Guptipara- a must for the temple lovers
Guptipara is a small town some 80 kilometers from Kolkata (Calcutta), easily approachable by rail or road from the latter. Guptipara is famous for its “ Rath” or the Chariot of Lord Jagannath, the most famous temple of Whom is in Puri, Orissa, India. The Chariot Festival, which falls in June-July every year, is celebrated everywhere where there is a temple of Lord Jagannath, be it in India or elsewhere. The chariot of Guptipara is second in size only to the famous one of Puri.
Guptipara is also famous for four medieval temples of 16th to 18th century, built in the traditional Bengal style of temple architecture.
The temples are clustered together in a temple complex which is popularly known as “Guptiparar Math”(The Math of Guptipara). It takes about ten minutes’ brisk walk to reach the temple complex from the main bus stand of the town. The road is dusty, with rickshaws as the only public conveyance to approach the temple complex.
The temple complex is surrounded by a high wall, & the entrance guarded by an iron gate. However, there is no restriction in entering . Once inside, the first thing that attracts the vision is a huge temple built in the traditional AATCHALA (literally “Eight-roofed”) style. It is the BRINDAVANCHANDRA temple. On its right, a little behind is an small old temple of traditional JORBANGLA (meaning “Double Bunglow”) style. On either side of the temple complex are two big temples, on left the KRISHNACHANDRA temple & on the right the RAMCHANDRA temple, the former built in AATCHALA style, & the later in EKRATNA (”Single pinnacle”) style. All four temples are decorated to various degrees, but the superb terracotta decorations of the Ramchandra temple are beyond comparison.
Let us take a virtual tour of the temples.
- Brindavanchandra temple : Built in 1810, this 60 feet tall temple has no or very little terracotta art, but it has superb fresco paintings inside. Majority of the paintings are in a sorry state, but the few ones that are intact draw the attention by the brilliance of color & subject (pictures of Lord Krishna mainly).
- Chaitanyadev temple : This is the oldest of the lot, being built in mid-16th century by Bireswar Roy, the local landlord. It is the oldest JORBANGLA temple in Bengal, having the evidence of the earliest terracotta carvings used in temples. However, the temple is not so well kept.
- Krishnachandra temple : Built in 1754 by an order of Nawab Ali Bardi Khan, the erstwhile Nawab of Bengal, this big but otherwise non-descriptive temple with minor terracotta carvings, is perhaps the least interesting of the lot.
- Ramchandra temple : It is the proverbial icing on the cake! Built in late 18th century by Harishchandra Ray, the King of Seorafuli, it is an EKRATNA temple with a single octagonal pinnacle. The whole temple is decorated with fine terracotta carvings of the highest quality. The carvings are arranged in the traditional pattern.
The lowest portion of the temple is decorated with carvings highlighting contemporary social life & events including hunting scenes, soldiers, kings & queens, boats, kings riding palanquins, dancing scenes & dancers in various postures, ladies doing household works etc.
The middle portion of the temple walls are decorated with scenes from Krishna Leela (Life of Lord Krishna)
The upper portions of the walls are covered with scenes mainly from Ramayana, the life of Lord Rama & His battle with Ravana, the King of Srilanka. The monkey soldiers of Lord Rama are seen in combat with the demon soldiers of Ravana.
The temple complex of Guptipara is unique in the fact that one can see three different types of Bengal temple architecture at one place (AACHALA, JORBANGLA & EKRATNA).The exquisite terracotta carvings of Ramchandra temple is an added bonus.
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