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Quiet brilliance of Bishnupur


Bishnupur is the temple town of Bankura district; you can say it is the centre of rural West Bengal. The temples are dedicated to Lord Vishnu, hence the name of the town is ‘Bishnupur’. The town is famous for its heritage, proud culture, brilliant architecture and tales of terracotta. 

 During the reign of Malla dynasty, the 10th Malla king, Jagat Malla, shifted his kingdom to Bishnupur. Most temples and sculptures in Bishnupur were built by the wealthy kings of the Malla dynasty, between 17th and 18th century. They patronised art, craft, music and textile and under them, Bishnupur thrived beautifully. 

At the time, Bengal had low supply of stone, hence burnt clay bricks cake to be used as a substitute. The artisans and architects of Bengal found the new way of a beautiful craft known as ‘Terracotta’. 

Image by Outlook India.

Bengal’s famous Terracotta art sculptures.

Terracotta has been used to develop various unique and beautiful architectural works like Ras Mancha, Bishnupur. Ras Mancha is a historical temple that dates back to 1600. It is famous for its unique architecturethe main structure is situated on a square platform, and the upper part of it looks like a pyramid. The temple was built to celebrate Ras festival; during the festival, the idols of deities, were taken to this temple from all the nearby shrines. 

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Ras Mancha in Bishnupur.

Another architectural work with terracotta tiles is the Shyam Rai (Pancha Ratnatemple. Its tiles represent stories from the Ramayana, Mahabharata, Krishna Leela, and scenes from everyday life of common people. The tiles on the temple have many stories to tell. Like that of Krishna’s battle with the demons sent by Kansa. The town has a plethora of interesting history and heritage. 

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Pancha Ratna (Gokulchand) Temple ruins at Bishnupur.

The temples of Bishnupur are categorised as gems of West Bengal. Notable features of the temples include the style of the roof and the number of turret-like structures on them. Almost all of the heritage architecture works have terracotta tiles describing tales from the Indian mythological epics and religious scriptures. 

Another historical attraction in Bishnupur which was built by the Malla Kings is Dal Madal. It defended the local rulers of Bishnupur from the Maratha invasion. The cannon is built with rust-free iron, it is unaffected by rain, sun and other climatic conditions. The cannon dates back to 1742, and currently it is in the vicinity of Chinnamasta temple. 

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Dal Madal Cannon, Chinnamasta temple, Bishnupur. 

Dal Madal Cannon, Chinnamasta temple, Bishnupur. Image by 

Bishnupur was and is filled with numerous local artisans. Bishnupur is still a town of craftsmen, and it is full of people who uphold the tradition of their towns’ heritage, art, and craftsmanship.