Some images have almost magnetic pull … they draw you … they attract you to experience the space and time you do not belong to. Few years ago I saw photos of Bishnupur terracotta temples in travel magazines. I was mesmerized by the overall form and the lines… however I did not notice that these temples have detailed ornate carvings too. I have visited Kolkata on work trips 3-4 times after that but never had the time to visit Bishnupur. This time FIFA world cup shoot gave me this opportunity. I thought may be one blog post should suffice but there are more than twenty temples and this place perhaps deserves a book! So I will start with the first temple we shot at. The Madan Mohan temple.
These temples were built by the kings of the Malla dynasty in the 16th and 17th century. Madan Mohan temple was built by King Durjan Singha Deva in 1694 CE. Malla dynasty was Vaishnav .. perhaps that explains the name Bishnupur … this region is also called Mallabhum. Bishnupur is in Bankura district and well connected with Kolkata by trains, buses and by private vehicle too. The direct route is about 142km in terms of distance and takes about four hours. One can also take the Durgapur expressway which is a longer route but takes about three and half hours.. More comfortable to drive and more expensive since it is a toll road.
On a quiet cloudy morning, Bishnupur welcomed us with fresh morning aroma. The first thing one notices about the Madanmohan temple is the Dochala styled gateway with curved roof and the temple pinnacle standing tall in the back drop.
There is Chandi-mandap and another brick structure with the prototype curved roofs. Red terracotta bricks give a very attractive colour as well as a unique texture to the whole structure and gives it a unique form identity. Madanmohan is a form of Bhagwan Vishnu and Vaishnava priests regularly perform Puja here. This temple is in the ‘Ek Ratna’ style which means there is just one pinnacle.
While the overall structural form is very attractive, the real beauty of this temple lies in the delicate, communicative terracotta carvings that bring alive stories from Ramayana, Mahabharata and Puranas. Since Lord Krishna is the main deity of the temple, many stories revolve around the life story of Krishna
Apart from the bass-reliefs and sculptures with stories, we can also see various floral and decorative patterns carved… some are free flowing and some geometric.
These temples have arches with a unique form … these arches interact with various lines around them and patterns created by crisscrossed terracotta. Arches and columns give a dynamic feel to the temples through play of light and shadows.
In the next blog lets explore various isolated monuments in Bishnupur …