishnu and it was the family deity of Malla Kings. There is a Chandimandap located opposite the temple. The temple is built on a laterite stone high platform having covered porches with three archways each on the the east, south and the west. The facade of the temple is full of terracotta ornamentations depicting the stories mostly from Mahabharat, Ramayan,  Krishna Leela and social and entertainment scenes. The pillars are intricately ornamented with terracotta. The interior part of the temple is decorated with figures which closely resembles the ones that are generally seen in Buddhist gompas. The temple is house in a big complex with high walls. ASI has nicely maintained the temple as well garden inside the complex.
A general view of Madan Mohana temple, Bishnupur
Terracotta ornamentation on the frontage of Madan Mohana temple.
A close up of terracotta ornamentation and relief works on one of the archways of Madan Mohana temple.
Terracotta plaques depicting war scenes from Ram-Ravan battle on the wall of Madan Mohana temple. 
The deities of Krishna and Radha in Madan Mohana temple.
The base level terracotta showing birds and animals and war scenes in Madan Mohana temple.

Delicate terracotta ornamentation depicting Raas Chakra of Krishna leela in Madan Mohana temple.
Delicate terracotta works showing the Raas leela of Radha-Krishna.
(iii) Shyamraya Temple
This 5-spire temple was built by Malla King Raghunath Singha in 1643. This temple is built on a low platform. However, when we visited the temple, the plinth on all sides were enclosed with ropes. So we could not see much of the interior terracotta plaques. The facades and the pillars of the archways are all delicately ornamented by terracotta. An unique feature of the temple is that all the five spires have been built with different designs of which four spires have terracotta ornamentation. The 5th spire does not have much of terracotta ornamentation as this spire was reconstructed by ASI when it got damaged some time in 1930s. The four spires seem to be influenced by Buddhist, Jainism, Muslim and Christian architectures.
A general view of Shyamraya temple, Bishnupur
Five spires o of different architectural styles of Shyamraya temple
The terracotta ornamentation on three archways of Shyamraya temple.
Terracotta plaques showing Ram-Ravan battle on Shyamrayai temple.
(iv) Stone Gateways
Near Shyamraya temple, there are two stone gates – one big and another small  built on the laterite stones. Both the gates were built during the reign of Malla king   Bir Singha to regulate entry and exit for the royal palace which now lies in ruins. The big gate is a two story structure with semi-underground structure where troops can guard the gate without being seen by the enemy and if necessary they could attack the enemy by firing guns and using arrows from their bows through many holes on the walls. The small stone gateway was fortified by canals and tanks which apart from meeting the drinking water needs of the population, could also act as a barrier for enemy troops to cross over and enter the royal palace.
The bigger stone gate, Bishnupur.
Inside view of bigger stone gate.
(v) Lalji Temple (Radha-Krishna temple)
This single spire laterite stone built temple does not have many terracotta ornamentation but there are some traces of  ornamental decorations on the frontage with other walls mostly remaining plain. The temple was built by Bir Singha II in 1658. The temple is almost square in shape with char-chala (four-slope roof).
Lalji temple general view.
Sanctum archway with stucco and fresco works in Lalji temple.
(vi) Mrinmoyi Temple
This five arched reconstructed temple though the oldest in Bishnupur is not part of Bishnupur brick temples but it is one of the important socio-religious place. The temple was constructed by Raja Jagat Malla in 997 when he decided to shift the capital to Bishnupur. The presiding deity is Mrinmoyi (Maa Durga) and this place is  said to be the oldest in conducting  Durga Pooja in Bengal and that to in very traditional style without much pomp and show. The present decedents of Malla family perform pooja on navami day. In the temple complex, there is a banyan tree with branches of eight other type of trees, called Nababriksha.

The temple is located at the banks of a tank beyond which lies the ruins of Royal Palace and Bishnupur Fort.
Nababrisksha in the Mrinmoyi temple complex. This banyan tree has branches of another eight different trees. 
One of the nine Bandhs (water tanks) located near Mrinmoyi temple. the towers of ruined Bishnupur royal palace are seen on the other side of the tank.

