Kotulpur in Bankura district of West Bengal also houses a number of temples. It is located 38 kilometres from Bishnupur. It can also be reached from Arambagh in Hooghly. The distance of Kotulpur from Arambagh railway station is roughly 26 kilometres.
If one is going from Arambagh once you enter Kotulpur you will come across Netaji more Bus Stand. Go straight until you find a statue of Khudiram Bose on your left. From there take the road going left which is known as Khudiram Sarani Road. The road is narrow and it connects with Bhadrapara Road. There you will see four deul shaped temples on a slightly raised platform.
All the temples have received fresh coat of paint and looks new. The temples are dedicated to Baneswar Jiu, Dhambudhar Jiu, Haranath Jiu and Hemchandra Jiu. The temples are arranged in two rows. There is also a statue of an ox in between them. A flight of stairs at the centre will lead you to the temple. The temples belong to the family of Sudhakrishna Bhadra.
One will also come across a pancha ratna (five pinnaced) rath (chariot) made of bell metal inside an enclosure. The door was closed for which only the upper portion is photographed. I have come across similar type of chariots in my visit to Baro Taraf of Mondal family in Hadal Narayanpur in Bankura and Joydev Kenduli in Birbhum. There is a compound and after entering it you will first spot a saptadas ratna (seventeen pinnacled) rasmancha painted white on your left. The rasmancha has stucco works on its walls. A flight of stairs leading to ras mandir (also known as rasmancha) is in the middle making it a beautiful piece of architecture. There is a similar type of rasmancha belonging to the family of Niranjan Bhadra, a little away from here.
In the front there is a double storied flat roofed temple (picture: top right). In this connection I would like to state that I have seen a similar structure at Rajagram (in Joypur P.S, Sub Division: Bishnupur, District: Bankura). The unique thing about the temple dedicated to Damodar in Rajagram is that the ground floor is made of laterite while the first floor is made of brick.
The double storied flat roofed temple of the Bhadras do not have any foundation plaque for which is it difficult to ascertain its year of foundation. But it is assumed that the temple might be built in the nineteenth century. The temple has a number of figures on its arch panels.
A little away from here you will come across a grand gate at the entrance to Niranjan Bhadra’s family. There are also a couple of temples on both the sides of the gateway. I kept the car at the side of the road and looked at the grand entrance. There was some repair work going on for which I noticed a heap of sand at the entrance. A close look at the grand gateway will reveal that it has three pillars on both the sides and there are doors and a window.
Once you enter through this grand gateway, you will notice a rasmancha on your left. The rasmancha has received a fresh coat of paint. The rasmancha, unlike the one at Sudhakrishna Bhadra’s has beautiful fresco work inside it. The mancha is octagonal in shape with saptadaschura or seventeen turrets each having a flag. The stucco works on the outer walls have lost its beauty due to white wash.
On the right there are two structures – the first is a west facing Giri Govardhan Temple and the other one is a dolmancha. I would like to say that both the structures have undergone renovation and for which I found a considerable quantity of sand outside the gateway. I have found similar type of Giri Govardhan Temple at Sonamukhi, but the latter has not undergone any restoration. Both have got cement plastering and I found masons at work in the dolmancha. The Giri Govardhan mandir has a number of statues including two dwarpal (guards). The dolmancha is of nabaratna type “with ridged rekha turrets”. This type of dolmancha is very rarely seen.
But the most striking structure of the area is an east-facing pancharatna Sridhar Temple which is inside a fortified area. To view this temple, one has to go inside the fortification through a gate. The temple has rich terracotta works. A foundation plaque states that the temple was built in 1755 Sakabda (which according to Gregorian calendar comes to 1833 A.D). Like other temples it has a triple arched entrance and is on a slightly raised platform with a flight of stairs in the middle. The arch panels also contain figures made of terracotta. The temple has retained much of its originality.
Once you enter the temple you will come across beautiful fresco work on its walls and also on the ceiling. It is really beautiful to look at. I have already mentioned similar fresco work inside the rasmancha outside this fortification. I have also encountered fresco work at an abandoned pancharatna temple at Rautkhand (in Joypur P.S).
Inside the temple santctum Sridhar salagram sila is worshipped on a daily basis. I have been told that during Dolyatra, the sila is taken to the adjoining Dolmancha, which has been undergoing renovation. According to a member of the Bhadra family the salagram sila is put to bed inside a small chamber present in the central pinnacle after the evening puja is over. It was also said that Ramakrishna Paramahansadev visited their house on Saptami during the Durga Puja in 1880 and witness the arati.
The temple has retained much of its terracotta works though the temple is less than two centuries old. At least it has not undergone any such renovation as yet. The terracotta figurines can be easily interpreted. In the central panel just below the pratisthalipi (foundation stone) Ram and Sita are seen. Just below it is portrayed Krishna going to Mathura. The left arch panel shows the battle of Ram and Ravana while the right arch panel shows scenes of Krishnalila.
On my way back from the Bhadra mansion I came across an area which is a busy marketplace. It is crowded with both buyers and sellers. The car is parked in an open area. I walked through a lane and reached Haldarpara where I saw a south-facing flat roofed dalan temple dedicated to Damodar built by Haldar family. The temple is made of brick. It has undergone restoration and if you look at the four front pillars, you will notice that the base panel terracotta work of the pillars are missing. Instead there is cement work. But still then there are a series of stone figures on both sides of the facade and also on the top exhibiting superb craftsmanship of those days. There are a total of twenty-six such figures depicting Krishnalila, Dasavatar, Kali, worship of linga, etc According to the pratisthalipi, the temple was built in 1691 Sakabda, ie, 1769 A.D.
My final destination was the Damodar Temple at Banikpara (Uttarpara) built by the Nandi family a little away from Kotulpur-Indas Road. The temple was brick-built and south-facing with ‘arch-khilan‘ entrance. There was no foundation stone for which the actual year of the construction of the temple remains unknown. Previously it was a nabaratna structure but at present only one ratna is left. There is no terracotta work or decoration left in the temple except a terracotta plaque of Ganesh on the western side of the temple. The temple is currently a state protected monument.
There are still a few temples in Kotulpur but due to shortage of time I could not cover them in this trip.
How to go there?
Kotulpur can be reached either from Arambagh or from Bishnupur. The best way is to take the morning Howrah-Goghat local and get down at Arambagh at 9:45 am. From there you can either book a car or an auto to reach Kotulpur. (I am not sure whether auto will go there even if you reserve one as the one-way distance of Kotulpur from Arambagh is roughly 26 kilometres). In my case I have booked a car from Arambagh and reached Kotulpur and back to Arambagh railway station so that I can board the afternoon train (2:50 pm) from Arambagh and reach Howrah in the evening.
- The Temples of Bankura District – David McCutchion
- Late Mediaeval Temples of Bengal – David J. McCutchion
- Bankura Jelar Purakirti – Amiya Kumar Bandopadhyay
Date of posting: 25th May, 2023.