Assistant Teacher and Amateur Photographer
Purulia has long been a rich cultural zone of West Bengal and its heritage ranges from highly sophisticated folk arts to spectacular architecture. This happened because this land came under various cultural influences at different periods of history right from the 6th century BC when Jaina Tirthankara Mahavira—as reported in the Kalpasutra, passed through this land. Just like other parts of Bengal Purulia too faced the vicissitudes of time and yet the people from this part responded lively to every cultural event. Jainism had been one of those cultural events and quite interestingly the aboriginal people of this region embraced Jainism first and provided much needed shelter at a time when it faced crisis in some parts and still today they follow certain folk rituals, the origin of which can be traced back to Jainism. However, the Jain religion rose to prominence when Anantavarman Choda-Ganga-Deva (1078 AD) occupied the entire southwest Bengal up to the river Bhagirathi and created his second kingdom at Ambikanagar, Bankura. Since Anantavarmana was a follower of Jainism, the religion received royal patronage and 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. Unfortunately the same Odishan kings who later on inclined towards Brahminical faith converted Jaina temples into Hindu temples for Shiva or Vishnu. Many temples in the course of time met this fate and images of Jain Tirthankaras came to be worshipped as the images of the Brahminical order like Vishnu, Shiva or Dharma Thakur. At some places attempts have been made to modify the images and in that process deformation took place. With the withdrawal of royal patronage, the temples soon lost their glory and in the centuries to follow none came to look after them. Many of them turned into heaps of ruins and a few which are still standing almost miraculously, may waiting the same fate. However the saddest incident took place in the mid 1950s when a very area called Telkupi was submerged deliberately under the newly constructed dam by Damodar Valley Corporation without allowing any scope for documentation or translocation. Telkupi was a major Jain settlement with temples and other artefacts dating back to the 9th century Pala period.
In this selection of the temples from Deulghata, Pakbira and Banda, I want to show their artistic beauty through some of my photographs. I also appeal to all to come forward to conserve the sites as soon as possible.
Temples of Deulghata
Deulghata, literally meaning “the land of temples” in Bengali, is considered as one of the rich heritage sites of Purulia district as it bears the marks of ancient Indian history, especially Jainism. There were three brick temples out of which two are extant at present. The third one which was the biggest of the three collapsed a few years back because of a man-made accident. These are standing on the bank of river Kasai in Jaipur Boram village, almost 30km from Purulia town. Apart from these brick temples, there are some signs of a couple of stone temples too. Overwhelming natural beauty of Palash and Shimul encircles the whole place.
Surviving two temples (Deul) of Deulghata , still standing with dignity despite all natural calamities and
Front side of a temple, Deulghata, Purulia
Temples of Pakbira
Located in Pakbira village, 40km away from Purulia town by Purulia-Puncha road, Pakbira or Pakbirrah is the largest and most famous archeological spot in Purulia district. A large number of Jain sculptures was found many can still be seen here, but most of them got dilapidated in course of time. At present three stone temples are standing here and innumerable statues, decorative stones and panels dot the whole place. Besides, a massive statue of Padmaprabha (which is considered the biggest Jain statue ever found in Purulia) is the cynosure of the place.
Temples of Banda
Banda, a village in Raghunathpur II, is 35 km away from Purulia town and 1km from Cheliyama village which is also famous for its terracotta temple. The temple at Banda is the finest in structure of all the stone temples found in Purulia. This is almost 75ft long a sand-stone temple in Rekha style of triratha variety with beautiful architecture and an amalaka still on its top. The ground plan is star shaped, with square internal cella and with a rectangular Mukhamandapa or Jagamohana. The Temple is considered to be from 11th century AD.
Chintu Dutta is an Assistant Teacher of Anai Jambad High School, Purulia. He is deeply interested in the past heritage and history of Purulia. As an amteur photographer, he has dedicated himself to documenting the heritage sites of the district. He also loves to capture the colours of flora and fauna of the region in all its glory. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org