Since time immemorial, the Bankura district has been playing a vital role in the development of culture in eastern India. The relics of human culture in this district are manifested in the form of stone artifacts, sculptures, terracottas, coins and many other archaeological objects. A continuous cultural succession right from stone?age to modern time through the mediaeval and late mediaeval periods has been noticed in Bishnupur. The place is better known for varieties of temples and many monuments of Archaeological importance. Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) has protected altogether 16 temples, 1 cannon, 2 gateways and a small stone chariot. Bishnupur is an evergreen visit, but the best period is from October to April.
Distance: From Kolkata’s Vidya Sagar Setu:150 kilometres
Duration of drive: 4 hours approx.
From Vidya Sagar Setu get into Kona Expressway. At the end of Kona Expressway the road bisects into left towards NH6 (towards Mumbai) and on the right onto a fly-over towards Durgapur Expressway/ NH2 (towards Delhi). Get onto the right flyover and proceed towards Durgapur Expressway. Pay toll tax of Rs 35 at Dankuni, which is 22.5 km approx. from Vidya sagar Setu and enter Durgapur Expressway.
The 3-lane highway from Kolkata via Durgapur Expressway is a real driving pleasure. Drive for another 15 km and look for “Tarakeswar- Baidyabati” diversion, demarcated by informatory signboards on your left. This is Ratanpur crossing. Leave Durgapur Expressway and take the left diversion moving upwards onto a bypassing flyover. Turn left towards Ratanpur/ Tarakeswar and drive through Tarakeswar Road. From this point the road is a dual-carriage way (1up+1down) uptil the end and the road condition is moderate.
Drive straight through this road towards Tarakeswar, which is 62 km from Kolkata. There after the road changes its name into Arambagh Road and goes straight to Arambagh town- 28 kms from Tarakeswar with a single right turn just before the Arambagh town. From here the road name is Kotolpur- Bishnupur Road which goes almost straight to Bishnupur- 60 km from Arambagh via Joypur forest.
The Malla rulers of Mallabhum, i.e. present Bankura, Medinipur and Bardhaman districts, made Bishnupur their capital, which was protected by a mud fortification now in ruins. Besides, Malla rulers were also responsible for construction of several large tanks, viz. Lalbandh, Krishna bandh, Yamuna bandh, Shyam bandh, Poka bandh, etc. and a number of exquisite temples of deul, chala and ratna (towers) types. Some of these temples are widely known for extensive and exuberant terracotta decorations. This town also became a seat of Sanskrit learning during the Malla regime and a distinctive style of music known as Bishnupur Gharana developed here under the patronage of the Malla kings.
Keeping in view the architectural and artistic magnificence the group of temples at Bishnupur have recently been proposed by the Archaeological Survey of India to be incorporated in the list of World Heritage Monuments.
The most important temples Ras Mancha, Shyam Rai, Jore Bangla, Lalji, Radha Shyam, Krishna Balaram, Madan Mohon, Muralimohon, Radha Binod, Madan Gopal, Radha Madhav, Radha Shyam. The Royal Palace, now in ruins, two Stone Gates, Stone Chariot, Chhinnamasta Temples and Dalmadal Canon, Jogesh Chandra Pura Kirti Bhavan Museum.
One has to begin the Temple tour from this spot since the common ticket counter for the temples is located here.From structural formation, the Rasa?Mancha is unique, having no similar structure anywhere in the whole of India. It may be regarded as the pride of Bishnupur. It has a pyramidal roof placed upon a spacious laterite plinth and was built by Bir Hambir in 1600. The sanctum of the shrine is enclosed by three successive circumambulatory galleries and crowned by a massive pyramidal roof above. The outer arches of the enclosing galleries are decorated with terracotta lotus motifs and in the eastern wall, there are panels showing dancers and singers.
Two such temples are noticed at Bishnupur. One of these is called the Keshta?raya and the other Mahaprabhu temple. The Keshta?rays temple is famous for its structural formation and exquisite terracotta art. The inscriptional record states that the temple was built by Raghunatha Singha in 1655. It is a two hut?type structure each having two sloping roofs, joined together to form a single temple, set up with a char?chala tower on the top. This temple is very extensively decorated with terracotta ornamentations upon the facade of the porch and all three sides. There is, however, no decoration on inner side of the tower of the temple, excepting a stucco figure representing Sri Chaitanya in his shadbhuja (six?handed) form placed on a high pedestal against the back wall of the inner chamber. The panels depict subjects of very wide variety of scenes from the Ramayana and the Mahabharata, episodes of Krishna?lila etc. From the richness of ornamental decoration and the quality of their workmanship, this temple can be held as one of the finest among the temples of Bishnupur.
Of the eka?ratna type, the next temple is the Murali?Mohana temple, which stands facing the south and shows some difference from other eka?ratna group of temples. Here the three arched openings are found replaced by a covered ambulatory resting on a row of pillars and a tower tops the inner sanctum. On the temple, there exists an insignia or the ‘dhaja’ standing above what is called the ‘chuda’, indicating which deity has been installed within. Rani Chudamanidevi, wife of Bir Singha in AD 1665, built this temple. Of the eka?ratna variety, the temple of Madana?Mohana is built in brick. This temple was erected to enshrine the tutelary deity of the Mallas. Among the brick?built eka?ratna shrines the MadanaMohana temple is unique of its type. The Malla king Durjana Singha had built this temple in AD 1694. The temple is much celebrated for the ornamentations, which embellish the walls of this temple. The ornamentations are mainly on terracotta plaques set upon the wall. The facade of the temple has scenes showing Krishna?lila episodes, scenes showing dancers. The area resting upon the arches are found covered with scenes depicting war while the lower panels are found decorated with figures of animals and birds, Krishna?lila, Dasavatara scenes, legends and stories from the Puranas. The interior part of the temple?porch is also decorated, showing a few dragon?like animals.
