(The land of Lord Bishnu)
In the village near Kotulpur of today’s Bankura, a district in West Bengal, India, the first Malla king, Adi Malla established the Malla kingdom. After 300 years, one of his descendants named Jagat Malla was inspired by divine intervention to build up a temple of Goddess Mrinmoyee at Bishnupur and shifted the kingdom there. Bishnupur shot into fame during the rule of Bir Hambir the 49th Malla king (1586 – 1621). He interacted with Vaishnava guru Srinivas Archarya and became his disciple. This incident resulted in a revolutionary change in Bishnupur and the Malla kingdom became the hub of Vaishnava culture . The king started a building Vaishnava temple which was followed by his descendants and eventually turned Bishnupur into the most talked about temple town of Bengal.
As noted in the beginning the word Bishnupur translates to “the city of Lord Vishnu”. Most temples here are dedicated to Lord Krishna who is believed to be an incarnation of Lord Vishnu. In the 15th and 16th centuries, Malla dynasty flourished in parts of West Bengal. They were politically stable and popular. They encouraged religious activities, provided support to craftsmen, weavers, and potters. During this time, the Sultanate period was coming to an end and Hindu revival was in full swing. There was a sharp break in tradition. Temples which were always public means of expressing power by established cults like that of Krishna, Kali and Durga (Hindu Gods and Goddesses).
In the days of its glory, Bishnupur was the capital of Mallabhum which encompassed, besides the entire district of Bankura, an extensive area in the districts of Medinipur and Bardhaman. The Malla Rajas ruled over the vast territory in the south-western part of present West Bengal and a part of southeastern Jharkhand including Bankura district. Bishnupur, a city in West Bengal, situated in Bankura district, is at elevation 73 meters above Bay of Bengal. The district of Bankura can be divided into three parts by its physical features . The eastern portion is formed with loamy soil formed by the silt brought down by the great Gangetic rivers. In this portion, the Bishnupur subdivision is situated. 99 Town Bishnupur is situated at the margin of the rolling plains and the alluvium. It is a land of rustic beauty, art and of rich heritage & culture.
PEOPLE: Bangali is the local language in Bishnupur. In Bishnupur, Aadi Bassi, Alchchi, Boro, Santal, Marang Saranath, Sari Dharma, Sarna, Bidin, Sant, Saevdharm, Seran, Saran, Sarin, Kheria, many of the religious community living all together.
The terracotta temples of Bishnupur, rich in Indian heritage and culture, boast ancient architectural styles. It is a fascinating place for those who want to get acquainted with the architectural style of West Bengal. Notable among these temples are Jorbangla Temple, Rasmancha Temple, Shyamrai Temple, Kalachand Temple, Jorbanglo etc. These architectures are a significant witness to history. These places in Bishnupur are currently reserved under the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) under the Government of India. Archaeological survey of India listed 20 places in Bishnupur out of 33 places in Bankura District. The temple architecture of Bishnupur is categorized according to three different styles. The most prominent one is the Ratna style of architecture. It has a flat roof with a shikhara (canopy) on top. The number of shikharas decides the name. Ek Ratna, is meaning one shikhara at the centre of the roof.
ART & CULTURE
Bishnupur is famous for its terracotta work. The exquisite craftsmanship of the terracotta artisans is evident in the Madan Mohan Temple and the Shyam Rai Temple. The temple walls are richly decorated with the carvings of different aspects of Krishna’s life- playing with Radha and the other milkmaids, incarnations of Vishnu, etc. Apart from terracotta temples, terracotta handicrafts and home décors, the place is famous for metal and silk weaving and preserves a local style of classical music. Traditional Bankura-Bishnupur’s ornate culture, classical music, paintings or rich Bishnupuri silk sari captivate everyone with multiple attractions. But fame of Bishnupur was not for silk alone. There were many other elements ………..
