Rautara, a village in Amta II block of Howrah district about 57 kilometres from Kolkata is situated on the eastern side of Jhikira, another nearby village. The village of Rautara has a number of terracotta temples and other architecture of which Damodar Temple in Sarkarpara deserves special mention. The south-facing barochala (twelve roofed) temple has an adjoining aatchala dolmancha, a nahabatkhana and an octagonal rasmancha. This type of temple is pretty rare in Bengal temple architecture. Possibly this barochala has ratha projections.
Situated on a slightly raised platform, this barochala temple with porch has a triple arched entrance and has intricate terracotta works. The temple was founded by the Roy family, who were the then zamindars of that area in 1684 Sakabda, which when converted into Gregorian calendar dates back to 1762. Sukdev Karmi of Rautara constructed this temple. The temple is dedicated to Damodar Jiu (Saalgram Sila) and worship is performed here on a daily basis. The terrracotta panels depict pictures not only from social life but also from The Ramayan. The temple has undergone renovtion.
The temple complex has a nahabatkhana where stucco works are present. It’s condition is not so good. Just beside the nahabatkhana, stands an aatchala dolmancha rich in terracotta. The dolmancha standing on four pillars is placed on a slightly raised platform. This dolmancha is dedicated to Damodar Jiu. The terracotta panels depict pictures from Gostholila. A little distance away is situated an octagonal rasmancha, the condition of which is pathetic. It requires immediate restoration.
On the opposite of the temple complex I found the house of Roy’s who were the then zamindars of the area. This beautiful house has got a fresh coat of colour and looks splendid in sunlight. Just beside I found an old house, which had spectacular stucco works on the door arch. It showed the superb craftsmanship of the artisans.
Keeping the Roy mansion on your right, if you walk a little further straight, you will come across a big pond on your left and by the side of it, you will notice some memorial stone. During my visit in that area and in the nearby village of Jhikira, I came across a very large number of such stones, and in most of them I found the name of the deceased person to whom it was dedicated along with the date of his/her passing away according to Bangabda or the Bengali calendar.
A little away from the memorial slab are three temples – all dedicated to Lord Shiva. The first temple is of aatchala style while the rest two are of rekh deul fashion. All the three are on a raised platform. Of the three, the aatchala mandir has stucco works and a foundation plaque on the top but hard to decipher. The other two are deuls. One thing which astonishes me here – why is that two temples follow one specific type of architecture while the other is of aatchala style. I guess possibly either the deul type temples were constructed first and much later the aatchala one; or may be one generation of the family constructed the two deul temples and another generation much later has constructed the aatchala mandir, when the aatchala type of temple was prevalent. But one thing here all are dedicated to Lord Shiva. The condition of the temples requires immediate attention to save it from further decay.
That apart I found two Shiva temples within an enclosed courtyard just diagonally opposite to Damodar Jiu Temple and there is one deul-type temple where Radha Krishna is worshipped daily. The top of these temples can be seen from outside but I was very much excited to witness the entire temple. So we tried our luck and knocked at the door of the house from where the temple top was seen. A lady came out and welcomed us inside. It was because of her that we saw the temple from inside. She informed us that counting her grandson, they are the seventh generation of Roy family.
The Shiva temples are pretty old and in a pathetic state. Both the Shiva temples and deul are inside the household of one Roy family. There is a flight of stairs to reach the deul. But as the morning puja has already been done and the priest had gone so I couldn’t get the opportunity to see the idols of Radha Krishna. I have been told that idol of Krishna was carved out of kosthipathar (touchstone) while that of Radha was made of astodhatu – an alloy of eight metals. It is rather difficult to take the photograph as there is very little space on the back.
The only thing apart from the Damodar Temple which attracted my attention is the woodern pancha ratna (five pinnacled) rath or chariot placed on the side of the road.
This spectacular chariot once adorned the roads of Rautara; but now the glory of the bygone days are only memories as the chariot is not used. But the exquisite craftsmanship of the labourers made me spellbound. The chariot has pictures from Krishnalila. Most of them are in good condition.The chariot was founded by one Ram Choudhury Roy in the year 1853. The rath is later restored in 1928 and then in 1981 and the dates are reflected on the chariot itself. The chariot requires immediate restoration to protect it from further decay.
Crossing the road you will come to Ghoshpara where you will come across a south-facing large aatchala temple with porch on triple entrance. It is Sitaram Temple of the Ghosh family. According to the foundation plaque it was founded in 1622 Sakabda (1700 A.D).
The three front panels depict pictures from The Ramayana with the war between Ram and Ravana. Apart from the war scene there are also pictures of people on horseback, people on camel; people on palanquin and soldiers holding spear. There is also an unique idol of Lakshmi-Saraswati; Kartick-Ganesh and Goddess Durga.
The temple has been renovated and a fence along with a gate is newly installed. When I visited the temple the gate was closed and I felt sorry as I could not take the picture of the central panel; but luckily I found a person who was kind enough to get the keys and opened the gate so that I could visit the temple sanctum and photograph the panel. The temple has remained more or less intact and has survived for more than three centuries.
A little distance away one will come across an old house known as Kerani Bati. Entering the courtyard on your left you will see an old aatchala temple (though it has been renovated and a fresh coat of colour is applied) with triple arched entrance. The temple is on a raised platform. But I didn’t find any foundation stone; may be there happened to be one but due to renovation, the same has been lost. To me previously this temple contained terracotta works; but very few remained. Terracotta motifs along with tiles are used extensively. I didn’t find anyone there to ask about this temple.
Just opposite to this temple there is a double-storied house with a natmandir at the centre. Like the temple the house has also received a fresh coat of colour. The house was previously decorated with stucco works but none of them remained. The pillars, however has some stucco decorations. There is also use of fanlight. The temple along with this mansion has survived the taste of time.
To reach there:
The best option is to go by car. The distance is roughly 57 kilometers from Kolkata. A hour-and-a-half journey will land you to Rautara. Park your car at a suitable place and the best option is to walk on foot to cover the places. Alternately, you can board the bus going to Rautara from Howrah bus stand and you will reach there roughly in two hours fifteen minutes time. Or, you may even take the local train to Amta. The time taken is roughly one hour forty five minutes to reach Amta. From there you have to arrange your suitable means of transport to reach Rautara. The distance between Amta station to Rautara is roughly sixteen killometers.
1. Howrah Jelar Purakirti by Tarapada Satra.
2. Brick Temples of Bengal by David McCutchion.
I want to covey my special thanks to Sri Amitabha Gupta.
Date of Posting: 20th February, 2020.