Bankura has a rich cultural contribution to the school of Bengal. From Terracotta to modern art and from classic north Indian musical genre Bishnupur Gharana to rock bangali band Jiggasa and its own engineering college rock bands Edge of The Spirit and 7th String.
Bankura has gained much popularity among the tourists hailing from different places in India. The place has a rich cultural and traditional heritage. It is famous for its paintings, music and other forms of arts. It has gained lot of popularity among the tourists from all over India due to the beautiful locations and some historical destinations. The place has contributed great deal towards modern Bengal art and architecture. You can see the beautiful terracotta art and architecture in Bankura.
The Famous Sightseeing spots are the Terracotta temples of Bishnupur. The Important temples of Bishnupur are Jor Mandir, Rasmancha, Radhamadhab Temple, Kalachand Temple, Madan Mohan Temple, Radha-Gobinda Temple and Shyam Ray Temple. Joyrambati and nearby Singha Bahini Devi Temple & Mayerpukur are very popular among tourists. Susunia Hill is famous for natural Spring and Biharinath offers hills, dense forest,water bodies, river Damodar, Renowned temple of Lord Shiva,Green unpolluted nature with salubrious atmosphere. Mukutmonipur is very famous for its natural beauty and bluish tract of water.
In Mahabharata, Bankura was described as Suhmobhumi. The word Larh or Rarh was introduced after 6th century A.D. It comes from the old Austric word ráŕhá which means ‘land of red soil’. In Santali, lar means thread, rarh means tune and larh means snakeThe popularity of Manasa Puja, the worship of Snake-Goddess Manasa, proves this opinion might have some relevance. According to Nilkantha, a famous commentator of the Mahabharata, both the words Suhmo [bhumi] and Rarh, are synonymous.
Baluchari, the traditional hand woven silk & cotton saree from Bisnupur, known for their motifs & designs from Ramayana & Mahabharata. Now-a-days these designs are modernized. Two hundred years ago Baluchari was used to be practiced in a small village called Baluchar in Murshidabad district, from where it got the name Baluchari. In the 18th century, Murshidkuli Khan, Nawab of Bengal patronized its rich weaving tradition & brought the craft of making this sari from Dhaka to the Baluchar village in Murshidabad and encouraged the industry to flourish. After a flood in the Ganga river & the subsequent submerging of the village, the industry moved to Bishnupur village in Bankura district. The sari industry prospered in Bishnupur, Bankura during the reign of the Malla dynasty. But this flourishing trend later declined, specially during British rule, due to political and financial reasons and it became a dying craft as most of the weavers were compelled to give up the profession.
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Bishnupur was ruled under the Gupta period by local Hindu kings who paid tribute to Samudra Gupta. Following a long period of obscurity, where the land oscillated between being a minor independent principality and a vassal state. The land is also called Mallabhum after the Malla rulers of this place. The Malla rulers were Vaishnavites and built the famous terracotta temples during the 17th and 18th century at this place. The terracotta temples here are the best specimen of the classical style of Bengal architecture. Primarily known for its very high count of temples of extensive dignity and large tanks, Bishnupur offers the essence of a typical and profound urban complex of Bengal, which witnessed the grandeur and radiance its earlier years.
Bishnupur (the distance from Kolkata is 132 km), now the headquarters of the subdivision of the same name in Bankura district, is a seat of crafts and culture. For almost a thousand years it was the capital of the Malla kings of Mallabhum, of which Bankura was a part, till their power waned during the times when Mughal rule weakened under the last monarchs of the dynasty. The patronage of Malla king Veer Hambir and his successors Raja Raghunath Singha and Veer Singha made Bishnupur one of the principal centres of culture in Bengal. Most of the exquisite terracotta temples for which town is justly famous were built during this period. Apart from the unique architecture of the period, Bishnupur is also famous for its terracotta craft and its own Baluchari sarees made of tussar silk. Royal patronage also gave rise to Vishnupuri gharana (school) of Hindustani classical music and the Bishnupur school of painting.