 (vii) Radha-Shyam Temple
Very close to Lalji temple and Mrinmoyi temple is single spire Radha-Shyam temple built by Malla king Chaitanya Singha in 1758. This temple is built on laterite stones with stucco reliefs mostly in the interior of the temple. The highlights of this temple complex is a two-story brick built archway gate to the temple complex and a brick built Tulsi Manch in front of the temple. The frontage of the temple has three archways but the ornamentations above the archways seems to have been eroded. This temple is a repository of deities of other ruined temples in around Bishnupur.
A general view of Radha-Shyam temple.
An unique Tulsi Manch in the complex of Radha-Shyam temple.
The stucco of Lord Vishnu in Anantshyanam pose on the inside wall of Radha-Shyam temple.
The huge brick gateway to Radha-Shyam temple.
(viii) Jor Bangla [Keshtoraya (Krishna) temple]
This is a unique temple among the brick temples of Bishnupur in that it is made up of two typical Bengali village hut type architecture joined together in the middle with bricks. This single spire temple was built by Malla king Raghunath Singha in 1655. Like Madan Mohana temple and Shyamrai temple, this temple too is elaborately ornamented with terracotta plaques on all the walls of the temple. Judging by the intricacies and workmanship of terracotta ornamentation,  I would rank this temple as one of the finest in Bishnupur.
A general view of Jor Bangla (Keshtoraya temple)
The intricate terracotta ornamentation on the facade of Keshtoraya temple.
A base terracotta relief work on Keshtoraya temple (lower left panel) showing an old man proposing to a woman.
Terracotta plaques showing the various scenes of mythology on the frontage of Keshtoraya temple.
Lower terracotta plaque showing troops with guns in hand on a boat in Keshtoraya temple.

Terracotta plaque showing Bhishma on a bed of arrows and Arjun using his arrow to strike water for a thirsty Bhishma.
The terracotta seems to be depicting some mughal warriors - Keshtoraya temple. 
Intricate terracotta ornamentation on the backside of the Keshtoraya temple.
The top portion of Keshtoraya temple with triangular design decorated with delicate terracotta ornamentation.
Bandhs (Tanks)
There are nine Bandhs (water tanks) in Bishnupur, all constructed during the Malla dynasty rules surrounding the royal palace and fort. These bandhs were dug  during 1657 and 1677  mainly for meeting the drinking water requirements of Bishnupur. However, they also acted as defence mechanism of the capital to withstand the enemy attacks. Except one which has dried up, remaining eight bandhs are still in existence.
Lal Bandh, one of the largest tanks built by Malla kings in Bishnupur.
A weaver making a Baluchari saree in Bishnupur.
After spending some time at a hand loom weaving unit of Baluchari sarees, we returned to Tourist Lodge by 1.30 p.m. and had lunch at their restaurant. After resting for about two hours, we visited the Museum which was on a walkable distance from the Tourist Lodge. However, due to load shedding and some  problems with their power supply from generator, we could not see the exhibits in the museum in detail. We returned to our hotel room by 4.30 p.m. and had tea/coffee with bhel prepared by us with the help from the restaurant workers.

We used our own vehicle to visit all the temples in Bishnupur. However, due to narrow lanes, it was a difficult task for our driver to manoeuvre the vehicle especially if another vehicle came from the opposite direction. Since there is not much distance to travel in Bishnupur for temple visits, it would have been better if we had engaged cycle rickshaw for the temple hopping. Another suggestion for the authorities to consider is to make the temple visit a walking tour by creating some alternate route, bypassing the narrow and crowded lanes.
Day-7 : Joypur-Gokulnagar-Kotulpur
(i) Joypur
We started from Tourist Lodge for Joypur which is located about 16 kms from Bishnupur on an excellent SH.2 under the shades of Joypur forest. At the junction to Joypur, a right turn in a narrow lane  took us to Duttapara. Since lane was being concreted, we had to take a small detour on a dirt road to reach Duttapara. The temple of Vishnu, Kali Maa and Damodar, also known as Radha-Damodar temple is located in a small court yard of Dutta family residence. It is a three archway temple standing on a low platform with nine spires. The terracotta plaques on the front as well as on the eastern side are well decorated. However, other two walls are more or less plain and look as if the temple is in ruins which is not so.

