Awe-inspiring Maluti Terracotta temples, Maluti, Jharkhand

Maluti temples/

Maluti temples  of Maluti village in Jharkhand state differ from other Hindu temples because they  are simple and impressive often referred to as Terracotta temples. They are an architectural marvel and are being visited by lots of tourists.  These historical temples  form a group of 72 extant  terracotta temples (originally there were 108)  in the Maluti village near Shikaripara in Dumka District of the Chota Nagpur Plateau. These temples, built between the 17th and 19 th centuries according to the Indian Trust for Rural Heritage and Development (ITRHD),  owe their origin to the kings of Baj Basanta dynasty. They were great builders of temples  and their capital was Maluti. They got  the inspiration from  goddess Mowlakshi, their family deity. Many of these temples   have different gods and goddesses, besides  the tutelary deity Mowlakshi, and others such as Shiva, Durga, Kali and Vishnu. 

Considering the unique nature of these temples and their design and style, the  Global Heritage Fund (GHF) has proposed a conservation effort, which would  give impetus to tourism to the Maluti village. GHF has declared this site as one of the world’s 12 most endangered cultural heritage sites and efforts are afoot to preserve the surviving temples; many of them need to be repaired and conserved.

Maluti temples are located in a nice setting, close to the border between Jharkhand and West Bengal. The nearest railway station is Rampurhat, in Birbhum, West Bengal. History of these temples is quite interesting, the kingdom of Maluti, then known as "Nankar Raj (meaning: tax-free kingdom") -  vast acreage of land, was gifted to a  Brahmin named Basanta by the Muslim ruler Alauddin Husain Shah of Gaura (1495–1525) to express his gratitude  for having saved his  begum's hawk (Baj) and returning it to him. The ruler was camping near the place where Basanta was living. Consequently, Basanta was given the title Raja and called Raja Baj Basanta. Being religious, he spent his money on building temples, instead of building palaces etc.  Subsequently, his  successors - four of his clans never stopped building temples in  Maluti and followed suit. Their capital saw   temple construction in clusters.  Name Maluti is derived from Mallahati, the Malla Kings of Bankura.  Built between the 17th and 19th centuries, the Maluti temples came to light only in 1970s. Thanks to A.K.Sinha, Director of Archaeology, Government of Bihar who published them  for the first time in 1979.

Th temples of Maluti fall into four clusters, corresponding to the clans of Basanta who built them. Madhyam Bari refers to the first cluster. Many temples have an arched entrance  whose top has some war scenes between Rama and Ravana. As for other arches, at top, the themes may vary. The second and third clusters come under  Rajbari and Sikir bari. They form the largest cluster and have a maze of lanes. Here you can see temples of different styles, shapes and roof  and the last one is referred to as Chaai Taraf.  Here, Char-challa roof is a common feature and many temples have minute and decorative carvings that need concentration and special skill.

Among the 108 temples built in the village, within a radius of 350 metres (1,150 ft), all  are dedicated to Lord Shiva and  only 72  survived, but are in a semi-dilapidated condition; the other 36 temples have been lost due to negligence and poor interest in heritage structures.  Serious steps are being taken by the government to conserve whatever temples are left. Way back in 2015 both the state and central governments  took the initiative to save  the surviving terracotta temples of Maluti. The conservation people have a plan to do the job with meticulous care and it will be done in phases. In the first phase, they will take up first 20 temples at Rajbari  area in Maluti and as for the surviving 42, they will continue the work, depending on the funds allotted at that time. The people of Maluti are quite happy that these great temples of historical value will be restored back to old grandeur and style. 

Other than Shiva temples, there are also eight temples dedicated to Goddess Kali. There is a temple for  saint known as Bamakhyapa where his trident has been deified. There is a goddess temple dedicated to Manasa Devi. Goddess Mauliskha, the family deity of the Baj Basanta dynasty is widely worshiped and devotees visit the Mauliskha temple all through the year.

Maluti temples, Jharkhand state. Telegraph India

The temples were defined in different styles by the artisans of Bengal popular at that time and they fall under five  categories. There is a total absence of  the Nagara, Vesara and  Dravida styles of temple construction. The design followed here is called Char-Challa - a square chamber "surmounted internally by a dome.  Externally,  it gives the appearance of a hut-shaped roof with highly four slanting slopes. Some temples have a flat roof and single pinnacle top.
fine images  Maluti terracotta  temple, Maluti
The temples are adorned with sculptures,
Bamakhyapa's Temple, Maluti.
depicting various episodes from the epics of Mahabharata and Ramayana. There in a nicely carved sculpture showing the battle between  Goddess Durga and Mahishasura, the demon. Yet another feature is the depiction of village scenes in the sculptures. A few  inscriptions of  "shaka era" give information about the temples -
Maluti temples. artistic
details of building of the temples and also on the socio-political history of that period. As for the intricate designs and figures, it seems, they are made on the terracotta. Some experts believe the were carefully made on the red sandstone available there.

 The conservation work, according to media reports,is dead-locked for various reasons one complaint being the conservation work was not in line with certain norms. The other being release of adequate funds by the government.