Chitrolekha was conceived as an online platform dedicated especially to documenting cultural heritage of Bengal. In the year 2011 we published a Special Issue on the Arts and Crafts of Bankura and in the year 2012 we published another Special Issue on the Temples of Bengal. We received some valuable contributions from the scholars, and the readers too responded warmly to our humble initiatives. Scholarly recognition of the magazine too followed and we entered into an agreement with EBSCO for wider publicity and access through their special services.
The Special Issue on Dandabhukti was planned as an independent scholarly initiative to explore the socio-cultural heritage of an ancient kingdom which culminated in the creation of a Buddhist Mahavihar at Moghalmari. This issue tries to locate the ancient janapada Dandabhukti at and around modern-day Dantan, Paschim Medinipur and seeks to discuss various aspects of the Moghalmari Buddhist Monastery (Sri Vandak Mahabihar) and other historical sites around Moghalmari like Kakrajit, the Raibania Fort of Orissa, Satdeulia of Dantan, Kurumbera Fort, the ponds like Sarashanka, Bidyadhar, Dharmasagar—all of which at some points of time functioned through a lively interconnected cultural and economic networks.
The authors and the editors have tried their best with their scholarly contributions to do justice to the vast heritage of Dandabhukti. We hope the issue will get positive critical attention of the scholarly community. Read More>>
This essay discusses the cultural significance of a lesser known terracotta motif Navanarigunjara in the temples of Bishnupur and relates it to various types of representation of the same motif found in Pata paintings. Moreover, it looks into its origin and evolution and its position in temples.
From Dandabhukti to Dantan: a Historical and Cultural Journey
This is a project taken up by Chitrolekha Magazine (www.chitrolekha.com, ISSN 2231-4822) for locating the ancient janapada Dandabhukti at and around modern-day Dantan, Paschim Medinipur and for exploring its cultural history from the ancient to the modern times. This also seeks to discuss various aspects of the Moghalmari Buddhist Monastery (Sri Vandak Mahabihar), other archaeological remains of the village, and other historical sites around Moghalmari like Kakrajit, Kurumbera Fort, Satdeulia of Dantan, the ponds like Sarashanka, Bidyadhar, Dharmasagar and the Raibania Fort of Orissa, all of which at some points of time functioned through a live interconnected cultural and economic network. We have preliminarily selected certain topic/s or areas for convenience:
Buddhism in Bengal (Bangladesh and West Bengal)
Buddhist Sites in Bengal
Tamralipta and its relation to Dandabhukti
Topics relating to Dandabhukti and Moghalmari Buddhist Monastery
1.Locating and justifying ancient Dandabhukti at and around Dantan 2. The trade and pilgrimage road from the eastern india via Dantan to the South India and Puri 3. Moghalmari Buddhist monastery
Other Buddhist structures found at Moghalmari
4. Plan for archaeological and eco tourism centring round the Monastery. 5. Satdeulia or the place of seven temples and its surrounding areas 6. Kakrajit and its statues of Surya 7. Sarashanka and its history 8. Temples of Dantan: Shyamaleshwar, Chandaneshwar and Jagannath temples 9. Statues found at Dantan and their analyses 10. Local legends 11. Gaganeshwar, Kurumbera Fort and its historical significance 12. The shifting course of the river Subarnarekha 13. Raibania Fort of Orissa.
We cordially invite your opinions, suggestions for inclusion of other topics and contributions to the topics. The issue will be published online and hopefully in hard paper format as a volume.
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Jainism as a religion had existed in Bengal—mainly in the Rarh region, for many centuries. Lord Mahavira himself is said to have travelled to Bengal, and if it be true, he must have preached the religion himself. A number of ancient Jain and Buddhist texts attest to the dominance of Jainism in the ancient Gouda kingdom. However, afterwards it lost much of its position in the triangular struggle involving the Brahminical Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism for dominance in various parts of the early medieval post-Pala period. In the 12th century Jainism received royal patronage from Anantavarman Choda-Ganga-Deva (1078 AD), the Odishan ruler who occupied the entire southwest Bengal up to the river Bhagirathi and created his second kingdom at Ambikanagar, Bankura. Many temples for the Digambara sect were built in Bankura and Purulia in the 11th and 12 century AD in honour of Parswanatha and Mahavira.
