Gurap, a village in Dhaniakhali block in Chinsurah subdivision of Hooghly district of West Bengal is famous for the aatchala Nandadulal Temple. Situated roughly 60 kilometres from Howrah the place can be reached both by road and rail.
I visited Gurap early this month in search of terracotta temples. Boarding the morning Howrah-Barddhaman local (chord) I reached there in the late morning. The weather was pretty sunny there. I took a toto and first reached the Nandadulal Temple.
Built by zamindar Ramdeb Nag in 1751, this east-facing aatchala temple is a state protected monument and one will see a blue signboard on entering the temple premises.
The temple premises has a deul-typed temple dedicated to Gopeswar Shiva in the left; a natmandir and the main temple dedicated to Nandadulal. Apart from that there is also a charchala dolmancha on a raised platform with terracotta decorartions on its facade just outside the temple complex.
The Nandadulal temple has intricate terracotta decorations, and, most of them are in good condition; though some of the panels are added later and the difference between the old and the new panels can be easily ascertained.
Like most other temples, this temple is in a raised platform and has a triple arched entrance though there is only door to enter the sanctum. When I went there I found the temple open and could see the idols of Nandadulal and Radhika on the wooden throne (singhasan) inside the temple sanctum. The idol of Nandadulal is made of touchstone (kasthipathar) while Radhika is made of astodhatu (an alloy of eight metals). The priest was about to start the puja and there is a puja like atmosphere. Daily worship is performed there and I came to know the main festval here is Dolyatra. It is assumed that the idols of Nandadulal and Radhika are placed inside the dolmancha on the day of Dolyatra.
I was simply mesmerised by the terracotta decorations of the temple from simple vegetal patterns to janma leela of Lord Krishna. Ofcourse, there is a foundation plaque at the top of the temple which states the date of construction of this mandir in Saka era – 1673. One will come across images of different types of birds, snakes, deer and even goddess like Lakshmi and Saraswati. Apart from that there are panels depicting the life of Krishna. I also came across an interesting thing here. It is kalpalata or mrityulata. There are two such series in the corner panels. Here mrityulata portrays death; but I simply fail to understand the purpose of such a display here in the temple wall.
Seeing this Nandadulal Temple I again boarded the toto and by the side of the road witnessed two pancharatna (five pinnacled) Shiva temples of slightly different types built by the Nag family in the nineteenth century. Both of them previously had terracotta decorations but now a part of it remains. Proper restoration work should be initiated at the earliest to retain the terracotta works on the panels of the temples. I was told by the toto driver that mathematician Keshab Chandra Nag belonged to the Nag zamindar family of Gurap.
A little away from here I came across twin Shiva temples of aatchala type belonging to the Nag family. Both the temples are placed on a slightly raised platform. There is a little bit of terracotta decoration left just above the doors.
A little distance away from the twin Shiva temples I came across an aatchala temple with terracotta decorations at Mandir Bakul. The temple has triple arched entrance with terracotta panels on the front. A close look at those panels will reveal stories from the Ramayana. But I do not find any plaque nor I came to know its history.
My next and last destination at Gurap is the Gaudeshwar Temple. It is of an aatchala type with a natmandir at the front. A stone panel at the left denotes that Mukhopadhyays are the sebaits of this temple. The temple may have undergone renovation. I do not find any terracotta works in the temple.
(by rail): Get any Howrah-Barddhaman local train via chord line and get down at Gurap station. Take either a toto or a rickshaw to visit the temples. The time taken is roughly less than an hour and a half.
(by road): Less than two hours journey from Kolkata via Kona Expressway and Durgapur Expressway.
Reference: Hooghly Jelar Purakirti by Narendranath Bhattacharya.
Date of posting: 21st March, 2021.