THE MALLAS OF BISHNUPUR
The Malla rulers of the region built the temples of Bishnupur. Towards the end of the seventh century Raghunath founded the Malla dynasty. Jagat Malla, who ascended to the throne in 994 AD, shifted his capital from Prodyumnapur to Bishnupur. Another successor, Ram Malla commanded an impressive army. Shiv Shingha was a patron of the arts and music.
The reign of Virhambir is considered as the golden age of the Mallas. After consolidating the military strength of Bishnupur he became influenced by the Vaishnava cult. The passion of the conquerer was replaced by the faith of the Vaishnav. The temples were on their way.
Raghunatha is known to have been the Adi Malla, or the founder of the MALLA Dynasty, after being established as the most powerful wrestler of the Kingdom. However, the Kingdom attained distinction from the time of Bir Hambir, the best known among all Malla Rulers. Although he originated as an iniquitous ruler, he later transformed into a gracious personality under the influence of a prominent and intellectual scholar named Srinivas acharya.
ART & CULTURE OF BISHNUPUR
A school of music, called the Bishnupur Gharana, was established here in 1370 A.D and flourished under the patronage of the Malla kings. The school hit its peak in the 16th and 17th centuries. This style of music is rooted in the Dhrupad style and is still being kept alive in local academies of music.
Terracotta is characteristic of Bishnupur. Apart from the temples, terracotta pottery, artifacts and even jewellery made in this very traditional material is famous. The potters here derive their inspiration from the glorious history of kings, soldiers and wars. Bishnupur is also known for its silk (tussar), particularly the Baluchari Sarees. Woven on unusual punch-card looms, these sarees have episodes from the Mahabharata woven into the border and pallu. Bellmetalware, conch-shell jewellery is also available here. Bankura Horse – Now the symbol of Indian handicrafts – available both in the terracotta and wood versions. Baluchari Saris – another famous Bishnupur product. Traditional woven with Ramayana and Mahabharata symbols but modern versions are also available.
TEMPLES OF BISHNUPUR
There are many such temples which stand testimony to the exquisite craftsmanship of the artisans of the region. The temples were crafted from the local laterite and brick. The temples are covered with terracotta tiles depicting scenes from the epic Mahabharata. The temples are located in Bishnupur and across many other small villages in the Bankura district.
Rasmancha – It is the oldest brick temple. Built in the late 16th century by King Beera Hambira. The temple has an unusual elongated pyramidical tower, surrounded by hut-shaped turrets, which were very typical of Bengali roof structures of the time. Siddhartha became Buddhadeb after coming in contact with dacoit Angulimala, as Chandraashok changed into Dharmaashok under the influence of Upagupta, so the bandit King, Veer Hambir, turned into an ascetic
Vaishnava. He became a benevolent king who built that wonderful Rasmancha, a unique structure in Bishnupur at 1600 A.D. Raasmancha has a pyramidal summit, based upon a roomy Laterite platform. The internal sanctum of the shrine is enclosed by three successive circumambulatory galleries and crowned by a colossal pyramidal roof above.
Jorebangla Temple of Keshta Rai – A temple formed on the combination of two temple, is what depicts the true style of the Jor-Bangla architecture. Built by King Raghunath Singha Dev II in the 17th century. The ornate terracotta carvings are set off by the roof in the classic chala style of Bengal architecture. Keshtaraya (Jorbangla type) temple is one of them that was built in 1655 A.D. The Keshta-Raya Temple is famous for its structural configuration and exclusive terracotta sculptures. The structural pattern is unique in itself. It resembles the union of two hut-like structures, having two angled roofs combined to form a single architecture, installed with a char-chala tower on the crown. This temple is built in brick and entirely covered with terracotta artworks.
Pancha Ratna Temple of Shyam Rai – One of the prides of Bishnupur in terms of its architectural pattern, Shyama-Raya temple attains a place in the highest prioritized monuments of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI). The post-conservation state of this temple takes us back to the splendor and glory it carried during the early years of establishment. Raghunatha Singha built this exclusive temple in the year 1643 AD. Exclusive and exquisite in terms of the high-class terracotta beautification, this temple is extraordinary in its structural configuration. The terracotta sculptures engraved on the walls and edges or reliefs depict various scenes from epics like the Ramayana, Mahabharata, Krishna-Lila, etc. Other topics include the royal hunting scenes. The cornices are carved with friezes showing musicians and lively dancers. The panels with scroll works depicting Radha-Krishna figures appear truly lively. Because of the five towers, the pattern is commonly considered to belong to the ‘Ratna-Chuda’ type.
