(The article is part of the series – The Scarlet Temples of Bengal)
The moment the temple architecture of Bengal is referred, Bishnupur is the first name to come up. It is true that Bishnupur has made some of the biggest contributions to the developing style of architecture in Bengal but some of the finest examples of it are actually located outside Bishnupur.
Bahulara is a small hamlet about 25 kilometres away from Bishnupur and it has one of the best terracotta temples in the state. The Sidheshwar Temple of Bahulara is one of the oldest temples in the state and is surely one of most beautiful. The Bishnupur group of temples were all built in ‘Ratna’ style, this, of course, is the style entirely developed in Bengal, which was a much-advanced form of style while the ‘Deul’ or ‘Chala’ types of temples were seen around the state from a very long period. The ‘Deul’ type which more or less resembles the ‘Sikhara’ of the Deccan or Kalinga temples is the oldest style so far Bengal is concerned. Most likely, the style came with the Sena dynasty who actually hailed from the Deccan.
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The Sidheshwar Temple of Bahulara is one of the finest examples of ‘Deul’ type of architecture. It is being built on a square base and the structure rises straight up to about 10 metres from where the ‘Sikhara’ starts. The base of the ‘Sikhara’ and the top of the lower walls has the same dimension and the ‘Sikhara’ is formed by a very little vertical slope of the brick wall. The junction where the Sikhara is placed on top of the wall, beautiful joining structure of ‘Bandhana’ is formed. While the inner sanctum of the temple is a perfect square the same cannot be seen from outside because the outside surface is built in ‘Ratha’ style of architecture. In Ratha, a component of North Indian Nagara style of architecture, style, each side of the external surface is step-projected to give the building a marvellous look and superb depth. The temples of Orissa or Khajuraho are some of the most beautiful ‘Ratha’ style temples and Sidheshwar Temple of Bahulara bears the same legacy.
The Sikhara of the temple is intricately decorated with terracotta moulding and stucco work and the carvings depict floral, human and geometric patterns. The details of the carvings are truly beautiful. Dedicated to Shiva, the temple was previously used as Buddhist/Jain shrine. The temple of Sidheshwara dates back to 8th or 9th Century but there is no documentation on when it was actually converted into a Hindu temple. The inner sanctum of Sidheshwar Temple of Bahulara has carvings of Ganesha, Mahisashurmardini Durga and also of Jain Tirthankar Parasananth.
The temple is located in a lovely peaceful place in a village – so if you also want to experience the village life of Bengal – Bahulara Sidheshwar Temple is a must watch the place.
Bahulara is a small village near Ondagram Railway Station. Though the station is few minutes cycle rickshaw ride from the temple, it should not be relied upon. There are not very frequent railway service. The best way to be in the place is to take a bus towards Bankura and get down at Onda bus stop and take a cycle rickshaw.
It takes less than an hour from both Bankura Bishnupur – so if you have some time to spare after your Bishnupur trip – Bahulara is a must watch the place. Otherwise, Buses to Bankura are easily available from Kolkata.