This year in February I had been to the village of Jhikira in Amta II block of Howrah district to witness the terracotta temples of the region. After visiting the temples of Rautara, I crossed the road and came to the other side. I had to walk through the village road in search of temples. This area has a number of temples and according to David McCutchion “the temples of Howrah are an extension of those predominating in the adjoining district of Hooghly”.
The oldest temple of Jhikira is situated at Madhyapara. It is the south-facing Shyam Sundar temple of the Mallik family.
From the foundation plaque it is learnt that the temple was built in 1613 sakabda (1691 A.D). It follows the aatchala style with porch on triple entrance. The temple is placed on a higher pedestal with a flight of stairs at the centre. Surprisingly the temple is devoid of “archway panels”. The temple houses Krishna made of touchstone and Radha of astodhatu along with a salagram called Damodar. The temple is more or less maintained though at the top right corner of the temple just below chala there is growth of trees which is to be removed at the earliest to protect the temple.
The temple has floral designs. The terracotta panels has scenes of swans and boats apart from hunting and processional scenes. It also portrays the advent of early Europeans and their ships. Some of the panels got damaged and requires urgent renovation.
Another thing which I would like to comment here is a number of memorial slabs – all belonging to the same family arranged in a row at the entrance to the courtyard where the temple is situated. I assume that they belong to the earlier generations of the family. Jay Chandi Temple.
The second temple here is that of Jay Chandi built in 1672 sakabda (1750 A.D.). It is a south-facing aatchala temple but at present much of the decorations have gone; though according to David McCutchion “the original decoration may have been removed when the temple was repaired in 1894.”
Like other aatchala temples, it has a triple arched entrance. The temple is on a higher pedestal. Remains of a few lotus medallions and floral motifs exist today. The temple has got a fresh coat of paint. There are two Shiva temples on the right of the main temple and a bhog ghar. There is a big natmandir just at the front of the main temple. Inside the main temple sanctum there is the wooden idol of Jay Chandi. It looks similar to that of Garh Chandi, whose nabaratna temple is just a few steps away. When I visited the temple in the afternoon, it was time to offer bhog to the goddess. My next destination was the temple of Garh Chandi at Sarkhelpara. Like the temple of Jay Chandi, this temple has undergone renovation. It is a south-facing nabaratna temple built in 1717 sakabda (1795 A.D.). There is a big natmandir just at the front of the temple. It is rather difficult to take the photograph of the main temple unless you have wide angle lens. Garh Chandi Temple
Temples of Sridhar Jiu and Bileswar.
A flight of stairs will lead you to the temple. Just at the extreme left of the temple courtyard there are two smaller temples – a deul dedicated to Bileswar Shiva and the other an aatchala temple containing a salagram sila dedicated to Sridhar Jiu. At the time of my visit both the temples were closed for which I could not take the photographs of the deities. David McCutchion in “Notes on Some Temples in Howrah District” has mentioned that the local people of this area has claimed that the date (1717 sakabda ie, 1795 A.D) is a repair date though the original structure goes back to the time of Husain Shah. “A single row of weak rounded terracotta runs round the facade”. I was lucky enough to take the photograph of Devi Garh Chandi. Like that of Jay Chandi, Garh Chandi is also made of wood. Inside the temple sanctum , the goddess is seated dressed with one hand up and the other down.Next I went to Damodar Jiu Temple of Mondal family. It is a south-facing aatchala temple with triple arched entrance. Damodar Jiu TempleFrom the foundation plaque it is learnt that the temple was built in 1691 sakabda. It has also a reference to 1176 bangabda ie, 1769 as per Gregorian calendar. There is a reference to Shri Sukdev Mistri, who built this temple. The three archways
The temple has also received a fresh coat of paint. Both the upper and lower chalas of the temple have been coloured with different hue. This temple is rich in terracotta. According to me this is possibly the only temple of the area where the terracotta panels are intact. The three archways depict stories from The Ramayana especially war scenes. There is also a scene from Krishnalila. The intricate details of terracottas have been blurred by the recent colouring. Social scenes also finds a place in the panels. Just diagonally opposite to Damodar Jiu Temple is an octagonal rasmancha with stucco work at each side. I do not know whether the same is used during the festival or is it abandoned. Surprisingly the same has not received any fresh coat of paint.My next destination was quite a far away. We had to walk through the narrow village road with bushes on both sides. It was the temple of Damodar Jiu. Damodar Jiu Temple.
Damodar JiuThis east-facing nabaratna temple of Damodar Jiu at Paschimpara, Roybati was built in 1207 bangabda (1800 A.D). There is a new stone plaque just at the top of the central arch. It seems to me that previously there existed some foundation stone; but due to some reason or the other or may be the same got damaged for which a new stone was placed at that spot. This is because of the fact that the dates in the new plaque are one in bangabda and the rest follow the Gregorian calendar. The temple was renovated twice – first in 1964 and then in 1998. I do not find any terracotta panels except a few floral motifs. Inside the temple there is a wooden throne in which there is a salagram sila of Damodar Jiu.Just opposite to this temple there is a pancha ratna structure. Looking at it, I felt that it might be another temple but there was no deity. Luckily I met a person who happened to be a local. He told me that it was a dolmancha. But it surely deviates from the traditional structure of a dolmancha. There is a narrow bridge which one has to cross to cross to go to the other side. Crossing the bridge on the right I found a beautiful structure which immediately drew my attention. It was a double-storied dolmancha. Dolmancha Damodar TempleWhile I was busy taking photographs of this dolmancha from different angles, I found an aatchala temple of Damodar in Paschimpara. The temple dates back to 1698 sakabda (1776 A.D). The condition of the temple is not so good. Like other temples of the area it is on a higher pedastal with a flight of stairs at the middle. It has a triple arched entrance. The fully decorated facade depict stories from Ramayana on the one hand and Krishnalila on the other. Apart from that it also pictures from social life. It seems to me that the dolmancha belongs is dedicated to Damodar Jiu of this temple. I also found a tulsimancha in the same temple complex.
My next destination was Sitanath temple of Kamarpara. From the foundation stone it was learnt that it was built in 1705 sakabda (1783 A.D.); but it lacked the name of the mason who built it. It is a large aatchala south-facing temple; but at the time of my visit restoration work was in progress for which I could not take the photograph properly. The three archways depict stories from the Ramayana and Krishnalila. Just a little away I found a rasmancha, the lower portion of which has already received a coat of paint.
To visit the temples of Jhikira please follow the route direction given by me in Temples of Rautara, Howrah blog.
1. Howrah Jelar Purakirti by Tarapada Santra.
2. Notes on Some Temples in Howrah District by David McCutchion.
I want to convey my thanks to Sri Amitabha Gupta.
Date of Posting: 4th May, 2020.