As the torrential rain gushes down the plastic and tarpaulin sheets of the narrow alleys in Kumartuli, covering the half-made clay idols, the smell of wet earth emanates, reverberates, encircles and rises up to announce the arrival of the auspicious occasion— Durga Puja. Finally, as the dawn of Mahalaya announces the arrival of the Devipaksha and the last ablutions are offered to seek blessings from one’s forefathers on the banks of the sacred river Ganga, the artisans of Kumartuli pronounce the occasion through invoking the powers of the female goddess by painting the eyes of the idols of Durga, famously known as Chokkhudaan or bestowing of the eyes. A popular and annual sight in the region every year, this relatively small, yet largely famous and well-renowned region of Kumartuli stands tucked within the narrow lanes and by-lanes of Sovabazar area of the northern region of the present city of Kolkata (West Bengal, India) and the relatively recent construction of the underground metro-railway station of the same name. A busy place for idol-makers, the kumbhars, their small and narrow workshops, aligned against their crowded tenements, hum with the buzz of activities at most times of the year, especially during the time of the Durga puja. Over the years, the region has experienced a surge and witnessed changes in the style of the clay idols, their expression and depictions, especially the ones made for Durga puja. Carrying forth a string of history within itself, as these depictions represent a strain of continuity of the famous worship of female deities of the region, the changes and alterations in visual depictions of the idols made in Kumartuli also help to reflect new ideas and ideologies in the age of new-media, forming an important part of Visual Anthropology. Based on an extensive fieldwork in the region of Kumartuli and various parts of Kolkata throughout the month of Aswina (September-October) between 2011-2012, this paper tries to look into the significant aspects of the representations of the idol-making formats of Kumartuli, their changing presentations and new reflections and how the local history, oral traditions and lores still manifest themselves through these changing representations.
In those days when there was no discovery channel or BBC; people learnt about distant lands through the travels of brave travelers who undertook perilous journey across thousands of miles. Travelling was certainly not easy in those days when there were no airplanes, motor vehicles or diesel powered ships. Travelling was also not possible through personal endeavor only; often travelers undertook voyage under the patronage or sponsorship of religious institutions or funding from Kings. For these travelers who mainly travelled on foot, caravans or by ships, India was always a favored destination for number of reasons. Stories of the great wealth of India had reached far and wide, the abundance of Buddhist literature and monasteries also invited the travelers to come to India. So we may say India was an attractive destination because of both material and spiritual reason, and thus we find a number of travelers visiting India at different times. Hsüan-tsang, Ibn Batuta, Jean Baptiste Tavernier, Francois Bernier all visited India in different times and left for us a reliable picture of life in India in those times.
In Bengal school of temple architecture Deul style has its own place. Divided mainly between Bongiyo deul and Oriya deul this particular shape of temple or place of worship are few in this part of Bengal but each of them are unique and enrich. Deul temples are tower like structure with expansion on the either side. It is simple but majestic in presence. Jatar deul of South 24 Parganas and Bahulara deul of Onda village in Bankura are two most famous deul structure temple in Bengal. With this we have another lesser known deul temple in a small village near Burdawan and Birbhum border. This one known as Echai Ghosher deul holds an equal importance in the study of Bengal temple.
In 1673, Zamindar Rameshwar Ray left Patuli and settled in Bansberia or Banskabati as it was known earlier in Hooghly. Bansberia is located besides our holy river Ganga, and in between Tribeni and Bandel. Zamindar Rameshwar Ray was gifted this village of around 400 Bigha of Land and its Zamindari by the Mughal emperor Aurangzeb who also gifted him the prestigious title of King. From this time onward many of his kith and kin settled in Bansberia.
My first visit to Daspur was in September 2011. The fact that there are several temples having exquisite terracotta panels on them scattered over such a huge area in the Midnapore district of West Bengal was enough to arouse my interest. Having read some books on Daspur and consulted some knowledgeable friends, I decided to venture the area. As per David McCutchion “Daspur was one of the leading centres of temple building in 19th century”. The Artisans who built up these temples used to describe themselves as Sutradhara Temple Builders. In 1975, backed up by Gurusaday Museusem, Ranen Chattopadhyay made a documentary film on this artistic tradition of Daspur. Once upon a time in the history around 150 Sutradhar families used to stay at Daspur.
Which is the best ‘Temple Town’ of West Bengal? One group of elite travelers will award this title to Kalna; yet others will argue in favour of Bishnupur. I love both .I cannot decide which one can score over the other. Because the Editor has requested me to write about temples of Bankura, I zeroed on the photos of temples of Bishnupur in my HDD… And I decided to showcase Radhe Shyam and Radha Madhab temples—two among the less famous temples of Bishnupur—yet these two offer excellent oeuvre of wall-reliefs. These temples are of ‘Ek-Ratna’ (single spire) construction and made of laterite stone with thick white coating.
We find the finest among the ‘Panch-Ratna’ (five spires), ’Ek-Ratna’ and ‘Jor-Bangla’ temple architecture at Bishnupur. I have visited many sites of terra cotta temples in West Bengal. What appealed to me most is the sense of proportion among the architects of Bisnupur. If I were younger and equipped with a professional degree in Architecture instead of Mechanical Engineering, I would have pursued a project of identifying the dimensional proportions of West Bengal’s temples to arrive at the aesthetics of that of temple architecture!
