BrindabanChandra cluster of Temples at Guptipara,West Bengal
Guptipara is in Hooghly district, about 75 km by train or car from Calcutta.Story goes that this place used to be called 'Gupta Brindaban' during heydays of Vaishnavite culture in Bengal during 16th-18th centuries, from which the name Guptipara has been derived .
We were to travel to this place on 2nd January,09 with our extended family by car.But, autorickshaw fiasco in Calcutta, ably mis-handled by political parties and WB administration created a fear psychosis and we dropped the plan of traveling by car.This was to be our 1st outing planned this winter . Ruby nudged me hard ...... we went to Guptipara the next Sunday, 3rd January,09 , by train. It was a perfect day out, except for delay in reaching the destination, because the train we targeted was not plying on a Sunday from Howrah and the choking crowd we faced during our return journey from Guptipara station to Bandel.
Behula and Guptipara stations are equidistant from this cluster of four temples we were to visit.
The riverine Behula has lent her name to the station ( Behula) we got down to reach is cluster . As expected in a sunny winter day in Bengal, a visit to a village cheer up the city dwellers in us. We rode a rickshaw to reach the temples.The first of this lot, SriCaitanymandir, was built in the late 16th or early 17th century, was built in Jorbangla style.
From L to R : KrsnaChandra, SrCaitanya and BrindabanChandra temples
The other three temples were constructed between 18th and 19th centuries.The layout is simple. As one enters through the arched entrance , he faces the imposing structure of Brindabanchandra's temple straight in his front, across a nicely maintained green courtyard.The other two temples are on the western and eastern sides of this court yard.
60' tall Brindabanchandra's temple, constructed in 1810 AD is the most imposing of the three.It has a lot of paintings in the covered space in front of the garbhagriha of deities. The ones in the lower level bear mark of vandalism and wear, but , the ones beyond human reach are in good shape. The paintings of Lakshmi and Saraswati near the ceiling , though in need of touch-up, are really very impressive. Impressive are the idols of Krsna,Radha,Jagganatha, Subhadra and Balarama and Garura within the sanctum.
From the point of view of a pupil of iconography of terra cotta work, Ramchandra's temple is wonderful. It has a lot of panels all over the western side .and above the arches of the southern side . A temple with aatchala construction, the octagonal-shaped 1st floor's walls have nice panels too.While some of the details at the eye level and below on the western side......mostly on Krsna lila and social life......are imitations of AnantaBasudev temple of Bansberia , the ones on arches are excellent.
Lord Bishnu on Garura and Lord Shiva on Nandi
We find gods at the topmost level watching the battle of Lanka.On the southern side, two panels on Bali are noticed at the flank of the Gods.This oddity in placement may be the result of errors in layout creeping in at the time of recent repair work . Study of these two walls, overlooking such errors in other areas as well, is quite rewarding. Among the more interesting panels we saw, I mention a few here for serious visitors of Guptipara :
- Meghnad starting 'Yagna' under a banyan tree, with Gods and rakshasas watching while Lakshman and Biveeshan approach fro a distance.
- A woman cowers in Bali's presence.
- Indrajit fondling Pramila.
- Banar sena ( Army of Monkeys) carrying stones for construction of bridge to Lanka.
- Bali and Sugriba uproot trees during their fight .
- Acrobats' tricks.
- Five women deep in water.... a scene from Krsna lila ( sadly, the photo came a cropper).
NOTE dtd. 21/01/2009 :
I have been asked : how one reaches Guptipara from Calcutta.
Well, best would be to travel by road.
To reach Guptipara or Behula station by train, one has to take a Katwa-bound train from Howrah or reach Bandel and then wait for the next Bandel-Katwa local.From either of the stations,BrindabanChandra temples cluster is equidistant. Rickshaws or cycle-vans are available mode of transport.
A through train takes 1hour 50 minutes/2 hours to reach Behula.Add another 30 minutes for the local transport. A serious viewer can keep at least 2 hours for his/her visit.Temples' gates open at 3.30 pm. Return train journey upto Bandel will be uncomfortable.For a comfortable return journey to Howrah, I shall suggest a change to Bandel-Howrah local.
We found these discomforts of train journey rewarding.