Madanmohan Temple – King Durjana Singh Deva built the temple in 1694 AD in the ekaratna style, a square flat-roofed building with carved cornices, surmounted by a pinnacle. Impressive carvings on the walls depict scenes from the Ramayana, Mahabharata and the Puranas.
Radhamadhab Temple – Located to the North of the Lal-Bandh stands the grand Radha Madhava Temple. It depicts the typical ‘Eka-Ratna’ Style of temple Architecture. The temple was built in AD 1737 by one of the spouses of Bir Singha, Siramanidevi. There are three arches on the walls of the portal, approaching the entry of the temple. The rows of birds, animals and epical scenes can be found on a splendorous display, parallel to the platform. On the side or edges and the bottom region of the cornice there exist elaborate and descriptive sculptural reliefs, displayed in two rows. Scenes from the Krishna-Lila are located on the sides of the arches and the pillars are also embroidered with relief beautification dealing with diverse themes. There is a ‘do-chala’ ‘Bhog-Mandapa’, positioned near the temple itself. This construction is unique because no other do-chala structures are located anywhere else in Bishnupur.
Kalachand Temple – One of the most important temples in Bishnupur is the Kalachand Temple. Built in 1656 AD by Raghunatha Singha, Kalachand Temple is the earliest of all the laterite built Eka-Ratna type of temples in all Bishnupur. The temple is situated on the south-bank of the Lal-Bandh. The non-metalled road starting in front of Udayan Lodge would take one straight to the Kalachand Temple with a 10 minutes walk. This square base temple measures 11.1 m on all sides and is seated at a height of 9.2 m from the ground. Curvatures on the roof depict ornamented scenes from the Vedic epics, while the prime theme of this temple features the Krishna-Lila. The architecture is worth an appraisal, truly!
Radhagovinda Temple – The Radha-Govinda Temple is in close proximity to the Jor-Mandir Group of temples. Its structural grandeur stands as another remembrance of the Malla Rulers in terms of a definite example of their dedicated craftsmanship and architectural conscience. The temple was raised during the period of Krishna Singha as ruler, in 1729 AD. The temple has three arched openings on each side, and is supported by bas-relief décor. The recently conserved Tower top of the temple adds its old glitter and amongst all the nearby temples, including the Jor-Mandir Group and Radha-Mohana temple, it stands out to be the leading configuration. The abandoned sanctum, as usual, stands witness of the dedication and religious dawns of its own times. The sculptural engravings are individually ‘blocked’, and recent conservation activities have made the entire complex attractive. Adjacent to the Radha-Govinda temple stands a minute temple and another structure, that once used to form another temple, but has been conserved from ruins.
Mrinmayee Temple – Mrinmoyee, the family deity of Malla Kings was established 997 A.D. It is said that 29th Malla King, Jagat Malla was told by the Goddess in his dream to shift his capital from Pradyumnapur to Bishnupur. Accordingly the king shifted his capital. Ma Mrinmoyee was the family deity of Malla Kings. According to the scholars king Jagat Malla found a statue of the deity under a tree, which was the form of Bramhi and Baishnabi of Devi Durga. According to these scholars this particular type of image was worshipped in a heff and not on earth. According to the desire of Devi the face of the Statue was hidden behind a clay face. Therefore the name is Mrinmoyee.
Radhashyam Temple – This Laterite temple stands south of the Lalji temple, encompassed within a large patio. The temple, thought to have been constructed in 1758 AD by Chaitanya Singha, is known to be the most recent among all the dated temples in Bishnupur. This Square Planned temple measures 12.5 m on all sides and 10.7 m in height. Famous for its stucco relief, these are exquisitely garlanded and elaborative in nature, including symmetric and floral icons of dedicated craftsmanship. The inner sanctum is widely ornamented with scenes from the Ramayana, Anantashayana of Lord Vishnu and alternate figures of Sri Sri Radha-Krishna. The majority of theses figures and images are in a decrepit status. Still, they are regularly worshipped along with the prime icon of Lord Krishna and Radha, known as Radha-Shyam. To date, this temple stands as an icon of the dedication of the Malla Rulers towards the Vaishnava Sect.
