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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.