HERITAGE PLACE OF BISHNUPUR
Dalmadal (ASI SITE)
Dalmadal Gun and the platform on which it is mounted (1741). The cannon named as Dal Madol was built by the Malla king Raja Gopal Singh to protect Bishnupur from Marathas. The word ‘dala’ means enemy and ‘mardan’ means to destroy. It was had been buried and was recovered by Britishers in 1919. This Cannon is near Chhinomasta temple and is significant for the people of Bishnupur as well as Bengal. It was fired only once. (Though apparently it is just like any other cannons, but famous and significant for the historical event. The Maratha invasion or ‘Bargi akramon’ was the most horrendous experience Bengal ever experienced. The incident which took place in 17th century is still a nightmare to the people of Bengal. But, Bishnupur was saved for this Dalmadal cannon.) The Dal Madol cannon made by wrought iron and around 350 years ago. The length measure is 3.8 meter, and has a barrel of 28.5 cms. A Dal Madol cannon is so old, but it has not yet rusted yet.
Gate of Old Fort (ASI SITE)
During the reigns of Bir Hambir and Raghunath Singh. An inextricable tangle of narrow alleyways forms the centre of Bishnupur town. The Gate of Old Fort will remind you of its rich history and culture and you can imagine the grandeur of this place by taking a close look at the gate which is mostly in ruins. This is a huge gate of rocks, and known as Big Stone Door, various design of rocks combining with it made with a special stone known as “Makra”. It was the entrance of the Bishnupur town.
Jore Mandir group of temple (1726 & ASI SITE)
A complex of three ekaratna variety of temples known as the Jor Mandir. The laterite temples constructed on a raised platform and surmounted by a single sikhara on the sloping roof. The central one is elaborately ornamented with stucco work. It is known from the foundation stone tablet on the northern-most temple that the temples were built in 1726 AD by the Malla King Gopal Singha.
Nanda Lal Temple (1700 & ASI SITE)
There are seven Ekaratna temples in Bishnupur. Nandalal temple is first Ekaratna temple, located very near to Dalmadal temple.
Radha Gobinda Temple (1729 & ASI SITE)
The inscription on the south side of the temple proves that it was built in 1729 AD by Krishna Singh, son of Gopal Singh. Architecture of Bengal Temple This temple has a square floor on the ground floor and a curved tower on the top. There is a beautiful stone chariot in the precincts of this temple.
Kalachand Temple (1656 & ASI SITE)
The “Kalachand Temple”is a beautiful laterite temple built as, Ek Ratna style. It was built in 1656 AD by Malla King Raghunath Singha. There is an inscription on southern façade mentioning this. Like most of the other temples of Bishnupur it is also dedicated to Lord Krishna. The temple is built on square platform, the shrine surmounted by a shikara (canopy). On the façade are the terracotta panels depicting scenes from Krishnalila and Puranas.
Stone chariot (ASI SITE)
Stone chariot is situated in Jor Mandir Premises and its establishment 17th century AD as per historical record. The laterite chariot made by three wheels in each side and consists of two lower storey’s.
Jore Bangla Temple (1655 & ASI SITE)
The Jorbangla temple was built in 1655 AD by King Raghunath Singha dev II. The roof and walls of the temple represent the classical do chala (2 roofs) style. It involves two skeuomorphic structures that reflect the traditional thatched huts of the region, one that serves as a porch, in front of the other that serves as a shrine. The terracotta work on the walls of this temple has scenes related to Mahabharata, Ramayana and Krishna-lila. The prayer room is closed now. This temple has a Shadbhuja (6 hands) idol of Sri Chaitanya. It’ s locally called Sarbamangala temple also.
Lalji Temple (1658 & ASI SITE)
The Lalji Temple was built in 1857 by the second Bir Singh in the Ekratna style with low relief sculpture. It is one of the popular shrines made by Malla Kings. The Gods Sri Krishna and Radhika are worshipped here . The temple is an absolute personification of true love.
Madan Gopal Temple (1665 & ASI SITE)
Instead of a King, the 2nd Pancharatna mandir was built by Shiromani Devi, Queen of Bir Singha II. It is one of the most beautiful temples in the temple city of Bishnupur. Its design is traditional Bangla ‘Atchala’ style with a rounded roof. The small arch at the entrance of this temple is to be crossed . The deities are regularly worshiped in this temple. It can be called a living temple. The deities are Mahaprabhu and his followers along with a unique Lord Jagannath figure in all-black. Well maintained old temple with wonderful work.
