(The article is part of the series – The Scarlet Temples of Bengal)
Bishnupur, located at about 130 kilometres from Kolkata, was the capital of the ‘Malla’ rulers. The zenith of the Malla dynasty was between 15th Century to 18th Century when a large part of Bengal (west of river Ganges) and Jharkhand was part of under their control. They could also keep themselves out of administrative turmoils in the country – and that could allow them to concentrate in art and culture.
– PIN IT FOR FUTURE –
It is this time when the famous terracotta temples of Bengal evolved. Bishnupur, being their capital was certainly the recipient of maximum thrust. Over a period of few hundred years, Bishnupur was converted into an amazing cluster of temples, built for different deities and in different styles but one common aspect was there – all of those were built with terracotta brick and clad in terracotta tiles.
Madan Mohan Temple is the largest temple in the city and is located towards the North of the old city. The Malla rulers were followers of ‘Vaishnavite’ Hinduism which considers Lord Vishnu is the principal god and thus named their capital Bishnupur or Vishnupur. Madam Mohan Temple is dedicated to Radha & Krishna (the 8th Avatar of Vishnu). Sri Krishna was the tutelary deity of the Mallas.
Madan Mohan Temple was built by Durjan Singh Deva in the year 1694. The temple is square in plan and has an elevated square plinth on which it stands. The plinth has a dimension of 16 meters each side while the sides of the temple are 12.2 meters long. Three arched gateways on three side of the temple open into a corridor which, through another arched gateway, opens into the main sanctum. The entire building, including its roof, is constructed with terracotta brick made of the red laterite found in plenty in the region.
The roof of the temple is built in ‘Eka-Ratna’ style where one single tower rises from the roof. While the main roof over the sanctum is of a slight slope, a trademark of this region, the Ratna, or the tower, has a corbelled dome over it. The most magnificent aspect of the temple is surely its wall finish. The entire surface of the walls is covered with beautiful terracotta panels which depict the story of Ramayana, Mahabharata, Krishna’s childhood.
The doorways have cusped arches and are very narrow and low. The reason is simple – to hold a huge roof on top, the architects had to create a wide base. They also did not have the liberty of placing huge stone blocks as lintels – all they had was small burnt clay blocks. The amount of creativity shown by the architects of that period despite the limitations is remarkable. Madan Mohan Temple, along with many in the region is a living example of the architecture of that period.
Bishnupur is a well-managed place and all the temples of the area are very well maintained. It can be reached from Kolkata by train – it takes only about three hours. There are good bus connectivity also and if you are in a large group hiring a car can also be a good option.
The entire city of Bishnupur takes about a day and a return train in the evening can be a taken though there are plenty of good places to spend the night which includes the State Government tourist lodge. Inside the city – walking is the best option while paddle rickshaws & three wheeler autos are also available.
The scarlet red buildings are extremely Instaworthy. The place has a rich history and architecture – so, for anybody with interest in these – Bishnupur is a must-visit place.