A lady from Datta household explained some of the scenes of the terracotta plaques on the front side in Bengali. I had to call my driver to translate into Hindi. We could get explanation of the scenes depicted in terracotta plaques from her.

About one km of further drive took us to Depara where there was one more  temple, the  architecture of which was more or less the same as in Dattapara temple. It is also a temple with  nine spires and three archways.  Its terracotta plaques depicts scenes from Ramayan and Mahabharat and those are not repeated from Dattapara temple terracotta. The temple belongs to De family who, like Datta family, were cloth merchants.
Radha-Damodar temple, Duttapara, Joypur.
Terracotta on the southern side of Radha-Damodar temple depicting Arjuna-Karna battle -Duttapara, Joypur.
The terracotta plaques on the southern side of Radha-Damodar temple depicting the battle of Ram and Ravan. - Duttapara, Joypur
Terracotta probably depicting Jatayu episode of Ramayan- Radha-Damodar temple, Duttapara, Joypur.
Nauka Vihar, Radha-Damodar temple, Duttapara, Joypur
The eastern side of Radha-Damodar temple which is  visible from the road side. While the sculptures at the lower part appears to be of stucco (molded plaster) type, the other panels are of terracotta. On the top of the arch are sculptures of musicians.Duttapara, Joypur.
Vishnu temple, Depara, Joypur.
Terracotta plaques on central archway of Vishnu temple, Depara, Joypur.
Terracotta plaques of eastern side archways of Vishnu temple, Depara, Joypur.
Details of  terracotta work above central archway of eastern side of Vishnu temple, Depara, Joypur.
A cemented by lane of Depara, Joypur. The spires of the temple is visible in the background.
(ii) Gokulnagar
Gokulnagar is about 2 kms from Depara in Joypur where Gokulchand temple is located. This is a laterite stone built five-spire temple located in a complex enclosed by high walls. The temple is based on a raised laterite platform. There are sculptures on the walls of the temple but most of them have been eroded There is a roofless Nat Mandapa in front of the temple with three archways. The alignment of the middle archway of Nat Mandapa with the temple is such that one can view the entire temple through the middle archway.
A general view of Gokulchand temple, Gokulnagar.
Three archways of the roofless Nata Mandap built on laterite stones opposite Gokulchand temple.
The middle archway of Nata Mandap is in complete alignment with Gokulchand temple.
(iii) Kotulpur
Kotulpur is about 16 kms from Joypur and we had planned to visit three temple sites. On the main road, to the right is a standing statue of Khudiram Bose, one of the youngest revolutionaries during India’s independence movement. We took right turn next to the statue and drove through a narrow lane planked by residential houses. The first stop was a residential complex of Bhadra family. Our first impression was whether we had come to a wrong place. Some women folks were washing the cloth in the court yard and there was nothing to suggest that there was a temple in the court yard. It was only when we asked one of the  residents that he showed a two-story flat roof structure. Yes, this was the temple constructed in cement. It turned out that the temple was extensively renovated. While the frontage has retained some smaller plaques of terracotta ornamentation, the sculptures, probably done during renovation looks somewhat crude.

The idol of Krishna is located on the first floor reached by a narrow and dark spiral stair case. When I reached on the first floor, it was a sad spectacle of floor full of droppings of pigeons.  Obviously, the temple has not been cleaned or floor washed for a long time.

