Temples of Khardah, West Bengal
Temples of Khardah
Khardah is a small town in the district of North 24 Parganas, West Bengal. It is on the eastern bank of the sacred river Ganges, about 25 km from Kolkata. Khardah is an important place for the Vaishnavites, the followers of Lord Vishnu & Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu Deva, the great religious teacher & social reformer of the 16th century AD.
The chief follower of Shri Chaitanya was Shri Nityananda, who was the chief architect behind the development of the special Vaishnavite sect who are the followers of Shri Chaitanya. Vaishnavites believe that Gaud (popular name of Shri Chaitanya) & Nitai (popular name of Shri Nityananda) were the reincarnations of Lord Krishna & his elder brother Lord Balaram.
Sri Nityananda lived in Khardah , & from his time Khardah became an important religious centre for the Vaishnavites. Sri Nityananda passed away in 1545 AD, but his house is still there, known as the Kunjobati. At this place, a temple has been constructed with a statue of Shri Nityananda. There are the tombs of his two wives, Basudha & Janhaba (Bengal Vaishnavites, unlike other Hindus, customarily bury their dead). The place has a tranquil & serene atmosphere. Unfortunately, photography is strictly prohibited there.
There are many temples in Khardah, so much so that the town can easily be called a temple-town. One can visit those on foot or in a rickshaw, the vehicle best suited for the narrow & meandering lanes & by-lanes of this old town.
The important temples are :
1. Shyamsundar Jiu temple : Established by Birbhadra, the son of Shri Nityananda in the 16th century AD, this beautiful & huge Aatchala (eight-roofed) type temple houses the idols of Lord Shyamsundar (Lord Krishna) & His divine consort Radha. There is a Naatmandir in front of the main temple.
2. Mahaprabhu temple : A brick-built nine-turret(Navaratna) temple , this beautiful temple houses idols of many gods including that of Lord Jagannath. There are wooden idols of Shri Chaitanya & Shri Nityananda too.
3. Gopinath Jiu temple : A Dalan (building) type temple, this houses idols of Gopinath Jiu (Lord Krishna) & His divine consort Radha.
4. Radhakanta Jiu temple : An Aatchala (eight-roofed) type of temple, this temple, though established in 1825 AD, houses the much older idol of Radhakanta Jiu (Lord Krishna), brought here from Gaud, district Malda in late 15th century AD.
5. Madanmohan Jiu temple : This also houses idols of lord Krishna (as Madanmohan) & Radha.
6. Raasmancha : A beautiful 17-turret structure, Raasmancha houses the idols of Lord Krishna & His consort Radha during the festival of Raas.
7. 26 Shiva temples : Situated on the bank of the sacred river Ganga, this temple complex has 26 Aatchala (eight roofed) type of temples in two groups --- 5 temples facing the Ganga in one group, & 21 temples in another group arranged as a rectangle. All the temples house Shivalingams, the phallic form of Lord Shiva. The brick built temples have stucco work on the front façade, & two vertical rows of small bricks looking like cut-brick terracotta.
Besides these, Khardah has many more temples like Annapurna temple, Radha Vrindavanchandra temple, Lakshmi Narayan temple, Panchanan temple etc.
Though not exactly in Khardah, two other temples deserve special mention here, for their close connection with Shyamsundar Jiu temple. They are the Radhaballabh Jiu temple of Ballabhpur, Mahesh (on the opposite bank of the Ganga) & Nandadulal Jiu temple of Sainbona, a village about 7 km from Khardah.
The Radhaballabh Jiu temple is a huge Aatchala (eight roofed) type of temple, with a Naatmandir in front. It hoses the beautiful idols of Lord Radhaballabh (Lord Krishna) & His divine consort Radha.
The Nandadulal Jiu temple is situated at Sainbona village amidst green & serene surroundings. The main temple is a modified Ekrtna type of temple with a single turret, with a long hall type Naatmandir in front, & houses the stone idol of Nandadulal Jiu (Lord Krishna) & His consort Radha. Near this temple, there is an octagonal Dolmancha, a structure which houses the idols of Lord Krishna & Radha on the occasion of Dol Jatra (called Holi in Northern India).
It is said that the three stone idols in these three temples were made from three pieces of the same stone, & Vaishnavites believe that visiting the trio in a single day on foot brings salvation.
Kardah, despite its rich heritage, is not so well-known among non-Vaishnavite general public, & it deserves much more attention from tourists.
How to go
Khardah is a station on the Sealdha-Naihati main line of Eastern Railway. It is also connected to Kolkata by good roads (B.T. Road & Kalyani expressway). It can also be reached from Rishra on the opposite bank of Ganga, by crossing the river in ferryboats.
Inside Khardah, a cycle rickshaw is the best vehicle to travel. To go to Sainbona village to visit Nandadulal Jiu, either an auto or a cycle rickshaw will do.
To visit Radhaballabh Jiu at Mahesh, one has to cross the river Ganga from Kardah to reach Rishra on the opposite bank, & then take an auto or public bus to go to Ballabhpur, Mahesh.