(The article is part of the series – The Scarlet Temples of Bengal)
Bangla style (also called the Do-Chala roof) of the roof is a unique component of Bengali Architecture. The low curved roofs with two-way pitching resemble the traditional mud cottages of Bengal. Since the roof – recreated with terracotta bricks is an identical replica of the traditional buildings found in this part of the country, architects later named it – The Bangla Style of Architecture.
Bishnupur, the capital city of the Malla Kingdom, was planned in a way that matches the landscape of the holy Vrindavana – the Leela gound of Lord Sri Krishna – the principal deity of the Malla rulers. Naturally, the city was full of temples, mostly dedicated to Lord Krishna and Radha. The architects also had the opportunity to experiment with shapes, sizes and forms of the building and thus the city became a living exhibition of medieval Bengali architecture. The Kesto Rai Temple is one such experiment that created one of the most fascinating pieces of architecture in the region.
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While single standalone buildings with Bangla Style roof can be found in many places – the double Bangla roof is very rare. ‘Jor’ is a linguistic deformation of the word ‘Jora’ which means ‘Coupled’ or ‘Twin’. Since two identical Bangla Roofs are built together making it a perfect couple – the temple is called ‘Jor Bangla’ though its actual name is Kesto Rai Temple.
‘Kesto’ – is a colloquial name of Sri Krishna and ‘Rai’ – is of Radha. Just like Shyam Rai Temple, Kesto Rai was also dedicated to the same deity. Built in the year 1655 CE by the Malla king Raja Raghunath Singha II, Jor Bangla Temple has a raised platform. The square platform measures 12 meters each side on which the main temple is situated. The total height of the temple is almost 10.7 metres above the plinth.
The temple (the two Banglas together) also has a square shape which has been divided into two identical rectangles. Though the roof might give an expression that the two buildings are separately built, it is not so. The one on the left is basically an entrance porch where the priest used to sit while worshipping the deity placed on the one on the right – the sanctum. Inside the sanctum, a six-handed (Sadvuja) figure of Sri-Chaitanya, the founder of Vaishnavism in Bengal, was placed however the temple is no longer used.
The roofs were beautifully joined in the centre and the entire surface of the temple has been splendidly covered with terracotta tiles. Like most of the temples in Bishnupur, the primary theme of the tiles are stories of Ramayana, Mahabharata & Rasleela. The entrance to the temple is through three arched gates – a signature element of the temples of Bishnupur. At the centre of the temple, a beautiful four-sided pitched roof (Char-Chala Roof) tower is built and to hold that, a square block has been raised from the sloped roof.
Because of its fascinating style of architecture and extensive artwork on the walls, the Kesto Rai Temple or the Jor-Bangla Temple is among the most popular tourist destinations of Bishnupur.
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 of Bengal are extremely Instaworthy. The place has a rich history and architecture – so, for anybody with interest in these – Bishnupur is a must-visit place.