Bishnupur ~ the land of terracotta temples
Bishnupur (also spelt as Vishnupur) is a town in the Bankura District of West Bengal and located at about 132 km from Kolkata. It is famous for its ancient terracotta temples dating back to 15th century and Baluchari sarees. Bishnupur is famous for its rich architecture, music and handicrafts like pottery and weaving. It prospered in the 17th and early 18th centuries. Patroned by a line of Hindu Rajas of the Malla dynasty, Bishnupur developed a unique form of architecture and has perhaps the most brilliant and detailed terracotta work in Eastern India that has withstood the ravages of time. The Terracotta tiles depict stories from Ramayana and Mahabharata.
Thus Bishnupur is the art lovers’ heaven. The art and culture prospered here during the rule of the Malla Rulers who were the patrons of painting and music.
Main Attractions of Bishnupur
- Jorebangla Temple
- Pancha Ratna Temple
- Radha Govinda Temple
- Sarbamangala Temple
The Temples like the Shyam Rai Temple, the twin shrines of Jorbangla and the Rasmancha are a must visit. Besides thia, Bishnupur is famous for its traditional handloom sarees. Pottery, artefacts and even jewellery made of terracotta in Bishnupur are very popular. Bishnupur is also famous for the School of Hindustani Music which flourished under royal patronage along with the Bishnupur School of Painting.
History of Bishnupur
King Raghunath founded the Malla dynasty in present Bishnupur in 694 AD. The place has been named Bishnupur in 994 AD by the name of the Hindu God Vishnu. The most powerful king of the dynasty was King Raghunath Singh Dev II, who ruled from 1626 AD. At that time the administration of Bengal was in the hands of Shah Jahan and his son Shuja. He developed a close friendship with the king and there followed a period of peace when art and music already flourishing, reached great heights. The Jorbangla Temple was built in this period.
The most famous art form of Bishnupur is terracotta work. Apart from the temples, terracotta pottery, artefacts and jewellery are popular. Baluchari Sari is one of the most exquisite saris in India is created by craftsmen of Bishnupur. The silk strands are dyed separately before putting into a loom. One sari may have an entire episode from the Mahabharata woven into its border and ‘pallu’. ‘Dokra’ – a metal craft of Bishnupore is very famous among art lovers.
The Jorebangla Temple look like two thatched huts joined together and a single tower. Malla King Raghunath Singh built this temple made of bricks in 1655. The structure built over a one metre high stage built of laterite blocks. Moreover, you can see beautiful terracotta inscriptions in the entire surface area. The decorations are displaying various aspects of human life and culture, with floral and geometrical designs.
Rasmancha is the place to worship of the various idols during the Rash festival. The Malla King, Veer Hambir built this historic building in 16th century. This was an important commemoration during the rule of the Malla kings. Additionally, this is the oldest brick shrine in Bishnupur. Shaped like an extended pyramidal tower surrounded by hut-shaped turrets. The entire structure stands on a high platform made up of laterite blocks. Good quality clay is locally available in plenty for making the bricks and terracotta plates used in the construction of the temples and ornamental images.
The temple has a unique and unparalleled structure. It stands erect on a square shaped lateral plinth. A pyramidal superstructure covers the plinth. In addition, you can see wonderful terracotta work on the walls and roofs of the building. As this mammoth structure lights up during the night, it provides a mesmerizing sight to the devotees.
Madan Mohan Temple
A Hindu shrine dedicated to Lord Krishna. ‘Madan Mohan’ is alternative name of Lord Krishna. King Durjana Singh Deva of Malla Dynasty built this temple in the year 1694 with brick blocks. It is one of the biggest temple of Bishnupur. Similarly, You will see beautiful terracotta plaques covering the walls, entrance and pillars.
Shyam Rai Temple
The Shyamarai temple in the north of the Bishnupur village is well-known for the roof architecture. The square shaped Hindu shrine has its interior and exterior ornamented with magnificent terracotta slates. There are various illustrations and figures that depict the stories of Lord Krishna, as cowherd, with the flute and the gopis. The garden adjacent to the shrine is a place to rest and walk in the evenings.
Pancha Ratna Temple
Built by King Raghunath Singha in 1645. It stands on a low square platform and consists of a ambulatory pathway with a entrance opened by three arcs on the four sides of the temple. The central sikhara is octagonal, while the rest four are square. Above all, you will see beautiful terracotta tiles featuring phases of Lord Krishna’s life on the walls.
Details on Pancha Ratna Temple
Three queens (Right to left : Kaushalya, Kaikeyi and Sumithra) of King Dasaratha finally delivers their sons. Thats RAM, LUXMAN, BHARAT & SATRUGHNA
Bishnupur Dal Madol
Malla ruler Raja Gopal Singh built a cannon named Dal Madol to fight the Maratha attack in the year 1742. This big gun is near Chinnamasta temple and is important for the people of Bishnupur as well as Bengal. The cannon measures about 3.8 m in length and has a barrel of 28.5 cms. The iron made Cannon is exposed to rain and sun for centuries. However, it doesn’t have any corrosion.
Bishnupur Mela is the biggest carnival. Held every year around the last week of December. Location is near the Madanmohan Temple. This carnival held over four days and people from all the adjacent villages come together to rejoice the end of the agricultural season. Recently Bishnupur Utsav, a fiesta held straightaway after the Mela. It is a classical music and dance festival in recognition of the ‘Bishnupur Gharana’ in music.
How to Reach
Air: Nearest airport to Bishnupur is Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose International airport, Kolkata (CCU).
Train: Bishnupur can be reached by train and regular trains are available from Howrah railway station.
Road: Similarly, Bishnupur is well connected by road with Kolkata and nearby towns like Asansol, Durgapur, Burdwan, Panagarh and other parts of the state.