Khardah, a town of Barrackpore subdivision of North 24 Parganas district of West Bengal houses a number of beautiful temples of which Shyamsundar Mandir deserves special mention. It is a very large “at-chala temple with porch on triple entrance.” A stone plaque on the entrance to the temple states that the temple is renovated by P. C. Robertson who happens to be the manager of Khardah Jute Mills.
The temple houses the idols of Radha Shyamsundar Jiu which happens to be carved out of the kastipathar. The idols of Shyamsundarji along with that of Ballavji and Nandadulalji are made out of the same stone.
There is a story about the three Krishna idols. Apart from the story of Rudraram, there is another saying that Birbhadra Goswami after bringing the stone from the Sultan of Gaur reached Khardah and took the stone from the Ganges ghat at Khardaha. From then onwards that ghat came to be known as Shyam-er Ghat. With the help of a Vaisnav sculptor named Nayan, Birbhadra made three Krishna idols from the same stone. He named the idols as Radhaballav (Radhaballav Temple, Serampore), Shyamsundar and Nandadulal (Nandadulal Jiu Temple, Saibon). The responsibiity of the worship of Ballavji was entrusted upon Rudraram while that of Nandadulal was given to Lakshman pandit of Saibon. After the idol of Shyamsundar is prepared, Birbhadra established the same at the Sree Mandir at Kunjabati in Khardah and made preparations for daily worship.
It is to be noted here that the three idols of Radhaballav, Shyamsundar and Nandadulal were established on the auspicious day of Maghi purnima tithi. For this devotees crowd these three temples on that day.
Apart from the daily worship special puja is performed on the days of Phuldol, Jhulanyatra, Janmastami, Rasyatra and Dolyatra.
According to Bengal District Gazetteer Khardah happens to be a favourite place of pilgrimage for Vaishnavas and they visit it more especially during the Rasyatra and Phuldol.
At the time of Rasyatra, which falls in the month of November, the idols of Radha Shyamsundar Jiu are taken out from the main temple and taken to the nearby rasmancha. On the three days of the Rash festival, the idols of Radha Shyamsundar Jiu are placed in the rasmancha during the late evening. A month-long fair is still held there and apart from the food stalls different types of household commodities are sold. The beautiful octagonal white-coloured rasmancha is situated in an open space. The turrets here are placed in an unique way. David McCutchion has described this rasmancha as of an “octagonal anomalous low design” type.
On the day of Dolyatra, the idols of Radha Shyamsundar Jiu are taken out of the main temple and taken to the nearby beautiful brick-coloured elevated char-chala (four-roofed) Dolmancha by a palanquin before dawn. First devdol is performed first at dawn.
This year I was lucky to be present there at Dolpurnima from late night onwards. I found a large number of devotees of different age groups – some of whom have come from outside of Khardah – standing at the queue to offer puja. And the thing which fascinated me is that they are in fasting and when I enquired about the same, one of the ladies told me that she has not even drank water. She will eat only after performing puja and sprinkling of abir (coloured powder) to Shyamsundarji. I also waited at the queue with one of my close relative and when I got my chance to offer puja, two-and-a-half hours has already elapsed. The elevated char-chala dolmancha has a flight of stairs on the back by which one can go upstairs offer puja and come down. Like the rasmancha, the dolmancha is unique in architecture and both are situated close to the Ganges.
The temple can be reached both by rail and road. The nearest railway station is Khardah on the Sealdah-Barrackpore section of Eastern Railway. Get down at Khardah station and take any auto or toto to reach the temple. Alternately, if you are coming by road from Shyambazar via Barrackpore Trunk Road by any bus going to Barrackpore, get down at Khardah police station and take the left hand road to reach the temple. Also if you feel like take toto or even rickshaw to reach the temple. But either to try to visit the temple in the morning or in the evening as during the afternoon hours the temple remain closed.
1. “Khardaher Shyamsunder – Pratisthata Vol. IV” by Mohini Mohan Mukhopadhyay.
2. “Brick Temples of Bengal” by David McCutchion.
3. Bengal District Gazetteers – 24 Parganas by L.S. S. O’Malley.
Date of posting: 5th June, 2019.