Paschim Medinipur, located in the south-western part of West Bengal, was created with the partition of the erstwhile Midnapore district, then the largest district of India, on 1 January 2002. Broadly speaking, there are two natural divisions of the district. NH 14 and NH 16 (old numbering NH 60) from Bankura to Balasore, cuts across the district and roughly is the dividing line between the two natural divisions. To the east of this road, the soil is fertile alluvial and the area is flat. To the west, the Chota Nagpur Plateau gradually slopes down creating an undulating area with infertile laterite rocks/ soil. The landscape changes from dense dry deciduous forests in the west to marshy wetlands in the east. The alluvial portion may be further subdivided into two divisions. First, it is a strip of purely deltaic country nearer to the Hooghly and the Rupnarayan, intersected by numerous rivers and watercourses subject to tidal influences.
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In the 18th and 19th century, Khirpai was a big and famous trading place. Cotton and handicrafts of this area were exported in the foreign lands. In British periods Khirpai became famous for indigo plantation. Now it is a small town of 12 sq k.m. with 11,000 dwellers. Radhamadhab Temple of Malpara is on Ghatal-Khirpai Road and 1.5 k.m. from the bus stand. This age old temple is ‘Pancharatna’(ratna means pinnacle) but the terracotta works still exist with glory. These works depict Krishnalila, Dasavatar and battle of Ram Ravana, even hunting scenes and floral ornamentations. It was built in 1817.
KHARGESWAR SHIV MANDIR
This temple is situated on the north of Radhamadhab temple. This temple faces to the south and of atchala style (atchala means eight thatched roofs, designed as a hut). This temple is famous for its panel and terracotta works. It was built on 1861. It is renovated a few years back.
UMAPATI SHIV MANDIR
This temple is situated in Gangadaspur, a neighbouring village. It was built in 19th century and of atchala style. Panel and terracotta works can be experienced here also. The icon of ‘Surya’(Sun god) is enshrined here, which is of black stone and dating back to 10th or 11th century.
The massive structure of ‘Sitalanda Tin Temple’ is situated in Hattala (Khirpai). It is facing southwards and of ‘atchala’ style. Some terracotta specimens still can be found. It is built by Pani family on 1839.
‘Dalan Mandir’ in Paharipara is also notable. This temple is dedicated to Singhabahini, incarnation of Devi Durga. This was built on 1746 and probably the oldest temple of Khirpai region.
Other temples are ‘Pancharatna’ temple of Uttamananda Ashram, which is renovated, Lakshmi-Janardan temple of Chowdhury family in Gayenpara, this temple is noted for its terracotta works.
On the south-east side of Khirpai town, there is a lake, ruins can be found in the south east corner of this lake. Once, it was the trade-house of the European merchants. French, Hollander, Portuguese and British stepped here for trade, as before 1660 and by that time they thronged here for purchasing cotton and silk, which are of exclusive status. In 1763, French built a workshop in this place.
Khirpai is also famous for its ‘Babarsha’, a special type of sweetmeat, which is not available elsewhere.
Chandrakona (in Ghatal Sub-division) is an age old place. Once, there was a tract called ‘Bhandesh’ which was surrounded with Kangsavati, Silavati, Bakdweep(Bagri) and Mandalghat. Brahmins of ‘Madhyadesha’ (Mid-land) were the inhabitants of Bhandesh. It was famous for its valuable clothes. Chandrakona is ageing back to 500 years. Many monuments and shrines of Hindu rulers once existed here. Now, some of these remains can be found.
Important sites of Chandrakona:
Ruins of three ancient forts.
Three ‘asthal’ or ‘astana’(monastery of Hindu saints and devotees).
These are of three types, Chhoto Asthal (Small), Majhari Asthal(Middle), Bara Asthal(Big). Dilapidated and half dilapidated temples and some renovated structures of its kind.
Three forts are, i) Lalgarh, ii) Ramgarh, (iii) Raghunathgarh. One more ruin of a fort is found here, this is called ‘Dwadash Dwari’ or ‘Baro duari’ Fort (a fort with 12 entrances).
Among the temples, mention may be made of Malleswar Mahadev, Jagannath Mahadev, Shantinath Mahadev, Parbatinath Mahadev, Raghunath Jiu, Lal Jiu, Laxmi-Janardan etc.
The name of ‘Bhagavat Ashram’ also should be noted and ‘Udashini Math’ of Sikhs is also mention-worthy. ‘Grantha Sahib’, the holy book of Sikhism is kept here.
According to history, Khayramollah, a Ruler of Molla lineage, ruled this area in 18th century. He was the builder of Malleswar Mahadev temple, but Chandraketu of Rajput clan defeated Khayramolla and invaded this region. ‘Chandrakona’ this toponym, evolved from Chandraketu. Shahjahan in his ‘Badsahnama’ said that Chandrakona was a tributary state of Delhi.
The remains of ‘Dwadesh Duari’ or ‘Baro Duari’ fort can be found on the southern end of Chandrakona. According to here say, this was built by Chandraketu as his fort and castle.