Belonging to the group of temples located to the south of the Lal?bandh stands the impressive Radha?Madhava temple, which is a structure of the eka?ratna type. Siramanidevi in 1737, one of the consorts of Bir Singha, built this temple. Parallel to the plinth can be found rows of birds and animals and Pauranic episodes shown carved in a very graceful manner. Amidst the temples belonging to this complex there is a do?chala?mandapa situated near the Radha?Madhava? temple. This structure is known as the bhoga?mandapa. This do?chala bhoga?mandapa is unique of its type in Bishnupur, since no other do?chala structure is to be found here.
Built in laterite, the temple stands within a large enclosed courtyard. The dedicatory inscription of this temple gives the date of its erection in the year AD 1758. Built by the Malla ruler Chaitanya Singha, this temple is the latest of the dated temples in Bishnupur. Though built in laterite, this temple is noted for its stucco relief. Built on a square plan the temple has a curved roof with a single tower above. The lime plaster known as pankha applied to cover the laterite walls reveal decoration of a very elaborate nature. The decorations include geometric and floral motifs of exquisite workmanship. The front wall of the sanctum is found decorated with scenes from the Ramayana, Anantasayin Vishnu and widely recurring figures of Radha?Krishna. This temple is quite large and images from all the temples, which are now deserted or in dilapidated state are housed in the sanctum of this temple where these are worshipped simultaneously with the main vigraha or Krishna with Radha called Radha?Syama.
The pancha?ratna temple of Syama?raya built by Raghunatha Singha in 1643, can be held as the most outstanding among the temples of Bishnupur for its structural set?up and elaborate terracotta ornamentations, which are of very high quality. Built entirely in brick, the temple is quite massive and has Bengali char?chala roof. Above the roof which slopes on four sides, four towers stand on four corners and a tall one rises at the centre. Because of these five towers, the temple is considered to be belonging to the pancha?ratna class. An inscription placed on the main entrance of the temple states that this temple was "built for the pleasure of Sri Radhika and Sri Krishna". Besides, a very rich profusion of beautiful floral designs, the decorations reveal a wide variety of subjects. All these decorative and narrative scenes have endowed the Syama?raya temple with a beauty and charm of unsurpassable nature and have gained for its popularity far beyond any other temple to be found, not only in Bishnupur but the whole of Bengal.
The Malla rulers of Bishnupur had built a large fort in Bishnupur and dug up a number of big tanks known as bandhs. These bandhs were set up to surround an area within which was the fort including the royal palace with high walls and moat around. The bandhs were excavated mainly for the relief of the people from shortage of water supply and were also to some extent used for strengthening the defence of the fort. The Malla ruler Bir Singha dug most of these bandhs between 1657 and 1677. These tanks are popularly known as the Lal-bandh, the Krishna-bandh, the Gantat-bandh, the Jamuna-bandh, the Kalindi-bandh, the Syama-bandh, the Poka-bandh and the Chowkhan-bandh. Apart from Chowkhan-bandh, which is now almost dry, all the other tanks are still in a glorious state of existence.
Previously there were many canons at Bishnupur but the most remarkable and the famous one is Dalmadal canon, deriving its name from the Sanskrit word "Dalamardan", i.e. disperser of enemies. This canon is made of wrought iron, which is 3.8m long with a muzzle of 30cm in diameter. Possibly it was the largest canon used by the Mallas.
There are two gateways in Bishnupur, which once provided entrances to the old fort at Bishnupur. Both these gateways are known as Pathar darwaja. The larger one had double storied galleries flanking the central passage for accommodating troops, and it had narrow slits on either side for archer and the gunman. Malla king Bir Singh possibly built it in the mid 17th century AD. The other small gateway of the fort is also made of laterite and provided inner entrance to the old fort at Bishnupur.
Bishnupur is famous for Terracotta handicrafts, Dhokra, bell metal and brassware, Conch Shell, Tassar silk and Baluchari Saris. You may visit the local cottage industries to have a glimpse. Das Abatar Tas (cards) are also of historic relevance.
Places to see around Bisnhnupur (Box)
Panchmura (40 K.M. from Bishnupur): A village which mainly produces of earthen terracotta articles, is a must visit.
Sareswar & Saileswar Temples (10 K.M. from Bishnupur): These two laterite temples are situated at Dihar.
Siddheswar Temples (25 K.M. from Bishnupur) situated at Bahulara.
Jairambati (47 K.M from Bishnupur) & Kamarpukur? (6 K.M. from Jairambati)
Mukutmonipur- (82 K.M from Bishnupur)
Susunia: (65 K.M. from Bishnupur)
Jhilimili: 95 K.M. from Bishnupur
Bishnupur Mela from 23rd to 27th December.
Gajan Festival, Annual Fair at Bahulara & Dihar (Mid April), Jhapan Festival (Mid August).