This South facing temple is situated inside a market area located between Jamuna Bandh and Kalindi Bandh just opposite to Mrinmoyee temple. . Madan Gopal Temple has an octagonal centre pinnacle whilst its other pinnacles are four cornered. Built with laterite stone, this is a 37 feet temple with triple arched gateway.
Madan Mohan Temple (1694& ASI SITE)
Madan Mohan Temple built by Durjana Singh Dev King in the late 17th century is a clear symbolization of Bishnupur’s eternal bond with stone and terracotta temples. The temple is surrounded by a boundary wall with a Do Chala triple entry gate. It’s a unique terracotta temple of bishnupur which is ekratna style with square fakt roof , curved cornices and a pinnacle atop.
It’s Dedicated to Lord Madan Mohan, an incarnation of Lord Vishnu. The amalgamation of brick and terracotta tablets imposed on walls, come alive with these beautiful pictorial depictions on them. The works mostly depict incidences from the two epics of Mahabharata and Ramayana. Some Muslim influences on the work of art will also get noticed.
This temple is often confused with the Madan Gopal temple. The two are poles apart in terms of distance as well as detailed terracotta work adorning their walls. This is also a ‘live’ temple. Lord Madan Mohan’s, puja is offered daily. There is an adjoining kitchen, located inside the temple courtyard. Where Bhog is cooked and offered to the Lord.
There is a myth that this is the very deity saved Bishnupur town from the external enemy attack by Bhaskar Rao, by firing the grand Dalmadal cannon. This particular temple is the gem of Bishnupur town along with Shyam rai temple an array of religious structures signify Bishnupur’s, and especially Bengal’s attachment with God and religious practices since yester year.
Malleswar Temple (1622 CE& ASI SITE)
Malleswar temple is one of the earliest temples of Bishnupur. It is located near Jor Bangla temple. It is square on plan with a rekha sikhara.The original sikhara is replaced with an octagonal sikhara now. The temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva, but there is no deity found now. A beautiful idol of Nandi is found in front of the shrine. This temple looks unique in its style compared to the other temples of Bishnupur. An old Thakur Dalan is situated near the temple. This particular Thakur Dalan has heritage importance in Bishnupur. All the temples in Bishnupur are dedicated to Lord Krishna except this one. It was built by Bir Singha much before he was enthroned.
Murali Mohan Temple (1665 & ASI SITE)
It is an Ekratna temple with floral designs and stucco works. Ekratna type Bengal literate Temple architecture Murali Mohan Temple cosist of a sikhara on top of a square lower storey with curved roof .Here are two or three arched opening are found replaced by a covered ambulatory resting on a road of pillars and the inner Sanctum is topped by a tower.This temple is small, but quite different from other temples, as its walls surround the first floor and it has a pillared corridor on all four sides. This type of open pathway is rare in Bengali temples. . Inscription records its erection by Siromani Devi (also called Chudamani), wife of King Bir Singha II in AD 1665.This temple was built by Rani Chudamani ‘Devi wife of King Bir Singha in 1665 A.D and is located in Bishnupur.
Patpur Temple (ASI SITE)
It is an Ekaratna temple, built of laterite. This Bengal-type temple has a lower storey of the thatched hut and a tower above like the north Indian sikhara. It is datable to the second half of 18th century AD on stylistic consideration. Two images of standing Vishnu on both sides of the entrance to the sanctum are noteworthy.
Radha Binod Temple (1659 & ASI SITE)
This is a brick-built Atchala temple consisting of a sanctum with a corridor on all sides. The roof is curved and is surmounted by a small hut like structure.The carved brickwork of this temple is of high order. It’s records its constructed in 1659 AD by Raghunath Singha.
Radha Gobinda Temple (1729 & ASI SITE)
Laterite Ekratna temple Built by Krishna Singh, son of Gopal Singha in 1729 AD . It is beautifully carved in the notched design of the Bengal temple architecture which is still interesting today. The temple is visible from the road. This temple is adjacent to the three Jor Mandirs. All the four temples can be observed together by climbing on to a nearby mound.
Radha Madhab Temple( 1739 & ASI SITE)
It’s recorded this Radha Madhab temple built by Churamoni Devi , who’s the daughter-in-law of Mallaraj Gopal Singh in the year 1739. This is one more characteristic of Bengal Temple architecture and a north Indian sikhara on top. Plinth of a bhoga mandapa built of laterite stands in ruins to the west. This temple relief design depicting Puranic episodes, Dasavatara, animal and lotus symbols in especially front wall.