During the reign of Chauhan clan two more forts Ramgarh and Lalgarh were built. In 1922 the idol of Raghunathjiu was enshrined in the Ramgarh fort. In 1965, the idol of Giridharijiu was enshrined in the Lalgarh fort. A new ‘Navaratna’ temple was built for this purpose. When the Ramgarh was destroyed the idol of Raghunathjiu was placed in this new temple in later days when the Navaratna temple was destroyed this idol also replaced once again. After this replacement, Giridharijiu of Lalgarh was renowned or renamed as ‘Giridharijiu’ ‘Laljiu’. This idol of ‘Laljiu’ is now replaced in a new temple at the market place.
According to the dedicatory inscription of Navaratna temple of Lalgarh fort, this temple was built in 1655, by Rani Laxmanvati, who is the wife of Raja Harinarayan, daughter–in-law of Bir Bhan, daughter of Holray, sister of Narayan Molla Raj and mother of Mitra Sen.
Among the temples of this area mention should be made of ‘Khalsa Shiv temple’ of atchala style in Gobindapur area (1865), Satinath Mandir in Ilambazar area. Radhagobinda Mandir of Chabri family (1870), Raghunath Mandir of Ghazipur, north facing Pancharatna, brick built temple of Dharmaraj in Mitrasenpur(1890).
The other important temples are south facing Navaratna Mandir of (Shantinath Siva) and ‘Navaratna temple’ of Radha Rasik Roy in Lalbazar area. This massive temple is ornamented with finial (pankha) and terracotta. Rasmancha and Nahabatkhana are also very attractive.
In bygone days Garbeta was prosperous settlement and town. Once it was under Bagri Pargana, Bagri is derived from Bakdihi. In ancient texts, Bakdihi is mentioned as ‘Bakdweep’. Garbeta or Bagri has a keen relationship with the episode of Bak-rakshas (Bak, the demon) which is narrated in the Mahabharata.
In the 15th century, Gajapati Singha, one Rajput offshoot defeated the local non-Aryan ruler and founded a new dynasty in ‘Bagri’ area. He also built a fort, which was named ‘Roykota Durga’(Roykota Fort). It is now a massive ruin, which can be seen on the eastern side of the Shilavati river.
On the north side of this fort, most famous temple of Garbeta stands with its massive structure. This temple is dedicated to the great power-goddess ‘Ma Sarbamangala’ in carnation of Devi Durga.
Two other noted temples should be experienced in Garbeta, firstly, Kameswar or Konoreswar Temple and secondly the temple of Radhaballavjiu. Temples of Sarbamangala and Kameswar probably built by Gajapati Singh. Radhaballvjiu temple was built by Raja Durjan Singh Molla (1686).
One more noted temple should be mentioned in this chapter. It is of Krishnavayjiu situated in a village, called Krishnagar, 10 k.m. from Garbeta. But this temple is damaged by land erosion. A Fair(Mela) is held here in the time of Holi.
Karnagarh is of 10 k.m. distance from Medinipur town. The remains of an old fort still attract the tourists. This fort started its stretch from 7 k.m. north of Medinipur and ended after a 3 k.m. run. Remains of rampart, castle, temples, barracks, and lakes are still traceable. On the south of this fort, temple of Anadilinga ‘Dandeswar’ Mahadev still stands with its glory and Mahamaya temple is just beside it. These two temples stand unhurt and excellent in thin structure. Tourists and devotees come here with special feeling for these temples. A gateway of these temples is also well decorated. ‘Raghubaba’, this holy person once came here and contributed half of his life, almost 30-35 years as a devotee and priest of these temples. Karnagarh became famous as a holy place for his contribution.
This place is famous for its pastoral-view, ancientness and nostalgia of by-gone days. According to a here say, this fort was built by Raja Karna, epic hero of the Mahabharata. In Bengali-almanac (Panjika) Karnagarh was narrated as a place of pilgrimage.
According to ‘Bhabisya Brahama Khanda’, a Sanskrit Text, existence of Karnagarh prevailed even in 14th century. Temples of Karnagarh are akin to Orrissi school of temple structures. Hara Prasad Shastri, the famous scholar opined that, these two temples should be considered as to Orissi art town.
In some opinion, Karnagarh was established as before 500 years ago and Raja Mahabir Singha is the founder of this fort, castle, lakes etc. Jaswant Singha was the grand son of Mahabir Singha, a cenotaph was built on the funeral pyre of Jaswant Singh. Some other temples ruins are also seen in this place. After observing the Karnagarh ruin it can be judged that Karnagarh had a stretch of almost 3 k.m.s and divided into two sections, namely, ‘Sadar Mahal(outer portion) and ‘Andar Mahal’(inner Portion). Sadar Mahal was for the royal officials and soldiers and Andar Mahal was for guardian deity(Kuladevata) and royal members.
In British period, it became the nerve centre of a local revolt, ‘Chuar Bidroha’ which became famous in history(1798). ‘Chuar’ means in-civilized and obstinate, in its popular usage. This revolt was started in Ghatsila on 1767.
