Bishnupur Terracotta temples of W. Bengal - inspiring monuments - 02

The roofs of  temples of Bishunupur and other places  were  designed using the rural huts in Bengal with  curved  or sloping thatched top  as models  to drain out rain water. In the absence of headstones in the Gangetic plains, construction materials are mostly, well-baked bricks or mud. and terracotta tiles, the latter for decoration work. 

Bishnupur Terracota Madan Mohan temple. WB.

Rural huts in W.Bengal

Above image:  raditional huts in a village near Canning, West Bengal, made of locally available materials like mud, twigs and cow-dung. Mud huts and hay stacks are some of the common images of rural India in the interior parts. . Though these designs appear simple or  amateur, but they  are strong enough  to withstand the test of time and are ideal for the tropical climate of India..............

According to David McCutchion (1972)  who did lots of research on Bengal architecture, the temples can be classified into  four types:

 01. Traditional style; This includes  two types; Rekha and Pidha deul.

 02. Hut style : Most common  and simplest style. It is divided into two types; a. Bangla temple - Ek Bangla (do-chala/ jor Bangla). b. chala type- char chala, at chala and baro chala.

03.  Indo-Islamic style: A blend of   Hindu and Muslim design elements  developed in the late medieval period. These are of two types: a. ratna type (temple structure on roof top) and b. domed type.

04. European influenced style Characteristic of  flat roof  developed in the 19th century. 

These types can be seen across west Bengal. However, the temples of Bishnupur, the  erstwhile  capital of Malla  rulers represent a rich legacy, native to this region that is in sync with the local geographical terrain.

shapes of temple, W. Bengal

The temples of Madan Mohan, Shyam Ray, Jor Bangla, Radhey Shyam, Radhagovinda and Lalji display  form a repository of fine terracotta decoration and fine carvings  that make them stand apart.   Many of these temples have decorations  on the outer walls with terracotta (carved brick) reliefs. Bishnupur in West Bengal has a remarkable set of 17th and 18th-century temples with a variety of roof styles built by the Malla dynasty.

The distinctive  features of the temples in Bishnupur  and other places  are the curved cornice and eaves, copied  from the thatched bamboo huts of typical Bengali village.  This style, modelled after   the bamboo framework of the huts that show bending on sides; this is to  drain off rain water during frequent and intense downpours,  This style is similar to the  extended sloping roof cover .of Kerala temples, etc where SW monsoon rains are heavy. Mythological stories are diligently depicted in  reddish clay tiles.


The following are some of the famous temples of Bishnupur, W.B:

01. Jor Bangla Temple: 

Jor Bangala, terracotta work on the

Jor Bangala, Bishnupur, WB.

terracotta temple

Jor Bangla Temple

Above image:  Also called Yorubangala, the Jor Bangla Temple in Bishnupur built by King Raghunath Singha Dev II in the year 1655 CE. It is one of the few well preserved temples of Bishnupur. Design:  classic chala style.  Richly ornamented with terracotta carvings   the temple has an appearance of two thatched huts joined together and surmounted by a single tower. One of the two huts serves as a porch, whereas  the inner hut functions as the shrine. One can see other paintings and sculptures including  royal hunting scenes,  musicians and dancers. This temple can accommodate la large gathering  of  devotee...................................


02. Rasmancha temple: 

prakara. Rashmancha Terracotta temple .Bishnupur.

Rasmancha temple, Bishnupur.

Above image:  The inner  pathway of the Rasmancha (c. 1600), a platform for Vaishanva Ras Yatra festival. Bishnupur, Bankura dist., West Bengal....................

Rasmancha temple, Bishnupur, WB /

Above image: Rasmanch temple with,  a step-pyramid, is the most striking and the oldest (1600 CE) monument of Bishnupur. Built by ruler Bir Hambir, , the pyramid-like structure associated with a Hindu temple is a rare one, one its kind in India.  An unusual feature is  an elongated pyramidal tower, surrounded by hut-shaped turrets,  common  Bengali roof structures of that time. The long passage is  more or less like prakara circumambulatory path round the main chamber. ...............


03. Shyam Rai Temple (panch Ratna):

Shyam Rai temple, terracotta decoration,commons.wikimedia.

Decoration  Shyam Rai.

Shyam Rai temple, Bishnupur, WB.

Shyma  Rai temple

Above  image: Popularly known as Pancha Ratna Temple, Shyam Rai Temple was built by King Raghunath Singha in the year 1643 AD dedicated to Sri Krishna.  Managed by the ASI,   The char chala roof surmounted by ratnas or gems at each corner. The towers in the corners are square-shaped,  but the central tower is octagonal in shape.  They  all rest on a sloping roof in ‘Pida’ order. Each of the four sides of the temple greets us with triple multi-cusped arched gateways, leading to the sanctum around which runs a well paved  circumambulatory path (prakara).. 

The  decorations  on the wall include  episodes from the life of Sri Krishna. The central shikara is octagonal, whereas the rest four are square...........................


04. Lalji Temple (Sri Krishna):  

Lalji Temple, Bishnupur, WB.

Above image: Lalji Temple  built in 1658 CE by Malla king Bir Singha II  has Eka-Ranta style. This temple  devoted to Radha-Krishna  is built on a  raised square plinth, consisting of ornamental stucco decorations on low relief carvings. There is a dancing hall in the front of the temple. In the enclosed gateway passage thre are two chariots (small) one for  for Lord Lalji and the other is for Lord Raghunath  normally used during the Raghunath. Thre are ornamental arches in this temple. ...........


05. Madan Mohan temple: 

Madan Mohan temple Bishnupur

Above image: Madan Mohan temple built by  Malla King Durjana Singh Deva in 1694 AD dedicated to  his family deities of Lord Krishna and Goddess Radha. Design:  Eka-Ratna style, The temple has a square flat roof with curved cornices and a pinnacle over the top; it was rebuilt in 1820. Decorations like reliefs images and carvings on the terracotta wall highlight themes from  the  Ramayana and Krishna Leela. The idol of Sri Krishna is in the sanctum, innermost chamber. The entrance to the temple is through the opening on the west. Carved pillars  are  depict 64 dance poses and they get the attention of the visitors. ................


06. Nandalal temple:

Nandalal temple Bishnupur W,

Above image:  Structure with a  square ground plan and a single tower resting on a gently curved roof. Very little motif work can be seen on the lower part of the temple............


07. Kalachand temple:


Above imageBuilt by King Raghunath Singha in ekratna style with laterite stone.....................


 08. Ratna Govinda temple: 

Ratna Govinda temple, Bishnupur.

Above image: Ratna Govinda temple of Bishnupur built in 1729 by ruler Krishna Singh, son of Gopal Singha in ek-ratna style with laterite stone. .has a slanting roof with a tower atop, The sanctum is inside the chamber and the building has 3 arched openings. This structure need plastering on the outer wall.