Temples of Supur, Birbhum, West Bengal, India
Temples of Supur
Supur, an otherwise non-descriptive village in the district of Birbhum in West Bengal , is important for three ancient temples, one is that of Suratheswar Shiva temple & the other two , part of a twin, dedicated to Lord Shiva.
Supur is situated near Santiniketan/Bolpur, famous for the Viswa Bharati University founded by Nobel Laureate Indian poet Rabindra Nath Tagore. It is about 5 km from Bolpur, to which it is connected by good motorable road. But due to lack of publicity, though thousands of visitors from all over the world visit Santiniketan regularly, a very few visit Supur, & thereby miss the chance of visiting Suratheswar Temple which is an ancient temple with a rich history, & the beautiful terracotta art of the twin temples. So, let’s have a virtual tour of Supur.
Situated on the state highway connecting Bolpur to Ilambazar, about 5 km from Bolpur at a crossing called Shivtola, this ancient temple is now a part of a temple complex built by several devotees. But the original Suratheswar temple is believed to be constructed by the ancient King Surath as mentioned in Markeyanda Purana, an ancient Sanskrit text nearly two thousand years old. The original temple was destroyed by time, & the present one was re-built at the same site by the landlords of the nearby village of Raypur.
At present the temple is a part of a temple complex consisting of several new temples, with deities of Durga, Vishnu & Shiva. There is a huge ancient tamarind tree behind the temple, & a large pond at the back. Some new buildings are added recently, & as a whole the place looks neat & clean.
The main Suratheswar temple , dedicated to the Lord Shiva, is a small Dalan type with added 5 Shikhara or pinnacles at the top, thus making it a type of PANCHARATNA temple. Inside, the Lingam of Lord Shiva is placed inside a deep well like depression & can be touched during worship. The temple remains open whole day on Mondays & on special occasions like Shiva Ratri, when a fair is also held here. On other days, it remains open in the morning & the evening.
The twin temples of Supur
The major attraction of Supur is the twin temples inside the village at a place called Lalbazar, which is about 2 km from the Suratheswar temple on the road connecting Shivtola with Bardhaman. The road is under construction now & is simply a nightmare to travel, but soon will be a good one after completion of the civil works.
The two temples, both dedicated to Lord Shiva, are Rekh Deul or Shikhar type of temples characterized by a single tower arising from a square base, are standing side by side . Of the two, one is cylindrical & the other octagonal. The former is mostly plain with a little terracotta work above the doors, but the octagonal one is richly decorated with terracotta panels on all sides. These were constructed by local NAG family, who were rich confectioners in the 18th century AD. Local people could not provide much information about the Nags, except that their descendants are in Siuri, a town some 40 km away. Even there was confusion about the names of the Shiva lingams placed in the temples, some saying that it is NAGESWAR while others say it is MAHESWAR. Local teacher Shri Ganapati Dey , the present priest Shri Birendra Nath Bhattacharya & local residents Shivnath Shil & Nitai Shil tried their best to provide some information , among which is the news that the world famous cinema director Satyajit Ray shot his immortal work Ashani Sanket at the premise of these temples.
The terracotta art of the temples
The terracotta work of the cylindrical temple is simple & spares, so the following discussion is mainly about the terracotta art of the octagonal temple.
This temple is richly decorated with terracotta work on all sides, starting from the very base. The terracotta works consist of standard depictions of Krishna Leela (life of Lord Krishna) , Lord Shiva with Goddess Durga, other gods & goddesses & social scenes, apart from excellent geometric & floral designs.
Some important panels are repeated on every side of the temple. Among these mother Yasoda with her helpers bathing baby Krishna, Rama & Sita sitting on a throne with Hanuman peeping from below, flute & drum players, etcare noteworthy.
There is a beautiful panel of Goddess Durga with her family. In the centre Durga is standing on a lion killing the demon Mahishasura , & She is flanked by her children Karikeya, Ganesha, Lakshmi & Saraswati. The figures of Lakshmi and Saraswati are small , while larger figures of Ganesha and Kartikeya are seen with some female figures.
There are some figures of persons in European attire, an influence of the European traders (the French had some trading connections here).
The twin temples are under Government care, & some restoration work was done few years back, though the quality of restoration work was poor. There is palpable grievance of local residents for this. I can only hope that at least a few of those who matters will look into this.