Temples of Dwarhatta, Hooghly, West Bengal
Temples of Dwarhatta
Bengal is dotted with thousands of villages. Each of these villages is picturesque with lush green fields, small rivulets, big trees, small hay-roofed huts, ponds & one or more temples dedicated to gods & goddesses . The temples are an inseparable part of village life. They are the centres where religious ceremonies are performed, social gatherings occur & people in general come with various wishes in mind. From ancient eras, temples are being erected by the landlords or other rich persons. From the 7-8th century AD, temples in Bengal started to be decorated by terracotta figures & designs. This continued unabated up to 13th Century when Muslim invasion of Bengaloccurred. During the Muslim rule, temple construction had a setback. However, from 15th century AD, temple construction got a new impetus & temples started coming up in various parts of Bengal. This continues even today, though now-a-days the rate of construction of new temples has got a big slump.
The arrangement of terracotta figures in temple has a standard technique. The common scenes depicted in terracotta are scenes from the epics Ramayana & Mahabharata; from the life of Lord Krishna (Krishna Leela) & scenes from contemporary society. The terracotta works in temples reflect the condition of the society at that time.
Dwarhatta is a small village in interior Hooghly district in West Bengal, India. The nearest bus station is at Ramhatitala, about 3 km from Dwarhatta. Ramhatitala is about 12 kilometer from Haripal, the nearest railhead on Howrah-Tarakeswar line of Eastern Railway. It takes about 30 minutes’ brisk walk to reach the village through dusty & uneven road.
The village is an old one. The dilapidated mansions of the rich landlords of the yesteryears stand as living proofs of the once grandeur of the village. Deep inside the village, besides a small pond, there is a big Aat -chala (8-roofed) temple of relatively newer construction. This is the temple dedicated to the goddess Dwarika Chandi, the patron goddess of the village.
The original temple of the goddess Dwarika Chandi was constructed in 1764 AD. As it was destroyed by ruthless time & indifference of the owners, a new temple was constructed by the local landlord family Sinha Ray’s in 2006 AD. Inside, the beautiful idol of the goddess beacons all to come here & get permanent peace.
Next attraction of the village is a group of Shiva temples , 3 in number, of which two are in a very sorry state. Invaded by vegetations, they are on the verge of collapse. The third one is renovated, but has lost the ancient charm & its terracotta figures look rather artificial.
But the most impressive temple is a huge Aat-chala (8-roofed) brick-built temple, constructed in 1729 AD, & is known as Raj Rajeswari temple. The old temple with signs of neglect prominently displayed in its surroundings has some most beautiful terracotta works of 18th Century Bengal style. The porch & the pillars of the triple entrance of the temple are covered with exquisite terracotta figures & designs. Besides the usual war scenes between the monkey soldiers of Lord Rama & the demon soldiers of the Sri Lankan demon king Ravana as depicted in the great Hindu epic Ramayana, the terracotta works also display scenes from Lord Krishna’s life (Krishna Leela) as well as social scenes from the contemporary Bengal. One notable figure is of a nobleman smoking Farshi (an instrument for tobacco smoking still used by the rich in rural areas). There are also hunting scenes with hunters riding on horse, elephant & surprisingly, one camel.
Scenes from Krishna Leela are also prominently displayed, especially those of “Nouka Vilas” (Lord Krishna’s boatv ride). A figure of Goddess Durga & another of Goddess Kali are also visible, though the former is in a sorry state.
After visiting the place, I had mixed feelings in my mind --- on the one hand, a pride for being a member of a race so culturally minded even in medieval periods, & on the other a deep sorrow for the crumbling temples, which are our own history, but uncared for by the general Bengalis.