Bishnupur – Where every brick tells a story

Bishnupur is a town in the Bankura District of West Bengal about 132 km, from Kolkata. It is famous for its terracotta temples and baluchari saris. 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 of time .

The history of Bishnupur can be traced back to 694 A.D, when King Raghunath I founded the Malla dynasty. However, it was much later in 994 A.D 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 ‘Varishnava’ sect .The most powerful king of the dynasty was King Raghunath Singh Dev II, who ruled from 1626 AD. At that time the administration of Bengal was in the hands of Shahjahan’s son Suja . He development a close friendship with the king and there followed a period of peace when art and music, already flourishing, reached great heights. It was during this period that the Jorebangla Temple was erected .

Temples and other places of interest   
The ancient capital of Mallabhum, Bishnupur, is a repository of some excellent terracotta temples. The oldest brick temple is a curiously shaped Rasmancha with an elongated pyramidal tower surrounded by hut-shaped turrets. It was built in the late 16th century. Terracotta gained further momentum under King Raghunath Singh, who built the Pancha Ratna Temple of Shyam Rai  and the Jorebangla Temple of Keshta Rai. The temple of Shyam Rai with its superior figurines and floral patterns was the first of its kind in Bengal.

The 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 A.D. 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. Apart from temples, Bishnupur has some very 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 attack by draining out the water towards them .

Near by places of tourist interest : Mukutmanipur, Simlapal & Joypur.

The most famous art form of Bishnupur is terracotta work. Apart from the temples, terracotta pottery, artifacts and even jewellery are popular. One of the most exquisite saries in India called the Baluchari saris are created by craftsmen of this place. The silk strands are dyed separately and then put into a loom. One sari have an entire episode from the Mahabharata woven into its border and pallu. Bishnupur is also famous for the metal craft, popularly known as ‘Dokra’.

 Fairs & Festivals
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 agriculture 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 music .

Getting There
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.

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