TERRACOTTA TEMPLES OF BENGAL-I

A journey to the land of Terracotta temples

During December,2007.my wife and I hit the roads for a trip to the districts Hooghly and Bankura (of West Bengal) which are dotted with big and small terracotta temples , built between 17th and 19th centuries.

We spent 2 days each at Jangipara (Hooghly district), about 60 km from Calcutta and Bishnupur(Bankura district), about 250 km from Calcutta.We were looking forward to this trip since February this year, when I started reading about these temples in hamlets away from big cities and towns.

On our way, we stopped to take photos whenever we came across a terracotta temple, lying forgotten, fruit of relentless labour of scores of artisans.Travellers do not stop and marvel at these temples any more.Signs of neglect aplenty, they are waiting for visitors to stop by and have a look.

During this trip ,we have taken about 625 photographs and 50 minutes of video capture.

These terracotta temples represent the culture of our state during 17th-19th centuries.Not the religion alone,but, practices of the then society/community and literature have gone into making of the imageries of the plaques on these temples.

The most famous of these temples @ Bishnupur were lighted in the night. Without crowds around,against the backdrop of a dark sky, these temples look like surrealistic dreams from a distance. Shadow of the terracotta motifs and figures add a visual dimension to the plaques which cannot be described and fully captured in a camera.

Apart from the history of the temples and their patrons plus analysis of the interesting architectural features ,iconography is an important aspect that attracted me to these terracotta temples of Bengal.I have to edit the photos and 'discover' the stories (mostly mythological) the panels tell.Another notable point is the respect for various sects of Hinduism and even for persons from different faith we find in some of the social scenes depicted in these panels.

While at Bishnupur, one can shop from the many stalls and shops displaying exquisite silk sarees and terracotta handicrafts. During the return journey from Bishnupur to Calcutta by car, one can stop at Bighna settlement of 'dokra' artisans to buy beautiful statuettes of brass.Another attraction of Bishnupur region....... we loved the traditional Bengali sweets .

A few examples are here for my friends and visitors.


A few photos from our album

"Atchala" temple of Radhamadhav @ Antpur.Built during 1750-76 AD, it has three walls adorned with exquisite scenes from Ramayana, Kalikapuran and Indian mythology. It is a delight to visit. There are other temples in the complex and two temples of th
"Atchala" temple of Radhamadhav @ Antpur.Built during 1750-76 AD, it has three walls adorned with exquisite scenes from Ramayana, Kalikapuran and Indian mythology. It is a delight to visit. There are other temples in the complex and two temples of th
Lighted up "Pancharatna" ( 5 towers) Shyam-Rai temple @ Bishnupur.Built during 17th century.Note the famous Ras-Mandala on the LH side of the face we can see.
Lighted up "Pancharatna" ( 5 towers) Shyam-Rai temple @ Bishnupur.Built during 17th century.Note the famous Ras-Mandala on the LH side of the face we can see.
Lighted up "Rasmandala" on the western face of Shyam-Rai temple.
Lighted up "Rasmandala" on the western face of Shyam-Rai temple.
Scenes from Ramayana, the famous Indian epic.Panel on a Shiva temple @ Antpur.
Scenes from Ramayana, the famous Indian epic.Panel on a Shiva temple @ Antpur.
Dancers on Madanmohan temple ,Bishnupur.
Dancers on Madanmohan temple ,Bishnupur.
A social scene from the temple @ Kotalpur ,dt Hooghly.  A rich person being carried in a palanquin while he smokes a 'hookah'. Note the dog accompanying the palanquin.
A social scene from the temple @ Kotalpur ,dt Hooghly. A rich person being carried in a palanquin while he smokes a 'hookah'. Note the dog accompanying the palanquin.

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Comments 28 comments

shyamchat profile image

shyamchat 5 years ago from Calcutta Author

@ Debraj Chakraborty - You may pl contact me @ shyamalchatterji@gmail.com.


Debraj Chakraborty 5 years ago

Sir,

Your work on Bengal terracotta is excellent and noteworthy. I am interested to write an article on animal motif from the terracotta temple of Baranagar, Murshidabad. I expect your help and scholarly suggestion.

Sincerely,

Debraj


Ruchi 5 years ago

Mr Rao,

I don't know if you have heard about Mr. Mukul Dey; 60 years back he surveyed 25 villages of Bengal and documented them in 5000 frames of negatives. His grandsons are maintaining an archive. Check this link - http://www.chitralekha.org/category/subject/terrac...

When I first saw the picture of these temples, I was just floored and on researching found Mukul Dey Archive to be the best source of information.


shyamchat profile image

shyamchat 5 years ago from Calcutta Author

Dear Mr Rao,

Happy Diwali.

I have not heard of any Bahadurpur in Bishnupur of WB . Nor I could find any by internet search.

You will get notable wall panels on ships in terra cotta temples of Bansberia , Jor Bangla of Bishnupur and another temple in Hooghly district..

You may please write to me @ shyamalchatterji@gmail.com , if you need my contribution at professional level. In fact, I can share the CD on 'Boats' in terra cotta temples of Bengal of my presentation to an NGO I made yesterday.


