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Old 22nd March 2009, 22:29   #1
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Default The terracotta temples of Bishnupur

As par of my continuing quest to see the “seeable” places of South Bengal over idle weekends, I visited Bishnupur last Saturday with my family. But for its beautifully made terracotta temples (approximately 30 in all), Bishnupur town would have been a very insignificant, obscure and impoverished little town in the industrially backward Bankura district.

The temples were built by various Mallya kings who ruled this part of the country around the 17th century and made Bishnupur their capital. The royalty being Vaishnavites, all the temples are essentially Radha-Krishna temples. Some of the temples still have idols inside that are still worshipped but some don’t.

The intricately carved terracotta panels on the temple walls depict various scenes from Krishna’s life, Ramayana and Mahabharata – not to speak of various deities. There are many social issues as well that find place in the panels.

The temple architecture is also fairly unique and resembles the architecture of thatched huts of Bengal used for residential purpose in rural Bengal. There are various other uniqueness to the architecture of the temples but that being an alien subject for me I would refrain from commenting on those aspects.

There are two routes to Bishnupur. One goes via Singur and Arambagh. The other goes via Durgapur and Bankura town. We chose the second one, as we were told this road was better. It’s a fairly straight forward road. You turn left from Muchipara in Durgapur on NH2. Crossing Durgapur station and then the barrage you cross Barjora town and then turn left before hitting Bankura town.

After this you cross the little town of Onda and then Ramsagar. After Ramsagar turn left towards Bishnupur. The total distance from Kolkata is about 250 km.

In Bishnupur we stayed in the WBTDC hotel which is pretty decent and very strategically located. For seeing the temples we took the help of a government approved guide, who showed us the way around for Rs 100.

Incidentally Bishnupur is also well known among Bengali women for its Baluchari sarees.

Let me share a few pictures.
Attached Thumbnails
The terracotta temples of Bishnupur-shyamrai1.jpg  

The terracotta temples of Bishnupur-panels.jpg  

The terracotta temples of Bishnupur-panels1.jpg  

The terracotta temples of Bishnupur-panels2.jpg  

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Old 22nd March 2009, 23:05   #2
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Nice one Sudipto, added to my to do list when in Kolkata
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Old 22nd March 2009, 23:05   #3
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Hi Sudipto: Good to relive a trip we also undertook from Delhi in 2007, thanks to your thread - me and my daughter to see the architecture, and my wife (as I see it) for the Baluchari sarees at ultra-economical rates.

This first pic is of a board carrying the details about your first pic, of the Shyamrai temple.
The terracotta temples of Bishnupur-kolkata-may07-66.jpg


I saw more of the saree weavers' looms than the architecture, I suppose, so here's a pic that I couldn't resist putting up
The terracotta temples of Bishnupur-kolkata-may07-55.jpg

and these are the punch cards that produce the intricate pattern on the sarees
The terracotta temples of Bishnupur-kolkata-may07-57.jpg
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Old 22nd March 2009, 23:25   #4
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Thanks Arindam and SS. Bishnupur indeed is very nice and worth a visit. Apart from temples and Baluchari, the town is also famous for its intricately carved conch shells. Unfortunately, the shop was closed when we were in that locality.
Regarding the sarees - my wife thought they weren't any cheaper than in Calcutta. But that didn't stop her from buying one though.
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Old 23rd March 2009, 03:59   #5
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Thats a nice little trip. I did Bishnupur from Mukutmanipur. The road to Mukutmanipur is almost the same as Bishnupur, if you take the road via Durgapur barrage. We went straight from Khatra to Mukutmanipur, while a left turn would take me to Bishnupur.

We had lunch at the WBTDC lodge. While the food was good, the rooms appeared to be very basic and run-down. I hope it has improved now.

The road from Durgapur to Khatra, was an absolute delight to drive, with the smooth tarmac and the sweeping turns, I was very tempted to push the car hard across corners.

When I was there in 2006, portions of SH60 was being converted to NH60. Any idea about the progress? Is going to Bishnupur via Kharagpur an option? I guess, the route would be much longer.
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Old 23rd March 2009, 04:49   #6
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We hardly had any time for Mukutmanipur. Went Saturday, came back Sunday. That will have to be another time. Possibly in monsoon. The NH60 is a narrow two-laned affair but it's mostly freshly laid, so driving is a breeze. Driving via Kharagpur makes absolutely no sense.

Talking about the WBTDC hotel here are three pictures of the property. The first one does not need any caption and a friend who saw this pic last night had to be told that I haven't done any photoshopping.
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The tourist lodge verandah is now paved with very high quality tiles where sun light reflects in a queer way, giving some nice creative ideas to photographers.
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A view of a portion of the tourist lodge as it stands now. I guess it has been done up recently. Facilities are nice. Service quality is fairly decent. The boys are really trying to serve with a smile. I didn't have any issues.
The terracotta temples of Bishnupur-hotel.jpg

I quite liked the tourist lodge garden. They should have some play things for children, like a swing and a slip etc.
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Old 23rd March 2009, 15:25   #7
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Default Nice Pics

Nice pics Sudipto da, I went Bishnupur during Kalipuja. Bishnupur is really nice place and it is damn cheap. I remeber the price of a pair of traditional terraccotta horse almost 5 feet in height was around Rs. 120/- only. This is in the market near the Chinnamasta mandir and Dalmadal kaman. I really liked those but had to buy a smaller pair instead as bringing them was impossible. We went there through Durgapur - Beletor - Sonamukhi route. It was a nice drive.