A robbery in the Malla kingdom in 16th century changed the face of Bengal’s architecture. Vaishnav guru Srinivas Acharya and two other greats, Narattoma Das and Shyamanand were taking three cartloads of scriptures from Vrindavan to Puri . The writings were priceless…these carts contained books by great Vaishnavites Sri Jeeva Goswami, Sri Rup Goswami and Raghunath Das among others. The dacoits knew that cartloads of great treasure were being moved from one location to another. They had no other clue. There were only ten foot soldiers ‘protecting’ these cartloads. The ‘treasure’ was easily looted during one night when all the travelers were asleep. This happened at Gopalpur village, within the territory of the Malla king.
Srinivas Acharya stayed back in Bengal determined to recover the books .The robbers’ allegiance was to the local King Vir Hambir. Srinivas had a face-to-face interaction with his court’s religious supremo Vyasacharya where Srinivas Acharya demonstrated his depth of knowledge regarding Vaishnav religion. King became his ardent disciple and the books were restored to Srinivas.
Vaishnav religion had strong impact on cultural life of Bengal. Malla kingdom was free from Muslim dominance and became a hub for Vaishnav religion and culture during 16th to 18th centuries.
According to books and articles I read on temples of Bishnupur, the first ‘Pancha-Ratna’ temple built during 1639 AD did not survive. The next one to be built was ‘Shyama Raya’ temple – one of the finest in Bengal. Close to it came up ‘Jor-Bangla’ temple, Radhe Shyam temple and Lalji temple during the course of time. Radhe Shyam temple, opposite the new Lalji temple, was built by Malla king Chaitanya Singha in 1759 AD. This can be called the ‘youngest’ among the temples which were built during the heyday of Malla kingdom. ‘Radha Madhab’ temple was built by Srimani Devi, one of the consorts of King Vir Singha in 1737 AD. This temple is the 1st one a tourist comes across as s/he enters the ASI Complex , south of Lalbandh.
‘Radhe Shyam’ temple and ‘Radha Madhab’ temple
‘Radhe Shyam’ temple is ‘Ek-Ratna’ – single spire temple with a square base measuring 11.1 m and 10.7 m in height. The spire is cylindrical, with semi-spherical dome. The idea of installing a spire on top of the temple, according to some writers, came from the then prevailing Muslim architecture. The deity used to be placed in the spire during festival days so that a large crowd of devotees can view the idol from a distance. The work on this temple is most elaborate and aesthetically pleasing among the laterite temples I have come across.
Entrances to the sanctum for devotees as well as for services have three arches. The arches on the front side has lost most of the wall-reliefs. Ditto on the arches on the service side of the temple. Two rows of wall-reliefs set inside alcoves, each on right and left flanks of the front face, go up to the top. Two rows of alcoves connect these two verticals and offer the best of the oeuvre. Here, the wall-reliefs are based on Ramayana and ‘Dashavatar’ (Ten incarnations) of Vishnu.
The walls inside have excellent wall-reliefs too – much bigger size than the ones on the outside. Among them, ‘Ananta-sayane Vishnu’ (Vishnu resting on Ananta) is very well-known. A favourite of mine too. I also like the ‘Sharho-bhuja Chaitanya’ (Chaitanya Dev with six hands) and a panel on ‘Krsna Leela’. We find ‘Sharho-bhuja Chaitanya’ wall-relief in many temples including Madan Mohan temple of Vishnupur and ‘Ananta vasudev’ temple at Bansberia, Hooghly.
‘Radha Madhab‘ temple too is ‘Ek-Ratna’ – single spire temple with a square base measuring 11.1 m and 9.2 m in height. The spire is hexagonal, with ‘rekha’-styled dome. We can visualize the beauty of the temple when it was new – the ‘do-chala’ (two slanting roves) three-arched entrance adding to the same. Both the front and the service side of the temple have three arches. Arches, pillars and inside walls were quite artfully done – quite apparent from the 3rd photo here.
Sadly, a lot of the wall-reliefs are damaged. The white coat has suffered erosion because of weather and human touch. Some of the details still are quite attractive, though the laterite has been exposed. We find an ‘Ananta-sayane Vishnu’ (Vishnu resting on Ananta) here too, which was definitely as grand as the one in ‘Radhe Shyam’ temple. Time has ravaged this wall-relief – I feel sad when I see the blow-up on my computer screen. Wall-reliefs in the alcoves are quite skillfully done, very appealing to the discerning traveler. We find scenes from Ramayana, Krishnaleela, social scenes and various motifs on the pillars and arches of the temple. ASI tries to maintain green surroundings.
The readers of Chitrolekha International Magazine who want to view more photos of these temples and/or other terra cotta temples of Bishnupur may please visit my blogs in
Shyamal Chatterji is an Engineer by profession from IIT, Kharagpur (Mechanical Engineering, 1968). Presently, he is retired from professional life. He is now working on Iconography of terra cotta temples of Bengal. He is also associated with PANIIT and actively supports the IITians for ITI Project. His works can be viewed in: http://przmm.blogspot.com, http://tctob.blogspot.com & http://hubpages.com/shyamchat.
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