Barakar Temples : neglected Gems
Barakar is a small town about 17 km from Asansol (220 km from Calcutta) at the junction of the states of West Bengal & Jharkhand. A dusty & congested town in the midst of coal mines, Barakar boasts of a surprisingly majestic group of stone-built medieval temples of Bengal Architecture, belonging to the SHIKHAR or REKH-DEUL style.
The temple complex is known locally as “BEGUNIA” temples because of the similarity of the shapes of the temples with “BEGUN”(the fruit of the eggplant).
There are 4 temples in the Begunia complex. They are numbered as they are seen from the entrance. Number 1 & 2 are at the entrance (No. 1 to the right & 2 to the left of the observer). No. 3 is at a little distance (approximately 100 meters) from these two, & the No. 4 is right behind the N0. 3.
No.1 & No. 2 are typical REKH-DEUL with a single pinnacle rising straight to the heaven, built around 1461 A.D. The pinnacles are intricately decorated with geometric designs & idols of different Hindu mythological figures, as well as of some animal figures. No. 1 is more decorated than no. 2.
Inside, the No. 1 contains 3 Shiva Lingams & a stone figure, presumably of Goddess Kali.
No. 2 contains 3 Shiva Lingams & a Ganesha (the Elephant-headed god of Success) idol, covered with vermillion.
The No. 3, again a typical Rekh-Deul , built in 13th century A.D. It’s single pinnacle is decorated with geometric patterns & animal figures. Inside, there are 5 Shiva Lingams & a stone figure, presumably of Goddess Parvati.
The No. 4 temple , smaller than the other three, is perhaps the most important. It was built in 8th/9th century A.D. Though it is now a ShivaTemple housing the Shiva Lingam called SIDDHESWAR SHIVA, it was probably a JAIN temple originally. The pinnacle is shorter than the other three, & there is a huge AMLOK SHILA (a circular designed stone shaped like a AMLA fruit or Indian goose berry) on the top. This is in accordance with the classical Nagara architecture of Northern Indian style.
It is evident that Barakar was once a Buddhist and/or Jain religious centre. Thereafter, it became a Hindu religious centre (Shaivite & possibly Vaishnavite).
The temples of Barakar is a fine example of ancient temple architecture found in West Bengal & needs more tourist attention.