Jora Mandir – The Jor-Mandir Group of temples stands very near to the Lal-Bandh, towards the southern end. The non-metalled road from the Chinnamasta Temple takes one through to these temples. Two comparatively well-built and another miniature temple forms this group. The temples have a unique architectural format. The temple lying to the north and the one in the south are the matured ones, while the third one lying between them is a diminutive one. These three temples are known to have been built by the Malla King, Gopala Singha in c.1726 AD. The most ornamented temple is the small one. This is a rather unusual style of craftsmanship. The stucco figures on the walls of the temple stand impressive till this date. All three temples follow the patent Eka-Ratna style of architecture. Sculptural depictions are specific scenes and panels from The Ramayana and the Krishna-Lila.
Radha Laljiu Temple – The Lalji Temple has an established grandeur among the laterite Eka-Ratna temples registered in and around Bishnupur. Inscriptions suggest the year of its erection as 1658 AD, during the reign of Bir Singha II, the representative of the Malla Kingdom. Descriptive and ornamental arches and an encompassment around the temple are a typical significance of the temple. Dedicated to Sri Radhika and Sri Krishna, this temple bears similar architectural concepts as many of the earlier temples. The Lalji Temple is placed on a square plinth, each side being 12.3 m high above the ground. The architectural curvatures about the ornamentations and sculptural depictions on the arches and sides highlight the craftsmen’s commitment.
Chhinnamasta Temple – One of the most renowned and lively Deities in all Bishnupur is the Chinnamasta Mata. The temple is almost 100 years old and newly renovated. The specification of this Deity resembling the Goddess of Power is that ‘It depicts the goddess without her head, or rather she is seen to carry her head on one of her 12 arms’. ‘Chinnamasta’, a word in Bengali, means, ‘With the head separated’. This temple lies on the way to the Jor-Mandir group of Temples via the Dalmadal Cannon/Gun. Regular offerings and worship are made to the divine being by hundreds of devotees. The Deity has been carved out of Red Desert Sandstone, and the entire complex was set up by one of the devotees of the goddess, from Midnapore.
Boram Thakur – ‘Boram Thakur’ is established on a low platform under three trees, Ankar tree’, ‘Banna tree’, ‘Pipul tree’, at a crossing to roads. Once in year, on ‘Makar Sankranti’ day Boram Thakur is worshipped by ‘Bouri’ community of ‘Bouri’ locality of Krishnaganj in Bishnupur.
Tejpal – Tejpal was once a part of Bishnupur. Today it stands little bit forlorn away from the hub of Bishnupur town. The aatchaalaa temple of laterite was built by Veer Singha II in 1692 A.D. for Radha-Krishna.
Sridhar – In the early nineteenth century the Bosu family of Bishnupur built an exquisite temple, ‘Sridhar mandir’, the only Navaratna temple in Bishnupur with plenty of terracotta artwork.
Murali Mohan Mandir – The Madana-Mohana Temple, also known as Murali-Mohana, is a typical example of the Eka-Ratna style of temples in Bishnupur. This brick built shrine is dedicated to the sacred Madana-Mohana, the prime Deity worshipped by the Mallas. The wonderfully decorated temple was erected by the Malla King, Durjana Singha in 1694 AD. The ornamentations have been designed and depicted on terracotta plaques set upon the walls of the frontal porches, having three arched openings on each side. The temple, as usual, is of a square plan having dimensions 12.2 m on four sides and 10.7 m in height. Terracotta plaques portray scenes from the Krishna-Lila chronologies, Dasavatara, lila pastimes and Puranic episodes. Other interesting features include floral beautifications, birds and animal figurines.