D H RAO 5 years ago

MR SHYAM, I JUST HAPENED TO SEE UR BEAUTIFUL SITE. HOPE U MAY BE ABLE TO HELP ME, AS I CAN NOT TRAVEL AT THIS AGE TO WEST BENGAL. I AM COMPILING "SHIP" SCULPTURES IN TEMPLES.I KNOW ABOUT THESE FAMOUS TERRACOTTA TEMPLES AND FEW OF THE [OR MANY OF THEM] HAVE THESE SCULPTURES. I HAVE TWO FROM BISHNUPUR.BAHADURPUR SENT TO ME BY A FRIEND. I WANT THE POSTAL ADDRESS OF BAHADUROUR. ALSO ANY OTHER TEMPLE WHERE THESE "SHIP" MOTIFFS ARE SEEN. UR HELP WILL BE MUCH APPRECIATED.

D.H RAO, CHENNAI.


shyamchat profile image

shyamchat 6 years ago from Calcutta Author

Thanks and welcome.

Pl do get in touch during your planning stage - shall be happy to suggest on logistics.


NewHorizons profile image

NewHorizons 6 years ago from Gozo, Malta, EU.

i would like to visit India someday and see these temples and artwork for myself. Great Work.


legendindia 6 years ago

Hello shyam. I heard first time about Terracotta Temple.your photographs are nice.thank you for sharing your knowledge.

www.artoflegendindia.com


shyamchat profile image

shyamchat 6 years ago from Calcutta Author

Dear Jyoti,

I plan to visit after Dec.,09.....may be between 1st week of Jan,10 and Feb-end.

Do you know anyone who can help me with a decent overnight accommodation?

Best wishes.


JYOTI KOTHARI profile image

JYOTI KOTHARI 6 years ago from Jaipur

Hi Shyam,

When are you planning to visit Azimganj and to post article about Rani Bhavani temple in terracotta art?

I rated this up!

Thanks,

Jyoti Kothari


shyamchat profile image

shyamchat 8 years ago from Calcutta Author

Thanks Debasis.


Debasis 8 years ago

It does open up a new dimension. keep working on it.


shyamchat profile image

shyamchat 8 years ago from Calcutta Author

Thanks TravelAMP.

When free, please go through my other 'hubs' on terra cotta.Please also invite your friends to read the same.


TravelAMP profile image

TravelAMP 8 years ago from Around the world

Amazing place. Shyamchat I love to read it. :)


shyamchat profile image

shyamchat 8 years ago from Calcutta Author

Please do visit at least couple of the temples I mentioned in my hub on 'timeline'I shall be very happy to help you in any manner I can.

Bansberia is close to Calcutta.You can return the same day.

Bengal did not have stones to buld temples... the way out was terracotta.


SunSeven profile image

SunSeven 8 years ago from Singapore / India

Someday, I will visit all these places.

I want to.

(Wishful thinking.)

We don't have terracotta temples in South.

Best Regards


shyamchat profile image

shyamchat 8 years ago from Calcutta Author

Thanks to Dipankar and Biplab for their encouragement.


biplab 8 years ago

shyamal, i never had the chance of visiting these terracotta work. you have done excellent work both in terms of photography and description. keep it up


Dipankar 8 years ago

Just fantastic work for Bengal's rich heritage


shyamchat profile image

shyamchat 8 years ago from Calcutta Author

Yes, details of some of the panels are amazing.

That is why I enjoy my work on iconography of these panels !

:-)


Joy Forever 8 years ago

Nice photos and nice sculptures. I had the chance to visit a small terracotta temple recently and was amazed by the level of detail in the panels.


shyamchat profile image

shyamchat 8 years ago from Calcutta Author

Some of these temples are now protected and relatively free from vandalism.The method of cleaning the panels are ,however, is still inadequate.

I belong to a group 'Aishee' which is advocating for raising fund for preservation of one terra cotta temple .


funride profile image

funride 8 years ago from Portugal

It´s a shame that some of those beautiful temples are neglected but I´m sure that your work will make them known to many people and soon there will be more visitors. Thanks for sharing ;)


shyamchat profile image

shyamchat 8 years ago from Calcutta Author

Thanks Ahmedbhai and Satyen.

We all know about the kings and other patrons of these temples.....also about many of the 'mistries'/architects......but none whatsoever about the artistes and the persons who planned the imageries !

Someday, a writer like Krishnendu Mukhopadhyay ( 'Radhika' - 'Sharadiya Patrika',2007) will write 'I am terracotta' (borrowed from the name of a novel by Pamuk - 'I am Red')

:-))


SANYAL 8 years ago

What Shyamal is doing on terracota temples of Bengal is phenomenal.

While we all had a vague idea of this niche art of Bengal, it is Shyamal's exquisite photography and pithy comments that will continue to draw and inspire visitors from around the globe.

Keep it up Shyamal..........you have brought a glorious past and the unsung artisans of Bengal to limelight.

Satyendu Sanyal


Ahmed Sharif 8 years ago

Great work, Shyamal Da!!............

its nice to see that you haven't left this work to someone else, which is so common for most.......... everybody's work is nobody's work........ you are working with passion and working hard; and there is always reward waiting for hard work......

wishing you all the best.........


vrajavala profile image

vrajavala 8 years ago from Port St. Lucie

Haribol,

My Gurudev is in Nabawip Dham and also has a Math in Dum dum Park.

You might be interested in my website http://www.krsnatube.com


Hoodala profile image

Hoodala 8 years ago from Mesa

Great photos and I bet an equally great trip.

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