By the way, I will be driving to Mukutmonipur on 10th April. I am undecided on whether to take Durgapur Bankura route or Raniganj - NH60 route. Any idea about the road condition about these two roads now? Anybody coming with me on that day?
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Old 23rd March 2009, 17:42   #8
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AM
I don't really know the precise route to Mukutmanipur. Saurabh seems to know. There is another guy called Bagchi who might know. Don't know his screen name here but he is an active member of roadrollers.
NH 60 is fairly nice in terms of surface. I suppose you go through Bankura town and then through Khatra. I have no clue about the route through Asansol. I suppose you should talk to the manager in Soma resort for his opinion. That should be the most reliable and latest source for info on road condition.
Regarding costs of terracotta work, yes things are fairly cheap there relative to Kolkata or its suburbs. But there is a cost attached to bringing this kind of things here. Therefore it evens out.
Take nice pics while in MMpur. Will look forward for them.
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Old 23rd March 2009, 17:45   #9
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@ Sudipto: A pic for you of the conch shells in the foreground and the traditional Bankura horses.

The terracotta temples of Bishnupur-kolkata-may07-79.jpg

@ amajumder: Keep off the NH-60-->Raniganj exit to NH-2 from Bankura. As of the 1st week of January this year, that stretch was terrible when I went that way. Really regretted it. Bankura-Durgapur is a much smoother route; so reports Sudipto-S-Team
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The other goes via Durgapur and Bankura town. We chose the second one, as we were told this road was better. It’s a fairly straight forward road. You turn left from Muchipara in Durgapur on NH2. Crossing Durgapur station and then the barrage you cross Barjora town and then turn left before hitting Bankura town
and so I found in 2007 too.

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Old 23rd March 2009, 17:59   #10
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Nice one again Sudipto da, Nice pics too.

looking at the pic, it is quite difficult to believe that WBTDC can build such a nice Cottages as well. Frankly speaking, I had very negative impression about WB Govt. Guest Houses till I started to read you travelogues

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Old 23rd March 2009, 18:05   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by akroy View Post
Nice one again Sudipto da, Nice pics too.

looking at the pic, it is quite difficult to believe that WBTDC can build such a nice Cottages as well. Frankly speaking, I had very negative impression about WB Govt. Guest Houses till I started to read you travelogues

Abhi
As far as my knowledge goes (second hand though), WBTDC guest houses are almost always in the most prominent positions. Though the maintenance and service are in question, general feedback is that imrovements are seen in those departments as well compared to yester years.
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Old 23rd March 2009, 19:39   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by amajumder View Post
...By the way, I will be driving to Mukutmonipur on 10th April. I am undecided on whether to take Durgapur Bankura route or Raniganj - NH60 route.
I would suggest that you hit NH2 and continue till Muchipara and take a left there. Cross the level crossing at Durgapur station and then proceed towards Durgapur barrage. The road beyond the barrage should be good. Stay on this road till you reach Khatra. At Khatra, go straight. The road on the left goes to Bishnupur.

The Khatra road goes to MMpur and then onwards to Jhilmil. As Sudipto-da suggested, the resort manager would have a better idea of the road conditions from Khatra to MMpur.

While at MMpur, dont miss the drive on the barrage. Its simply huge. The permit for driving on the barrage is given out at the barrage entrance, only during a couple of hours in the day. It would be wise to find out the timings beforehand. As far as I could remember, we got our permit at around 9am, took the drive and then started our return journey towards Kolkata.
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Old 23rd March 2009, 20:56   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SS-Traveller View Post
@ Sudipto: A pic for you of the conch shells in the foreground and the traditional Bankura horses.
SS
Thanks for the pic but those are terracotta conch shells. I wasn't talking about them. I was talking about real conch shells (like taken from the sea) with intricate handmade carvings on them. There is one particular craftsman in Bishnupur who has won the president's gold medal for his work. His shop was closed when we went there.
You could check this link out for some photographs of what I am talking about. They aren't normally seen in souvenir shops.
bankuraonline.in
By the way, the terracota horses of Bankura aren't made in Bishnupur - they are made in a village called Panchmura and the artisans are in dire straits right now.
Although the horse is the official logo of Indian handicraft, it may not survive for too long.
Meanwhile, another photograph of the Jorh BanglaThe terracotta temples of Bishnupur-jorbangla.jpg

By the way AK, I don't have very high regard for WBTDC hospitality !! Places like Sagarika in Diamond Harbour just stink. But some of the properties are fairly well maintained and the staff there try to be helpful. Most others are pathetic. I guess it's a question of work culture established in a particular property. In terms of strategic location, yes they are almost always best located.

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Old 23rd March 2009, 21:09   #14
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I think WBTDC has wake up at last. They are also giving few add on different TV channel
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Old 24th March 2009, 01:30   #15
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Nice write up babumoshaiyi!
From the pics, it seems like not much has been done to restore the temples. I hope there's no vandalism that would destroy such beautiful works of architecture.
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