Radha Shyam Temple (1758 & ASI SITE)
The Radhashyam temple in Bishnupur is known for the terracotta style of architecture. This Ekaratna temple was built during the reign of King Chaitanya Singha. The temple built of laterite, has a curved roof with a single tower that crowns the square structure of the building. The stucco motifs depicting floral, geometrical designs and also of the life from puranas.. Lord Krishna is the deity that is revered in this temple.
Rasmancha (1600 & ASI SITE)
Established in 1600 AD by the King Bir Hambir, whose reign is considered as the golden age of Mallas, introduced the worship of Madan Mohan (Krishna). King Bir Hambir was a contemporary of Akbar in Delhi then. This temple has a unique pyramid like structure, surrounded by hut-shaped turrets, which were very typical of Bengali roof structures of the time. A pyramidal superstructure with stands on a raised square laterite plinth is unique symbol of Bishnupur temples. The arches decorated with lotus motifs. Three successive circumambulatory galleries are seen here.
The Rasmancha is only one of its kinds in the whole of West Bengal. It was not dedicated to any particular deity but built in a way to accommodate the deities that people brought during the annual Ras festival. It is thrilling to walk through its circumbulatory galleries having several arches through which the sun creates a mysterious light and shade effect. It is a unique and unparallel piece of architecture.
Pancha Ratna Shyam Rai Temple (1643 AD& ASI SITE)
It’s built in 1643 AD by Raghunatha Singha. The Shyamarai temple is to the north of the Bishnupur village and is famous for the curved roof architecture. The square shaped temple has its interior and exterior decorated with wonderful terracotta tiles. There are various pictures and carvings that depict the stories of lord Krishna, as cowherd, with the flute and the gopis. Garden surrounding the temple is a place to rest and move in the evenings.
From Jor Bangla it is a 15 minutes’ walk on in to the Pancha Ratna (Five Pinnacled) Shyam Rai Temple. This temple has triple arched gateway on its four sides and has innumerable terracotta artwork on both exterior and interior walls.
This brick-built Temple is situated within the fort (The Fort is situated just behind the Mrinmoyee Temple, Dalmadal para. There is nothing left of the fort but one of the walls and the four sentry posts still exists). The pancharatna type a square roof surmounted by five towers is thus an example.The central tower itself is octagonal enclosed by an octagonal corridor. The temple is the most profusely carved temple in Bishnupur.
Four of five towers have extensive decorations on it. The fifth one was reconstructed by ASI after it was severely damaged in the past. The wall terracotta art are getting of story of Lord Krishna’s life. Look out for the huge Raschakra, numerous scenes of Krishnalila, Indra fighting sitting on elephant, various hunting scenes, Battle between Ram & Ravan. Like Kesto Rai, at least one day needed to vividly explore the sculptures of this temple.
Walking further down on the road we turned right to go into a rather picturesque lane. Just at the entrance of this lane on the opposite side there is a sinister looking square shaped deserted structure, locally known as Gumghar (Torture chamber).
Mrinmoyee Temple (997AD)
Originally built by Jagat Malla in 997 AD. After he shifted the capital from Pradamnapur to Bishnupur. The Durga puja festival is celebrated in every year , for 15 days past thousand years. All Bishnupur temples are start puja by the canon fire in temple. Although this temple is considered as the oldest temple of Bishnupur, the current structure is entirely new. It is believed that the idol of Goddess, which is made of clay, is the original one that was built in 997 AD. A must visit place for the worshippers.
Maa Chinnamasta Temple
The 100-year-old Mother Chinnamasta Temple is one of the most famous and vibrant deities in Bishnupur. The gods idol of Chinmamasta mata is carved from the sands of the red desert. The Bengali meaning of the word Chhinnamasta is the severed head. One of the special features of this goddess is its 12 arms and separation of the mother from the body. Regular worship is done here. A devotee of Medinipur built the entire complex of Devi. Currently it is in a new way reformed. This temple is seen on the way to Jor temple from Dalkaman, Gum house.
