A personal travel blog by Ms. Reetwika Banerjee
(Connect with her on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/reetwika.banerjee)
We were yearning for a long weekend for quite some time and the moment we came across the Rath Yatra holidays, we geared up for exploring the historic trails of temple town of Malla Kings – Bishnupur. The temples date back to early 16th century AD, superbly rich in terracotta wall carvings made of firebricks – one of the top archaeological heritages of golden Bengal.
Rich terracotta carvings of Bishnupur temples – centuries old Bengal heritage
It is located at a distance of around 150 kilometers from Kolkata. We started early in the morning as the overall road conditions in the route were not very conducive for self-driving a small car. After crossing the wavy Ganges at Dakshineshwar via Bally Bridge, we headed right onto Ahalyabai Holkar Road to Kotulpur. The next 32 kilometers till Bishnupur was like a creamy drive and no doubt the best part of our road experience in the journey so far. But it took us almost five and half hours to cover just a distance of 150 kilometers from Kolkata – that explains the overall road and traffic conditions in this route. We reached the temple town of Bishnupur little before 3 in the afternoon. Evening was left for leisure.
Bally Bridge over the Ganges near Dakshineshwar
Dakshineshwar Temple on way
Rustic Roads from Arambagh to Bishnupur
There are very simple lodging facilities available for tourist stay here. We fortunately had a warm accommodation offered to us by one of our close relatives who hails from this beautiful temple town.
The internal roads of Bishnupur are too narrow and full of indigenous traffic. So we decided to book a local auto rickshaw to visit the famous terracotta temples and other notable monuments in and around the town.
Rashmancha – Till 1932, during Rash festival, all the Radha and Krishna idols of Bishnupur town were brought here to be worshiped by the citizens
We started next day early in the morning by 8.45am as most of the temples open by 9am here. There are no visiting formalities for most of the temples except Rashmancha, Jore Bangla and Shyam Rai temples. A common ticket has to be collected from Rashmancha.
Jore Bungla Temple – Joint temples with a common roof on dochala
When we reached the place, the gates were already opened. We took help of one of the local guides and he skillfully added a significant touch to our temple tour. He started with the absorbing stories of the Malla Kings and one by one toured us across the magnificent terracotta works of Madan Mohan, Jore Bangla and Shyam Rai temples.
Madan Mohan temple – The biggest eka-ratna temple of Bishnupur
Shyam Rai temple – famous for its five porches and octagonal plinth
We also visited the lesser known Kalachand, Lalji, Radha Shyam, Radhalal Jiu, Nandalal, Krishna Balaram and Radha Madhab shrines. The deity in all the temples are different forms of Lord Krishna and his beloved Radha, hence the name Bishnupur.
Radhya Shyam temple
Temple shrines of Bishnupur
There were three other eminent temples dedicated to three different forms of Goddess Durga – Mrinmoyee, Sarbamangala and Chinnamasta temples.
On way we also stopped at other splendid edifices of Malla Dynasty which could pass the test of time – an immobile Stone Chariot (Rath), big and small stone palace gateways, ruins of Malla royal palace, mysterious Gumgarh, historic Dalmadal canon, museum and the seven dams surrounding the glorious terracotta wonders.
Stone Chariot (Rath) of Bishnupur
Chhoto Darja of Mallabhum Royal Palace
Remnants of Mallabhum Rajbari
Gum Ghar – the Malla Kings used to kill their convicts in this closed room
Dal Madol cannon of Madan Mohan – the second largest canon of Bengal province
Out of the seven dams in Bishnupur, during our visit to the Laal Bandh (Red Dam) it ran a chill through our spine. There are several popular spooky stories encompassing this dam and hence the name! The overall impact of the solemn tone of our guide’s delivery and our time of visit (towards the late afternoon), left an enthralling impact on all of us without any doubt. His increasingly deepening voice added a mystic flavor to our visit to the dam. And surprisingly, we too perhaps heard a thin eerie feminine cry while walking down the palace side of the dam. Running into an uncanny chill at sunset, we rather preferred to stride away from the lakeside heading back to our auto.
Next morning we started off by 10am, taking a greedy break on way to satiate our gastronomic desires. Another successful trip completed with diverse experiences and memories. We will be planning our next vacation soon.