An astonishing figure of ‘Dragon’ like creatures, inside the temple prove to be of distinct significance. It defines the sharing of cultures and traditional depictions between India and the overseas during that period. In the inner sanctum resides the dedicated Deity of the Mallas, Lord Madana-Mohana. The original figure now remains in Bag Bazaar of Calcutta, while its replica is the one worshipped in the original temple. The pillars of the temple resemble the typical
styles as illustrated in epics like Mahabharata. On the porches, one can find depictions from wars and battlefields. Truly a magnificent merge of traditional and cultural scenarios, so different from today, yet so similar!
Patpur Temple – In 1758 King Chaitanya Singha built an ek-ratna temple in Patpur near Bishnupur.
Malleswar – Raghunath Singha built Malleshwar mandir in 1622 A.D. & dedicated in the name of Veer Hambir.
Mahaprabhu – In 1734-35 King Gopal Singha built Mahapravu mandir, a Jorbangla type brick temple.
OTHER PLACES OF INTEREST AT BISHNUPUR
Dalmadal Caman – Supposed to have protected Bishnupur when the Bargis (Maratha warriors) attacked. Dalmadal/Dalmardan cannon, is said to be built by Madanmohan himself to defend against the Marathas in 17th Century during King Gopal Sing’s reign. The cannon is 3.84 m in length and its inner diameter of the muzzle face is only 29 cm whereas the outer diameter is 66.5 cm. The cannon was built by 63 rings, which were formed in three concentric layers of iron.
Lalbandh – Lal-Bandh is one of the seven bandhs, or tanks, built by the Malla Rulers to confine their Fort from any alien attack. These tanks or Bandhs were primarily built as a permanent solution to the scarcity of Water in the kingdom, apart from intensifying the security of the fortress. Lal-Bandh is the most famous among these all. One of the major reasons being an abundance of temples situated along the southern bank of the tank. ‘Lal-Bandh’ derived its name from and after the death of Lal-Bai, after she committed suicide, by entering the tank. Till date the Lal-Bandh has a statement to establish the grandeur and prosperity it had witnessed during the glorious rule of the Mallas. Adjacent to the Lal-Bandh is the Sarbamangala Mata temple. The Goddess of peace and universal prosperity is the worshipped deity. Comparatively a newly built temple, it lies on the College Road.
Gumgarh – Ghumghar, 30ft high water reservoir. On its south there is a canal which is known as ‘Foara Khana’. Inside the reservoir, a few pipelines are found which were linked to the palace. It is said that the prisoners were thrown into this place and from their the name ‘Ghumghar’ has originated.
Pathar Darwaja (Main Gateway of Bishnupur) – The fine arched gateway popularly khown as “Pathar Darwaja” is built with dressed laterite rock. This gateway was the northern entrance to the ancient fort of Bishnupur and Malla King Birsingha built it in the second half of the seventeenth century. It had double storied galleries flanking the central passage for accommodating troops and there were also arrow slits for the archer and the gunman.
Garh Darwaja (Small Gateway of Bishnupur) – The Gate was meant for welcoming important visitors. It is 23’8” long, 12’6” wide and 25′ height. The lower part is built with laterite stone and upper part with bricks. The brick work was earlier covered with ‘Pankha work’. In the centre of the Gate there is a staircase to the upper floor. The roof is a flat dome. It was built during the same period as the neighboring Big Stone Gate.
Stone Chariot – This small double storied structure stands on a low laterite plinth originally with three wheels on each side. The lower storey resembles the arched pavilion of Rashmancha, whereas the upper storey with sikhara resembles ekeratna temple of Bishnupur. This stone chariot is unique in representing typical Bishnupur temple style in miniature from with all finer details.
Acharya Jogeshchandra Museum – Established in 1951, Jogesh Chandra Archaeological Centre exhibits artifacts of the Malla kings and is located at Bishnupur. The center also features a unique collection of prehistoric implements, large assemblage of documents and manuscripts, stone and terracotta sculptures, epigraphs, bronzes, coins of early and mediaeval period, scroll paintings and painted manuscripts-covers, and over four thousand mediaeval manuscripts in Sanskrit, Prakrit and Bengali.
Sarbamangala, Krishna Valaram Temple, Brihat Dharmaraj, Rajbari, Nutan Mahal are places of worth visit.
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