British rulers over powered them temporarily but on 1798, it appeared with its new potentiality under the leadership of Rani Shiromani and this place became the new nerve centre. The British force was failed to suppress this revolters. In 1799, this revolt was overpowered by British with their force, deployed from outer sources. Rani Shiromoni was arrested and killed. She was attributed a tile of ‘Laxmibai of Medinipur’. After her death this revolt was weakened. British initiated new rules of collecting taxes. On 1799, ‘Chuar Revolt’ came to its end, but Karnagarh became famous in sharing and witnessing this historical movement.
Medinipur town is the headquarters of Paschim Medinipur. Its inception or foundation is unknown. According to a here say, this town was established by Raja Medini and this town was named after him. But in the ‘Ain-e-Akbari’, it was noted as a big city. Following this textual evidence, we may say, this town is aging back to 500 years. In Mughal days, it was under Jaleswar Sarkar. On 2nd September 1783, it was announced as the headquarters. Historical evidences can be traceable in every nook and corner of this town. In some opinion, Medinikar, a local lord and famous lexicologist of ‘Medinikosh’ has founded the city and the place was named after him(13th century).
Pathra is 8 k.m. walk from Medinipur town and on the north bank of the Cossye river. This village is famous for its terracotta temples, which are almost 32 in number. Some years ago, a statue of Lokeswar Bishnu was found here which is now preserved in the Ashutosh Museum of Kolkata. That confirms that Pathra as an old settlement almost of 1000 years. It became a popular tourist spot, specially to those who love history and heritage. Pathra is famous for its pastoral beauty and renowned as a picnic spot also.
Malancha is an adjacent part of Kharagpur, this part is on the north-west direction of Kharagpur. But this place is famous for its temples.
The best among them is ‘Dakshina Kali Mandir’. It is brick-built and ‘atchala’ formation. Most noted of this temple is terracotta ornamentation. This was built in 1634 (in some opinion it may be in1712).
Other temples are the temple of Nandeswar Siva, built with laterite (1719), Siddheswari Mandir, Balaji Mandir, which is of recent times built by the South Indians of this city. Jhareswar temple which is revered by the devotees everyday.
On the north side of this city, we may find the temple of ‘Khargeswar Mahadev’, this place is known as Inda. In some opinion, it was built by Raja Kharga Singha, and in opposite opinion, it was built by Kharagmallah of Bishnupur dynasty, probably 200 years ago.
The wise space of Kharageswar temple is known as ‘Hirimbadanga’; according to here say, the battle of Bhima and Hirimba took place in this field.
In a shorter distance of Kharageswar Mahadev Temple, the holy tomb of ‘Pir Lohani Baba’ was built, who was a Muslim saint. His real name was ‘Amear Khan. Probably he was of Lohani lineage. But popularly he was known as ‘Pir Lohani’.
OTHER PLACES TO BE VISITED IN MEDINIPUR:
The famous ‘Kali Temple’ of Natunbazar, this is of ‘Pancharatna’ style, east facing and near the bank of the Cossyae river.
The Holy tomb of ‘Pir Lohani Baba’ with its single dome-mosque which was built in 16th century.
On the western part of Natunbazar, the famous temple of ‘Jagannath’ is situated which is built in 1851. Its breadth is 21” and height is 73”.
‘Sitala Mandir’ of Barabazar is also notable for its antiquity which is 200 years old.
Shiv Tala, a neighbouring part of Barabazar, here tourist can observe the famous Radhakantajiu temple of Mallick family. It is specially notable for its terracotta artistry.
Tikia Masjid of Mirbazar and Dewan Khana Masjid of Aligunj is also famous of their structures. It was said that Dewan Khana Masjid was built by Kephayetulla, Ddewan of Aurangazeb. This is east facing and of three domes. Its height is 56” and breadth id 300”. It is of 300 years, one of the age old mosques of this region.
Most reputed structure of modern age is Vidyasagar Smriti Mandir. In 1938, Dr. Radhakrishnan laid the foundation stone of this building, the opening ceremony was presided over by Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore. Historical remains and relics, which are collected from surround places preserve here. This list is very precious as two copper-edicts of Raja Sasanka, two valuable statues of Jain and Buddhist age, terracotta works, coins and manuscripts etc.
We also mention about the tomb of John Pears in Judges’ Court Road, St. John Church at Seikhpura, Roman Catholic Church of Keranitola, Baptist Mission Church of America near Abasgarh. These are built between 18th and 19th century.
Mention should be made of Jora Masjid(twin mosques) of Mirza Mohalla area, built in 17th century.
A structure just on the east side of the twin mosques, known as ‘Khanka Sharif’, which is the holy tomb of Md. Moulana Hazarat Sayed Shah Mehar Ali Alkazuri. In the neighbouring place in Miabazar famous tomb and masjid of Chandan Sahid Rahamatullah is situated. Probably it was built in the time of Aurangazeb.
Another notable masjid is an Edgar Shah Sahib’s tomb at Mahatabpur which is adored by both faiths of Hindus and Muslims.
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