Gokul Chand Temple (ASI SITE),Gokulnagar Bankura
The Temple is situated within an enclosed compound. This largest laterite Pancharatna Temple built in during the reign of Raghunath Singha in c.1643 AD. The walls laterite sculptures have depiction of Dasavatara.. Inscribed foundation stone is fixed on the facade.Although numerous brick terracotta temples dot the entire Gangatic West Bengal but, stone temples do exists in West Bengal Temple Architecture. The few Bengal stone temples, is the is the Gakulchand Temple of Gokulnagar. This temple has three side verandas with a triple arched entrance. The Idol of lord Krishna brought here in holi and rash festival.
Located only a few kilometer from Bishnupur, this laterite stone temple is considered as the largest stone temple of Bankura District.The 64 feet high Pancha Ratna (five pinnacled) temple is flanked by a natmandir whose roof has long collapsed, and the entire 23,500 sq. ft. This temple surrounded high wall coplex like a fort. An arched gateway leads to the temple complex. The central pinnacle of the Pancha Ratna temple is octagonal in shape while the four pinnacles at the corners are smaller in size and square in shape.
Few sculptures of Dos Avatar & Krishnalila can still be seen after ignores many storms and rains. 1996 the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) took over the temple and declared it a Monument of National Importance.During this long period of neglect large quantities of stones have been removed by contractors for construction of roads and buildings.
The Lalbandh artificial lake is believed to have been created in the seventeenth century. Lalbandh has a thrilling proverbial story. Raghunath Singh Mall II, the ruling king, liked Lalbai, a beautiful Muslim dancer of the Bishnupur dynasty. She was abrupt in her beauty and the people died prematurely of the king.The people blamed Lalbai for the untimely death of the king. After the king’s death, his daughter and wife, Chandraprabha, volunteered to burn. It is believed that this is the reason why the people killed Lalbai and her son by chaining them in the water at Lalbandh. At present the enchanting huge lake of Bishnupur is attractive to tourists.
ART & CRAFT, CULTURE & FESTIVAL
Terracota means “reddish or brown in colour baked clay art. Terracotta is one of the unique art platform , that available in history from the past of Indus Valley civilization. Terracotta Bankura-Bishnupur horse is symbol of devotion, courage and history. This terracotta horse is iconic symbol of Mallabhum and undefeated of Malla kings. Many temple walls are made here by terracotta art with many mythological stories.
Bishnupuri Silk & Baluchuri Saree
Bishnupur baluchari is saree in history of textile, after muslin. Two hundred years ago Baluchari used to be practiced in a small village called Baluchar in Murshidabad district, from where it got the name Baluchari. In the eighteenth century, Murshidkuli Khan brought the craft of making this sari from Dhaka, Bangladesh to the Baluchar village in Murshidabad. He whole hearted encouraged the baluchri saree industry to flourish in all. But Flood after flood this industry moved on Bishnupur, Bankura. Baluchari Sari is made of tassar silk and a thousand years old, since the Jagat Malla king rule in Mallabhum. A major influence of the temples can be seen in Baluchari sarees. Unique mythological story crafted mostly found in Baluchari sari, likes Ramayana, Mahabharata, animals and architectural scenes.
Conch-shell and cocoanut-shell industry
Beautiful ornaments like necklace, bangles, earrings, rings made by conch shell and also finely decorated conch-shell, for the purpose of worship are the pride of Bishnupur. Many of Conch shell artisans of Bishnupur (Sankhari Bazar) make their livelihood from this industry. This industry began to flourish in Bishnupur from the time of Raghunath Singh, the second. The artisans use five types of conch-shell as i their raw material, viz. Tektite, Jarjir, Kachcham, Dhala and Pati-sankha.. The cost of raw material is increasing day by day and market is dwindling down due to sharp price hike. So many conch-shell artisans are now making their art form on the cocoanut shell. In addition artisans are now working with gourd-shell also.
Making rectangular lantern with glass and galvanized sheet is an ancient industry of t Bishnupur. Such lantern only made in Bishnupur is still popular today due to low rate of kerosene consumption and hardy structure.
