SRIDHAR TEMPLE OF SONAMUKHI, BANKURA
SRIDHAR TEMPLE OF SONAMUKHI
Sonamukhi is a small town in the district of Bankura, West Bengal, India. A centre of trading for clothes, specially silk, this small dusty town is well connected by road to the other neighboring towns & cities like Bankura, Vishnupur & Durgapur, the industrial hub of West Bengal.
Sonamukhi was the residence of rich cloth merchants & weavers since several hundred years, & according to the medieval tradition, the rich traders & weavers established several temples here, some of which are still standing in the heart of this town. In fact, the name of the town SONAMUKHI (literary meaning Gold/Golden Face) is derived from the name of a local deity SWARNAMUKHEE meaning the same.
Some of the temples are decorated with terracotta art of the finest variety, & one of such temples, viz. the SRIDHAR TEMPLE has perhaps even better terracotta art than the world famous terracotta temples of the neighboring town of Vishnupur.
The temples in ancient & medieval Bengal were constructed according to a typical architectural pattern called the Bengal style, which is a little different from the North Indian NAGARA style. The two typical Bengal style are CHAALAA type & the RATNA type. The RATNA style is characterized by tall turrets or pinnacles called RATNA placed on the roof of a temple. According to the number of RATNA-s the temple may be EK RATNA (with single turret), PANCHA RATNA (with 5 turrets), NAVA RATNA (with 9 turrets) which are very common. Temples with higher number of turrets or RATNA-s (13 or 17) are comparatively rare, & temples with the highest number of RATNA-s (25) are called PANCHAVINGSHATI RATNA temples & are so rare that today there are only 5 or 6 such temples in West Bengal. SRIDHAR TEMPLE is one such PANCHAVINGSHATI RATNA temple with 25 turrets or RATNA-s, & the only one in the district of Bankura, known as the “Temple District” of West Bengal having thousands of beautiful temples.
The SRIDHAR TEMPLE is situated in the heart of the town of Sonamukhi in a narrow lane called MADANI GALI just few metres from the busy CHOWRASTA (crossing of four roads) in the centre of the town.
The temple was constructed in 1845 A.D. by a rich & devout weaver named KANAI RUDRA. The present owner is the Gangopadhyay family, who, being Bramhin in caste, also perform the daily worship.
The brick-built temple is a small two-storied structure with a triple entrance with arches & 25 turrets on the roof, but the turrets are in a dilapidated state with signs of neglect prominent all over. Even the top of the main central turret has broken down recently, & is kept on the floor!
The temple is decorated with terracotta plaques with exquisite decorations on all four sides, even on the back. The terracotta works are so beautiful & fine, that it is simply awesome. Scenes from the three subdivisions of Hinduism (SHAIVA, SHAKTO & VAISHNAV) are almost equally depicted in those terracotta plaques. Scenes from the Hindu epics RAMAYANA & MAHABHARATA, scenes from the life of Lord Krishna (KRISHNA LEELA) , some social scenes ( a striking scene of a possibly European lady playing a violin attracts the eyes) & intricate floral & geometric designs are displayed with awesome fineness. The two front pillars are so finely decorated that the mind becomes numb at the beauty & the expertise of the artists.
But alas, the whole structure displays signs of neglect & is on the verge of collapse unless urgent repair & maintenance works are taken up. The present priest & owner Mr. Bhuban Mohan Gangopadhyay , a helpful gentleman rued at the public indifference & cited lack of fund as the main culprit.
I can only hope that someone with right connections read this article.