Close to this compound is the residence of another Bhadra family which have fortified entrance. As soon as one enters the gate, to the right are two temples, the first is Goverdhan temple with a mountain like roof. The frontage of the temple has stucco type sculptures some of which have been partially damaged. Next to Goverdhan temple is a nine-spire temple like structure which does not have any ornamentation. A walk past nine-spire temple is the fortified compound of the Sridhar temple. One can get a partial view of the temple’s spires from outside the compound. However, we found that the gate was locked. So we entered the premises from a side entrance next to the temple entrance which led us to a cluster of residential houses. We found that the temple was also locked from the inside as well.  We met one of the residents who arranged to open the temple gate.

The five-spire temple is located in a small compound. When we saw the temple from the backside which was plain, we were not hopeful of seeing terracotta plaques. But once we saw the frontage of three archway temple, we were rewarded with excellent terracotta ornamentation on the archway, base as well as the upper portion of the frontage.

After finishing the visit, we returned to Bishnupur by 3.00 p.m., taking a lunch break at Banalata on Joypur-Bishnupur road. Our driver told us that generally vehicles avoid using this dense forested road in the night as this place is known for robberies as well as wild elephants
A statue of Khudiram Bose, a young revolutionary, errected on the junction of the main road and the by lane leading to Bhadra family temples.
Double story flat roof temple of Bhadra family, Kotulpur. The idol of Shri Krishna is installed on the first floor.
A Nabaratna Rasa Mancha type construction and Goverdhan temple in Bhadrapara, Kotulpur.
Stucco and terracotta works on the frontage of Goverdhan temple, Kotulpur.
A freshly coloured Rasa Mancha in front of Goverdhan temple, Kotulpur.
Five-spire Sridhar temple in the inside the residence of Bhadra family, Kotulpur.

The delicate terracotta works on the archway panels of Sridhar temple, Kotulpur.
Fresco on the inner wall of Sridhar temple, Kotulpur.

Terracotta relief work with singer and percussionist on the wall of Sridhar temple.
Terracotta work depicting Parvati holding Ganesh on one of the plaques of Sridhar temple, Kotulpur.
Joypur-Bishnupur road passing through Joypur Reserve Forest.

Day-8 : Narajole-Pathra-Kolkatta  
As per original plan, visiting Narajol, Daspur and Pathra was not in our schedule as we were to return to Kolkata from Bishnupur via Aramgarh and board the train to Mumbai on the same day. But at the time of booking the return journey ticket, we felt that it was better to keep one spare day in Kolkata. So we decided to take Mednipore route for our return journey to Kolkata covering temples at Narajole, Daspur and Pathra.
(i) Narajole
We left Tourist Lodge, Bishnupur after breakfast and check-out around 9.00 a.m. Our first visit was Narajole in West Mednipore district. The information available in the website indicated a distance of 18 kms from Mednipore town for Narajole. When we reached Mednipore, we got conflicting direction from different persons including the traffic police. Anyway, we went by traffic police direction and took a road to Keshpur on Mednipore-Daspur road. After reaching Keshpur, we once again enquire about the direction at ‘Y” junction. We were told to take left turn to reach Narajole. After driving for about 15 kms, we felt that something was amiss as no one was aware of Narajole. At last, one local fellow  pointed out that we had taken a wrong turn as we should have continued on the same road going slightly right from Keshpur. We turned back and came to Keshpur where once again a traffic police reconfirm that Narajole was on road to the right. At last we reached Narajole. In the event it turned out that the actual Mednipore-Narajole distance was 38 kms and not 18 kms as indicated in a website of driving direction.

A left turn from Keshpur-Daspur road at Narajole took us to a wide dirt road. The first on this road side (right) was a 25-spire freshly painted Rasa Mancha while on the left there were  six Shiva temples in a row. These simple looking temples are based on high platforms. There is no ornamentation on the temple but the top of arch doors leading to the sanctum of the temples has some flowery designs flanked by two stucco sculptures of women. These are painted in white colour but the brown colour dust from the dirt road settled on these designs actually add to the elegance of the archdoors.