Brass utensil industry
Another ancient art of Bishnupur is pottery made of brass, bell metal, German silver etc. Bishnupur’s ‘Dhokra’-artisans make beautiful famous dhokra art show-pieces . This type of art is called tribal art, which is usually created by nomadic tribes. Metal objects of various sizes are bent and twisted into different shapes with the help of thin brass wires, the oldest method still lost here is metal casting using the wax method.
Making of Dashabatar card
Nearly 400 years ago, Malla kings started playing a special type of card-game. These cards depict 10 Avatars of Vishnu viz. Matsya, Kurma, Baraha, Nrisingha, Baman, Balaram, Parasuram, and Ram, Jagannath Budhha) and Kalki At present only Fouzdar I family makes such cards. The cards are Circular and made with rags, papers, adhesives and colours from natural sources like vegetable colours, stone colours etc.
Preparation of scented Amburi tobacco
From historical evidences it can be said that tobacco-smoking was introduced in Bishnupur under the influence of Mughal courts. In late nineteenth century Sripati Charan Kar became famous for business of the scented Amburi tobacco and West Bengal District Gazettier, Bankura, 1968 says that this scented ‘tobacco processed in Bishnupur was considered by connoisseurs as the last word in smoking pleasure’.
Terracota Kingdom Panchmura
India village Panchmura located around 23 kilometer from Bishnupur. The world famous terracotta folk art is produced in Panchmura. This village one amazing facts that all village families surname are “Khumbhakar” means potters in English. Entire village family persons involve in the complete mannual terracota art works, like Clay Refining and Mixing, Throwing Process/Moulding, Drying, Firing the Clay objects and others. The local people are very friendly for visitors. There attractive terracotta arts likes, wall tiles, wall relief, jewellery, decorative items, traditional toys and gift items are being made.
Bishnupur as well as entire Mallabhum were famous for the tradition of several types of folk songs like Baul kirtan, Tusu, Bhadu, Jhumur, Kheur, Kathakata, Panchali etc. i History says that the famous branch of Indian classical music viz. Bishnupur Garana took birth in Bishnupur in the beginning of eighteenth century by Bahadur Khan, a renowned singer of ‘Seni Gharana’ of north India. Bahadur Khan was a subsequent singer of famous Tansen. At that time famous pakhowaj-player Pirbox also settled in Bishnupur. The intense culture by Bahadur khan and his subsequent disciples made this branch of classical Vocal music popular in Indian main stream music. The great Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore, was a disciple of Jadunath Bhattacharya of the great ‘Bishnupur Gharana,’. The most reliable information is available from the advertisement in the magazine ‘tatwabodhivi’ dated ‘Ashad,’ Bengali Year – mark 1282, (1875) .
Every year around 25 december is held bishnupur mela in near Madanmohana Temple. This Four days festival also known is as Poush Mela. All the nearby village people come together here and celebrate the festival with ending the agriculture session.
CLIMATE & BEST SEASON
Climate of Bishnupur is much drier than that of Eastern part of the state. The average annual maximum temperature of Bishnupur is 45 degree centigrade and the average annual minimum temperature of Bishnupur is 12 degree centigrade. Best time to visit is from September to January With all major religious communities, there are AadiBassi, MarangBoro, Santal, Saranath, Sari Dharma, Sarna, Alchchi, Bidin, Sant, Saevdharm, Seran, Saran, Sarin, Kheria.
HOW TO REACH
BY AIR: The nearest airport to reach Bishnupur is the Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose International Airport at Kolkata. From the town, the airport is 121 kilometers away. The international and national air terminal has regular flights connections from all over the country and the world. From the airport, take a ride on the state owned buses or hire a cab to cover the distance
BY RAIL: Bishnupur has its own railway station. The railhead is in the centre of the city. Direct trains are available from Howrah and Santraganchi for people travelling from Kolkata. This railway station has regular commuting facilities from all over India.
BY ROAD: Bishnupur is well-connected by road network. It’s very easy to reach the city from anywhere in west Bengal. The city bus depot has regular connections. Govt. and Privet bus service are regularly available from Dharmatala/ Esplanade bus stand of Kolkata and Bishnupur. Private air conditioned and non-air conditioned cabs can be availed as well. Govt bus provider name are likes Calcutta State Transport Corporation (CSTC) and South Bengal State Transport Corporation (SBSTC).