Bawali, a village in Budge Budge II block of South 24 Parganas district had a number of temples of which some are in ruins was regarded as a temple town. The temples here were mostly dedicated to Lord Krishna being the principal deity of the Mondals (the zamindars of the area). The temples had exquisite terracotta works and floral motifs but now are in ruins.
Radha Gopinath Jiu Temple with the natmandir
The founder of the Mondal family was Basudev Ram and it dated back to end of the sixteenth century. The Mondals previously used to live in Basantapur area of Nadia district. Shova Ram, the grandson of Basudev Ram was awarded with the title of Mondal. Raja Ram, the grandson of Shova Ram was the commander-in-chief of the King of Hijli and being brave, he was entrusted the ownership of a number of villages including Bawali. It was around the first decade of the eighteenth century that the Mondals set up their residence here. But, it was Harananda Mondal, the grandson of Raja Ram and son of Dasarath Ram under whose time the family flourished. He brought about an efficient ‘Land Reforms’ system which proved to be very positive. It was during his time that the zamindary expanded. The time was around the second half of the eighteenth century. It was said that Harananda was a pious and religious person. He was compassionate towards his tenants and subordinates.
Radhakanta Jiu Temple
It was conveyed through generations that Harananada Mondal had a dream and after that he constructed the first temple in 1693 as per the Saka area where the deity was Radhakanta Jiu. The temple had a triple-arched entrance. Now the temple is completely overgrown with vegetation. Subal Chandra Mistry was the mason for this temple. Add 78 and you will get the year according to Gregorian calendar (1771). As per the Bengali calendar it will come to 1178. The foundation plaque mentions both the Saka and Bengali years. There was a ruined natmandir just opposite to the temple.
The ruined natmandap in front of Radhakanta Jiu Temple
When I visited this temple early this year, it was rather next to impossible to enter the temple as probably it was infested with snakes. But, being winter time, I could get a picture of the temple along with the plaque and spend a few minutes there.
The foundation plaque of Radhakanta Jiu Temple
The second was Radha Gopinath Jiu Temple built in 1794. This is the tallest and the largest of the temples of Bawali. It is a south facing 70 feet tall temple with triple-arched entrance. You will first notice this temple when you will enter. It is a nabaratna (nine pinnacled) temple with a huge structure.
Radha Gopinath Jiu Temple with the remains of the octagonal Rasmancha
It had a beautiful nat mandir where the floors were made of Italian marble. This temple does not have plaster; rather the bricks were polished in such a manner that it had pink coloured look.
Side view of Radha Gopinath Jiu Temple
Beautiful floral motifs adorn the temple. The temple was built by Manik Chandra Mondal, the second son of Harananda Mondal. Ramkanai Mistry and Baburam Mistry were entrusted with the duty of building this magnificent temple. There was a beautiful octagonal Rasmancha just in front of the temple but it collapsed a decade ago.
Radhakanta Temple with the natmandir
In this context it is to be informed that Ramnath Mondal, the eldest son of Harananda Mondal built Radhakanta Temple which was also of nabaratna style by the side of Adi Ganga in the modern day Chetla/Tollygunge area of Kolkata. It is 110 feet in height and the construction work began in the year 1796 and completed in1807 and the temple was opened 1809. This temple also had a nat mandir.
(Left) Radhaballav Jiu Temple & (Right) Tulsimancha
The third temple was Radhaballav Jiu Temple built by Krishnacharan in 1813 at Kachbagan near present day Bakhrahat in an open space. The temple is of a large aatchala (eight roofed) type with triple-arched entrance. A flight of stairs lead to the temple. There is a tulsi mancha which looks similar to the tulsi mancha of Radhakanta temple in Tollygunge, The temple had undergone renovation.
Radhaballav Jiu Temple
The second Radhaballav Jiu Temple was founded by Ramkamal Mondal in the Bengali year 1265, which according to Gregorian calendar comes to 1858. This temple is situated towards the western side of Gopinath Jiu Temple.
(Left) Nat mandir & (Right) Tulsimancha
It is a large aatchala temple with a nat mandir and several rooms on the three sides.
This temple is much well kept and the idols of all the surrounding temples are kept inside the temple sanctum including Lord Jagannath and Balaram. There is also a tulsimancha.
Radha Shyamsundar Temple
This temple is of aatchala type with triple-arched entrance. It is now in ruins and overgrown with vegetation. It was built by Pyarilal Mondal around 1863. Like the other temples it had beautiful art work and marble floors. But sad to say that all were destroyed.
That apart there are other temples like that of Lakshmi Janardan Temple which is situated towards the south of Radhaballav Jiu Temple. Other temples include Chandimata Temple and Raj Rajeswar Temple which is dedicated to Lord Shiva. This temple has undergone renovation. Because of the existence of so many temples in one place, Bawali was also known as Naba Brindaban. The principal festivals here are Gostho, Rathyatra, Jhulan, Rashyatra and Dolyatra. Rathyatra or chariot festival was a major festival here and the chariot was one time regarded as one of the famous chariots of South Bengal. But it failed to survive with time. It had thirteen domes and more than 100 feet in height. But this is now history.
1. Mondal Zamidar Bangser Utshya Sandhane by Arun Kumar Mondal.
2. Bawali – An era of Indian Zamindars, Taluqdars, Jagirdars.
I am also indebted to Sri Gopal Krishna Mondal.
Date of posting: 1st August, 2018.