Birbhum district in West Bengal has a number of terracotta temples of which the nabaratna Gopal & Lakshmi Janardan Temple in Ghurisha located in Illambazar block deserves mention. Richly decorated with terracotta this temple was founded by Kshetranath Dutta in 1145 Bangabda ie, way back in 1739 A.D.
This east facing nabaratna temple has “straight cornices” with triple arched entrance and the front portion is decorated with exquisite terracotta works and, mostly they are intact. While visiting the temple this month I haven’t come across any vegetation in the temple which shows that it is well kept. It seems to me that renovation work has been done in the recent times. While looking for this temple I came across a woman who showed me the way and told me it was their family temple. As it was afternoon so naturally I couldn’t see the deities inside but I was told that daily worship is performed there.
The frontal portion of the temple including the pillars are decorated with terracotta. The front portion of the three entrances just below the terracotta panels are painted. No decoration are seen on the sides – probably there may have existed some terracotta work.
The left arch panel (according to the viewer) but actually the panel is on the right has terracotta figurines but the figure in the centre of the first row shows a woman sitting with young Ganesh on her lap. This figure is bigger than the other figures and can easily be identified as Ganesh Janani.
The right arch panel (to the viewer) but actually it will be left shows a giant idol of Tripurasundari (Shoroshi) which happens to be one of the ten goddesses of Dasamahavidya. Here the goddess is sitting on a large lotus which is coming out from the naval of Shiva. The other figures are also prominent but the lower part of the panel is discoloured due to recent colouring.
The central arch panel shows Chaitanya and Nityananda Mahaprabhu dancing and chanting in praise of god with other Vaishnavites. Just below it is a woman surrounded by other ladies.
Just diagonally opposite of the right arch panel (according to the viewer) is a large figure of Goddess Kali. It is not only prominent but intact and can easily be identified. The temple houses the idol of Gopal and Lakshmi Janardan salagram sila. The temple also depicts terracotta figures of Dasamahavidya, Dasavatar, Ram Sita, Radha Krishna. The advent of the Europeans can also be seen as the temple depicts social scenes of the days (eighteenth century). Another thing I noticed is an adjacent raised platform but it may have been built recently. Previously the ratnas had chakras but I found only three remaining.
How to go there:
It is better to take the morning train from Howrah or Sealdah station and reach Bolpur Shantiniketan. From there take either an auto rickshaw or a toto and reach Jambuni bus stand. Take the bus and get down at Ambagan stoppage. A ten minute walk will land you to the temple or alternately you may take a toto to reach there. Alternately you can hire a car from Bolpur station and reach there. In that case one can also visit the adjoining temples of the area. It can be single day trip provided if it well planned.
I visited this temple along with another temple on my way back from the fair at Joydev Kenduli on the auspicious day of Makar Sankranti.
- Birbhum Jelar Purakirti – Debkumar Chakraborty
- Brick Temples of Bengal – David McCutchion
Special thanks to Sri Amitabha Gupta
Date of posting: 23rd January, 2023.