A further drive of about one km leads to the gate of Narajole Rajbari with some ruined structures as well as one temple at the entrance. Even the frontage of the Rajbari gate looks rundown. However, once we walk through the gate of the Rajbari, it turned out that this Rajbari has been converted into a degree college. Just across the dirt road opposite the gate of the Rajbari in a courtyard where a 9-spire temple stand in almost in semi ruined condition. The frontage of the temple is not visible as it is obstructed by a metalled pillar Mandapa (hall). One has to go very close to the temple to see the frontage but it is wall painted in white. Some of the terracotta panels have been repainted in black colour making them somewhat crude.
 15-spire Rasa Mancha at Narajole.
 A decorated rath (chariot) near Narajole Lalbari.

Six Shiva temples in a row on the way to Narajole Lalbari.

Ornamentation on the frontage of one of the Shiva temples painted in white colour. But the dust settled on the ornamentation gives some contrast to otherwise mundane white paint.

On way to Lalbari, Narajole. On the left  in the background is 7-spire temple.
 Shiva temple inside Narajole Lalbari complex. 
The decorated Mandapa made of metal in front of 7-spire temple, Narajole. 
Side view of 7-spire temple in Narajole Lalbari complex.

 Vast expanse of paddy fields near Narajole
We had heard of a couple of temples near Daspur  like Radha-Gobind temple and Gopinath temple which are supposed to be ornamented with terracotta. Since Daspur was very close from Narajole, we decided to visit the place and find out the location of these two temples. Unfortunately, in Daspur, no one could help us in locating the temple. It was a lesson for us to make a proper home work before visiting the offbeat places as unless one has the full address of the location, it is difficult for even local people to guide the outsider properly.

Since it was already, 2.30 p.m., we had our dry lunch and fruits in Daspur before proceeding to Pathra temples.    
(ii) Pathra
We proceeded to Kharagpur via Debra (75 kms)  for visiting Pathra temples. At the exit for Kharagpur town on NH-6, we came to know that Pathra village was nearer from Mednipore than from Kharagpur. Once again we messed up with the direction. Had we known this fact, we could have sequenced the visits Pathra-Narajole-Daspur-Kolkatta. We would have saved at least two hours in driving. As I said earlier, it is always better to plan the visits to not so popular places well in advance than adding these places at the last moment. Anyway, we reached Pathra by 4.30 p.m. after crossing a damaged bridge on a culvert.

A cluster of  temples are located at the banks of Kangsabati River, the prominent among them being  a nine-spire temple. These are all 19th century constructed temples which do not have much of terracotta ornamentations. Most of them are in depleted condition. Fortunately, all these temples have taken over by ASI and it is hoped that they would not face further vandalism. Just opposite the nine-spire temple is a Nata Mandapa type structure with multi-pillars behind which there is a cluster of subordinate temples. Barring some faded terracotta panels, the walls of these temples are mostly plain.

Since it was already getting dark, and we had to reach Kolkatta, we did not visit other temples in Pathra village. The highlight of Pathra village, in my view, was the scenic beauty of the temple complex with Kangsabati river flowing by the side of it.
Nine-spire temple one tha banks of Kangasabati river, Pathra.
A multi-pillar structure across the road in fron the nine-spire temple. 

 Two of some smaller temples located across the road near nine-pillar temple in Pathra.
A  five-spire three arched temple  in Pathra. The frescoes in the frontage of the temple have been damaged beyond restoration.

Kangsabati river, Pathra .
We reached Kolkatta by 7.00 p.m. and checked in Hotel Neelam (@2200/- double bed, AC) for a overnight stay. With this our brick temple trip of West Bengal came to an end. We kept the next full day for ladies for their shopping trip. In the night, we boarded the train (Mumbai Mail) at Howrah railway station for Mumbai.   

1 comment:

Ankur and Soma said...

The temples are so amazingly beautiful with such amazing terracotta works. Its so unfortunate that these are not protected by either govt or unesco.

Thank you sor such a great documentation