It was September, last year (2014). Irritated by our uneventful daily life, me and my parents were planning for a weekend trip. We were searching for a relaxing weekend destination near Kolkata, our hometown. Finally we decided to visit Bishnupur, the historical temple-town, which is only 140 kilometers from Kolkata.
Bishnupur is a very small town; so small that one can explore it by foot or by rickshaw (a popular public transport in West Bengal, India. It is basically a three-wheeled cycle with a front seat for the driver and two seats in the back for passengers). Bishnupur is famous for brick-temples, which are monuments of historical importance. Some of the brick-temples have amazing terracotta (reddish clay) decoration on the outer walls and on the pillars.
For a long period of time, Bishnupur was the capital of the Malla dynasty. The Malla kings surely were patrons of art as well as religion, and the temples they built during their reign in 16th and 17th century still attracts tourists from different parts of India and abroad.
One of the mind-blowing temples that we came across in Bishnupur was the Madanmohan temple. It is slightly far away from other temples, but it is surely worth visiting.
This temple was built by Malla King Durjana Singh Deva. We were spell-bound to see the intricate terracotta work depicting stories from Hindu mythology and scenes from Ramayana and Mahabharata, the epics from ancient India. Historians believe that these decorations also acted as a medium to educate common people about the culture and traditions of Bengal.
Though the temple is around 300 years old, it is still in pretty good condition. There is a deity inside the temple which is still worshiped. But the main attraction of this otherwise small-sized temple is, as mentioned before, the detailed terracotta works.
There were panels depicting scenes of hunting and war. Some panels portray pictures of dancing and playing of several instruments, which are still common in West Bengal.
Some panels show rows of animals like ducks, deers, cows etc. These are the animals which are very commonly found not only in West Bengal but in most parts of India. As a whole, the temple walls tell authentic stories about day-to-day lifestyle of medieval Bengal.
On the way back to our rented rickshaws, who would take us to the next temple, I kept on thinking about the actual builders of this whole temple and particularly, the artists who made these terracotta panels. Nobody will ever know their names! People will only know the names of the Malla kings who patroned this art. But sadly, the real artists never get recognition…