Bishnupur is a town in the Bankura District of West Bengal
about 132Km from Kolkata. It is famous for its terracotta
temples and baluchari sarees. The town has a glorious past that
is reflected in its rich architecture, music and handicrafts such as
pottery and weaving. It prospered in the 17th and early 18th centuries.
Ruled by a line of Hindu Rajas of the Malla dynasty, Bishnupur developed
a unique form of architecture and has perhaps the most brilliant and
detailed terracotta work in Eastern India that has withstood the ravages
The history of Bishnupur can be traced back to 694 AD, when King Raghunath I founded the Malla dynasty. However it was much later in 994
AD that the place was named Bishnupur. The name is derived from the name
of the Hindu God ‘Vishnu'. The majority of the people belong to the
Arts and Culture
Terracotta Pottery and Articrafts -
The most famous art form of Bishnupur is terracotta work. Apart
from the temples, terracotta pottery, artifacts and even jewellery are
Baluchari sarees - One of the
most exquisite sarees in India called the Baluchari sarees are created
by craftsmen of this place. The silk strands are dyed separately and
then put into a loom. Designs are woven with the help of a series of
punch cards that are hung from the top of the loom. These punch cards
are rectangular pieces of cardboard with hundreds of holes punched
according to the design. The colored strands pass through these holes
and fall into place very precisely on the loom. One saree may have an
entire episode from the Mahabharata woven into its border and pallu.
Music - Bahadur Khan of Delhi,
who was the descendant of the great Tansen Bahadur Khan, started
Bishnupur Gharana of Hindustani Music. Raghunath Singh Dev, who was
particularly fond of music, brought Bahadur Khan to Bishnupur. Under
Bahadur Khan, Hindustani Classical music flourished. This was the root
of the famous Bishnupur Gharana, which has given eminent modern
exponents such as Gyanchandra Prasad Goswami, Ramesh Bandhopadhyay,
and many others.
Dokra Metal Craft - Dokra system
of metal casting is said to be oldest form of metal casting and is
technically known as ‘cire perdue' or lost wax process. A replica of
the desired product is made with wax on a clay core with all its finer
details of designs and decorations. A few coats of finely prepared
clay paste is applied over the model and dried in the shade. The
technique of casting revolves round replacement of wax with molten
metal by the traditional hollow casting method. Brass scrap in
generally used as raw material.
Attractions and Activities
Rashmancha - The Rashmancha
pavilion used for housing the idols of Lord Krishna from other temples
during the Rash festival was built in brick by King Veer Hambir in
1600 A.D. This is the oldest brick temple in Bishnupur and is shaped
as an elongated pyramidal tower surrounded by hut-shaped turrets. The
outermost gallery is elegantly surrounded by Bengal hut-type roofs.
The floor is paved with bricks. The entire structure stands on high
platform made up of laterite blocks. Good quality clay is locally
available in plenty for making the bricks and terracotta plaques used
in the construction of the temples and decorative images.
The Jore Bangla temple of Kesto Rai -
The Jore Bangla temple resembles two thatched huts joined together
and surmounted by a single tower. This temple in brick was built by
the Malla King Raghunath Singh in 1655.The structure was erected on
one metre high platform using laterite bricks. The entire outer
surface is decorated with terracotta plaques displaying various
aspects of human life and culture, gods and goddesses, animals, floral
and geometrical designs.
Pancha Ratna Temple of Shyam Rai -
Built in 1643 AD by King Raguhnath Singha, Shyam Rai Temple has
the most intricate sculptural details amongst all the Bishnupur
Madanmohan Temple -
temple of Madanmohan, the best known in Bishnupur, in the Sankharipara
area was built outside the fort compound by King Durjana Singh Dev, in
1694 AD for his family deities of Lord Krishna and Radha. Its rich
decorations and designs surpass the Shyam Rai and Keshta Rai temples.
There are impressive scenes from the Ramayana, Mahabharata and the
Puranas carved on the temple walls. The temple is the best example in
brick of Ratha or chariot style architecture with a single
sikhara(tower) and a curve Bengali chala type roof.
Lalbandh, Krishnabandh and Pokabandh
- Bishnupur has some attractive large tanks that offer good
sightseeing. The Lalbandh, Krishnabandh and Pokabandh were built by
the Malla kings around 17th and 18th centuries. These were made to
provide water to the villagers and to protect the town from enemy
attacj by draining out the water towards them.
Bishnupur Mela - The Poush Mela
also known as the Bishnupur Mela is held every year around the last
week of December, near the Madanmohan Temple. This fair stretches over
four days and people from all the nearby villages come together to
celebrate the end of the agricultural season. A recent addition is the
Bishnupur Utsav, held immediately after the Mela. It is a classical
music and dance festival in recognition of the ‘Bishnupur Gharana' in
Buy a souvenir - One can buy
terracotta articles and jewellery at Bishnupur. Large variety of
Baluchari sarees are also available. Dokra metal craft articles are
also lucrative gift items.
How to Reach
Bishnupur can be reached both by train and
by bus. It is only a 5-hour drive (about 150Km) from Kolkata and regular
buses, taxis and trains from Howrah are available.