Breathtaking terracotta temples of Ambika Kalna - a haven for photographers

 Ambika Kalna or simply Kalna, a town in Purba Bardhaman district of West Bengal on the western bank of the Bhāgirathi is a great destination for tourists. Named after a popular deity, Goddess Kali, Maa Ambika, an interesting attraction here is there is an array of  numerous historical monuments such as the Rajbari (the palace),  the 108 Shiva temples, various mandirs, etc. It is
82 km from Kolkata (Howrah) on the Bandel – Katwa line and, it is said that it was once a prosperous town in the 18th century and  during the heyday of the Maharajahs of Bardhaman, several eye-catching and awe-inspiring temples with intricate terracotta images and artistic work came up. As Time and tide keeps changing, what was once a rich town with a flourish of various trading activities, now yhe place - Ambika Kalna stands as a mute reminder of a glorious past with all those amazing temples.

08 Shiba ilnga temple-Kalna

Kalna, WB: Nava Kailash temple.

Any visitor to Ambika Kalna will be in surprised to see so many Shiva lingas at one place. Nava Kailash, according to the Hindu mythology, is supposedly the abode of Lord Shiva in the Himalayas. In the temple complex here, there are 109 temples, though locally they say there are only 108 Shiva temples. They were all built by  the then King of Burdwan Tejchandra in the year 1809 and the inscriptions bear testimony to it.
108 Shiva Temples, Barddhaman,Kalna  West Bengal. wikipdea

What is so special about these Shiva temples is the way they are arranged in a concentric way. They are constructed in two concentric circles. The inner circle has 34 temples with white Shiva lingams.  and the  outer circle has 74 Shiva temples with  in alternative temples. The number 108 is very auspicious and represents the 108 beads in the rosary. Right in the middle of the inner circle there is a covered well.

 As to the 109 temple, it is believed that in the outer circle, there is an aatchala temple like structure with no Shiva linga inside. Actually it is a closed gate in the same axis as the other temples are. Because of its appearance, it looks like aatchala.  All the Shivlingas can be seen from the centre of the temple complex, this being due to ingenious planning and lay-out of the temples.

Kalna, WB Rajbari ComplexPratapeswar Temple

Kalna Rajbari Complex  just across the Nava Kailash temple complex,  has the maximum concentration of temples. Unlike the latter, the Rajbari complex temples were built at different periods by Kings of Burdwan and their family members. After their family premises and temples at Dainhat got destroyed due to Bargi attack, the rulers chose a safe place to build the temple, etc.  Hence, this town was chosen. Both Nava Kailash and  the Rajbari Complex are under the management of the ASI as they are protected monuments.

Pratapeshwar Temple,Anbika Kalna, W. Bengal, flicker. com

 Above image:  Terracotta Artwork on Pratapeshwar Temple, displaying the battle of Ramayana with Goddess Durga in the centre as "Mahishashurmardni" ........................................

The Rajbari Complex in Kalna has the maximum concentration of temples and they were built in typical Bengali temple architecture. A surprising feature here is inside the Rajbari complex,  there is a temple -  Pratapeshwar temple that was built in rekha syle (common in Odisha) in 1849 by Ramhari Mistri under the supervision of Pearykumari Devi, first wife of Raja Pratapchand. Pratapeshwar temple has  beautiful  terracotta works on its four walls. The panel walls containing the battle of Rama and Ravana with Goddess Durga in the centre, Rama as king of Ayodhya with Sita seating beside him,  the various  episodes of Krishnalila are impressive. So are the terracotta plaques on all the outer walls of the temple as well as in its inner sanctum.  The scenes from Krishnalila have social scenarios.  The roof is made in the style of ridged rekha duel style, which is popularly known as Bishnupur-Bardhaman style. This temple was built by Ramhori Mistry and is a fine example of finest terracotta works in Bengal.

Pancharatna Temples/
Above image: Pancharatna Temples- These temples, built in the 19th century. have
Shiva lingas inside them. They are brick-built aatchala temples of varying sizes  are raised on low-platforms in a row. 

Lalji Temple en

Above image: The Lalji Temple(A.D.1739) with 25 steeples,  Kalna- The oldest temple in the Rajbari complex built in 1739 AD. Made of  brick it is with 25 ratnas (tower). The walls of the temple are adorned with  terracotta plaques depicting the royal hunting scenes. Though it is in the Rajbari complex, it is in  a separate enclosed compound. Inside the temple there is a Radha-Krishna idol.

Krishnachandraji Temple, Kalna en

Krishnachandraji Temple, Kaina, WB

Above image:   Krishnachandraji Temple- This 60 feet tall temple built in the style of 25 Ratnas (towers) and aatchala. has impressive terracotta work depicting various scenes from Ramayana  and Mahabharata, etc. It was built by Raja Tilokchand during 1751-1755 AD. Other shrines present here are Giri Govardhan Temple, Ananta Basudeva temple, Vijay Vaidanath Temple & Mahis Mardini institution. 

Siddheshwari Kali Temple, Kalna

 Above image: Goddess Ambika Siddesheswari: It is the oldest temple in Ambika Kalna dedicated to goddess Ambika Siddesheswari. Hence the place is named after the presiding deity.  Built  by Rishi Amburish in 688 AD, it is said that ''human'' sacrifices were practiced in this temple. This temple built in the ekchala style  is a protected monument now. The 14 steps leading to the temple suggest that the  the first five steps represent  the Tantrik Cult and  the nine steps  represent  the Navagraha or the nine planets. The idol of Kali is made of a single log of neem wood.  The priests hail from the hereditary family. There are two Shiva temples as well.,_India