A Guide Tour to The Beauty of Indian Temples

Updated: Apr 14, 2021



 

Bishnupur, 139 km from Kolkata, was built by the Malla kings who ruled a part of West Bengal between Burdwan and Purulia. ...


It’s hard to imagine an entire holy city built of terracotta, but visit Bishnupur in West Bengal and feast your eyes on a temple town built purely of clay and brick. The temples are dedicated to Lord Vishnu – hence the name ‘Bishnupur’ in local parlance – and were built across 700 years, from the 10th to the 17th centuries.


The Bishnupur temple complex consists of 20 temples. The first of these, the Mrinmayee Temple, was built in 997 CE by King Jagat Malla. The temples of Bishnupur reflect the local architecture of Bengal and most of them were built between 1622 CE and 1758 CE.

The unavailability of stone in the flood plains of Bengal probably led to the extensive use of terracotta, but it is a testimony to the skill of the sutradharas, or the local temple builders, that these temples survive to this day!



 





The Rasmancha temple is unique, with its unusual elongated pyramidical tower surrounded by hut-shaped turrets, which was very typical of Bengali roof structures of the time.


The Madanmohan temple built by King Durjana Singh Deva, has a square flat-roofed building with carved cornices, surmounted by a pinnacle. Impressive carvings on the walls of Madanmohan temple depict scenes from the Ramayana, Mahabharata and the Puranas.


The images you see etched on the Bishnupur temples are also quite unique. This could have been because the artists who worked on the temple complex were illiterate and had no access to the epics and the stories associated with it, which were in Sanskrit. Their only access to this repository was through the works of local Bengali poets, who wrote dramas and ballads.


The poetic licence they enjoyed allowed them to weave in new episodes and interpretations based on local customs and traditions, thus bringing new facets to the stories from the Mahabharata and Ramayana and also the art of these temples.


Visit Bishnupur today and it is hard to imagine that this was once a great centre of art and culture. The Malla kings were patrons of Vaishanavism and invited scholars and artists from all over to Bishnupur. Much of this richness is reflected in the terracotta temples that stand tall even today.

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